Originally published June 20th, 2017.
"If they don't give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair." - Shirley Chisholm
We’re taught from a young age to seek a seat at the table. The table of men, the table of white, the table of bullshit. We’re told a space should be reserved for us and that if we aren’t given a chair we should bring one or even take one. I’ve spent years of my life fighting for a seat at the table. Years of my life spent working to outlast and outperform in my youth and well into the chaos that is adulthood. The whole time toting my folding chair and trying to make myself fit at someone else’s table. And I’ve had it.
What is the point of forcing a seat at the table when it doesn’t come with respect for my humanity? We’ve bought into this lie that reaching the table will somehow validate our existence but, if the people sitting at the table never saw value in your existence before you took a seat they still won’t after you sit down. We’re chasing a lie wrapped in a thin veil of acceptance and inclusion. Neither, acceptance nor inclusion, actually exist in this lie. They can’t because, when your invite to the table is based on checking boxes instead of seeing the worth in your existence true acceptance can’t happen. You’re forced to pretend at that point. Pretend you’re not one of “those” undesirables that can’t have a seat at the table. One of those people who are unapologetically themselves. Unapologetically black, brown, queer, trans, disabled, and/or female. Unapologetically human.
We pretend so we can have a seat with people who don’t really want us next to them and who we really don’t want to be next to either. What insanity! No table, no meal, and no chair are worth sacrificing our humanity, dignity, and self-respect for.
Screw getting a seat at their table. I’d rather build my own damn table. I’m done lugging around a folding chair when there’s a glorious throne at the end of my mahogany table. Why should we play the game when it’s rigged against us? Why lean in when we can build our own empires and stand up straight? Why degrade ourselves for faux respect when we can respect ourselves, tell them to keep their below Ikea grade table and chairs, and craft our own beautiful legacies?
Stop worrying about respectability. Stop fretting over leaning in or leaning out. Stop playing the game and have a seat at your own table. Then ask yourself, “Who’s worthy enough to dine next to me?”
Don’t settle for the scraps and folding chairs.
Build your own table and establish a seating chart based on the traits you value. Build your own legacy and say fuck it to filling a seat at someone else’s bullshit table.
Copyright(c) 2017 Rayven Holmes