With a bestselling book, a wildly successful television series, and a new CoverGirl contract to boot, by all accounts Issa Rae is a highly accomplished person. Who better then, to address the barriers she’s faced on the road to success? In a chat with members of the National Black MBA Association in Philadelphia, as part of Marriott’s EmpowerME speaker series, Rae discussed the roadblocks minorities face while pursuing higher education. The Cut caught up with Rae right before she took the stage, and she summed up privilege and the obstacles to diversity in one succinct bit:
They don’t get that we’re not all starting from the same starting point. Straight, cis, white men don’t have the same obstacles — there’s not much in their path. That’s not to say they don’t have any of their own problems, but the playing field is not level by any means. It’s easy for people to dismiss your history, dismiss where you came from. Just because we graduated from the same college doesn’t mean we have the same opportunities. There’s bias, even in the hiring process, and that’s something not enough people are aware of. It feels like a vicious Catch-22 when there aren’t diverse people behind the scenes. That [lack of diversity] alters the company or organization perspective, which means they’re not going to have people who look like the people they are trying to recruit. Even when we do these diversity events, I find that we tend to include other diverse people who also know the struggle and who are already familiar with the burdens, where the audience should be mostly white men and women. People aren’t aware, and they choose not to be. For so many people, unfortunately, the issues with people of color don’t affect them, so why would they burden themselves with caring?
As for her meeting with Insecure fan Michelle Obama last week, she had this to say:
It was such a fulfilling experience in a way that I didn’t expect it to be. She means so much to so many people, and to see her living in her truth in such an authentic way, it’s inspiring without even trying to be. When she was talking about women’s voices being suppressed and how we internalize being silent, that really spoke to me in terms of both the workplace and my personal life. There are so many people in my life that I didn’t realize that have contributed to the suppressing of my voice. It’s ironic because I make a living off my voice, but there are still so many things I feel like I’m ashamed to say or ashamed to talk about because of the system of suppressing women’s voices.
Just two more reasons why we don’t deserve Issa Rae, or Michelle Obama.
This interview has been edited for clarity.