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We all have an identity, built over time from what we secretly hold dear. Whether that identity was formed from hurt, pain, joy, tears, or success, it so easily becomes the foundation of who we are. For many years, my identity was clear; I was a London Fashion Week Designer. My life was centered around my career, the success I'd built, and the outlandish goals I'd set out to achieve. I'd become a bit of a robot, immune to adversity, pressing onwards towards the goal no matter what. If someone didn't like me because I was Black, I didn't notice or didn't care. I was a force of determination and skill, and nothing was going to stop me. Or so I thought.

Due to the coronavirus emergency, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is postponing the 2021 Oscars to April 25 rather than the usual late February date. The eligibility period will also extend to February 28 instead of late December to account for the months in quarantine. As the United States confronts a pandemic and increasing attention on systemic racism at all levels of our society, the more interesting question is how (or if) will this high caliber ceremony systematically change to address its own history of racism and cultural bias and how (or if) the nominees will reflect a more diverse collection of perspectives.

Racism is a multifaceted monster that thrives on visual and audible cues. From elementary to high school, as a person of color, I experienced what I can only describe as counter-cultural racism. I felt severely isolated and often degraded by the Black community. As a result, I had many more white friends than Black for most of my life. As I got older, my interactions with white women would sting with traces of biased and superior behavior. This was painful and unexpected, and again, I felt isolated and at times degraded.

In the past couple weeks there has been a surge of people asking what they can do to be better. Conversations are beginning to take place and guards are beginning to come down. While that's a good start, it is just the starting point and there's plenty of work to be done. Below are six ways you can begin playing a different role in a Black woman's life.

When I was growing up, there was a local furniture store that my family and I would go to. We would walk in, and one of two things would happen. First, we would be ignored and not acknowledged or helped. White families came in after us and were immediately greeted with big wide smiles. They were offered sparkling water and ushered to see the latest living room set. Or second, we would still not be greeted and would be followed around at a distance, as my younger brother and I sat on couches and explored furniture sets. I distinctly remember a white associate with a fierce brown ponytail wrinkling her nose at us, asking us to keep our hands off the couches. Meanwhile, little white children jumped on a myriad of mattresses, squealing loudly and proudly in the other section.

We are in the midst of an unprecedented moment for our country. What we see playing out in front of us isn't just about police brutality; it's about a trifecta of police brutality, murder, and the weaponization of skin color. We see these events nearly everyday, and they underscore, in a very visual way, how Black people do not have equality in this country — not by the government, society, and in some cases, the general public. These events highlight how they often continue to be thought of as less than whites.

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