I have decided to use my voice to share a bit of a story. Race in FIRST is a hard issue to talk about. Not every team has diversity. Not every team can have diversity either, due to location and other issues. I just wanted to add a topic so people could discuss this issue. Let’s continue the conversation. Eventually, this won’t be a problem anymore.
On my FRC team I was very underestimated. Not only because I was girl, but also because I was black. The n-word would be used a lot by teammates to aggravate me. Assassination of my character was very common. My own coach didn’t even think I knew how to code. I know five programming languages. I was also blamed for problems on the team that didn’t involve me. As a captain on the team, I wasn’t taken seriously and my opinion wasn’t valued. When I brought up these issues to my coaches, they didn’t do anything in terms of stopping the racism. They just offered up the measly idea for a “swear jar”. Some of my friends have even had bullying happen to them where they would get messages that their team programmed the robot to output.
There are many other stories and mine isn’t the worst of it. I hope racism in FIRST can be
This topic is often times put to the side, for the truth is that there is not as much diversity in FIRST. It all does indeed have to do with the region your FIRST team is located. But racism in FIRST is very real, and it needs to be talked about. Many teams are not diverse and that is fine, for some regions are not as diverse as others. What is important is to go with a positive attitude into a FIRST event or in a FIRST team, for FIRST is to develop team work and all the great things people can say FIRST is for. It is difficult for some to leave their political opinions or personal feelings about certain subjects at home, but it is something that must be done. Mentors are the most respected and a mentor should be the prime example of what it means to be in FIRST. Students do need that talk and racism has to be touched upon. Many people do tend to stay away from this subject, but it should be addressed further. Personally, I am lucky enough to have joined an FRC team as diverse as it is. Team 333 is located in New York City, so it has been a great experience creating long lasting relationships with some many great individuals. The message I would like share that I have learned is that the color of our skin does not matter, or what our ethnicity might be, for once you get to know each other we all became a second family and we realized we are the same. Hopefully the rest of the FIRST community can say the same.
I am really sad this is how you felt on your team. As a fellow CT team feel free to reach out if you would like to discuss further via PM. As @TAlholm mentioned there are folks who can help you and others in similar situations.
Being a man of color in FIRST on one of the most diverse team in all of FIRST I think about race in FIRST often. I have not personally experienced any discrimination in my years in FIRST, which I am thankful for. Personally I only experienced being directly slurred twice in my lifetime. The first one I heard about afterward from a friend when a store manager instructed his employee to keep an eye on that n****** He almost went over the counter after the jerk. The other one happened when my car broke down in the town next to where I live and we were trying to arrange to have the car towed back home. Some kids drove by and in passing shouted out the window at us “GET OUT OF THE F****** ROAD YOU N******s!” First time in my life someone ever called me that directly and all I did was shrug and watch them speed away but my nephew was pretty upset about it. In modern America it is assumed that racism is a thing of the past thanks to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr and his Freedom Riders which my grandad was a part of in Savannah. Georgia.
It would be nice to think such a thing was true but when I was born there were still black people being lynched from trees like it was a neighborhood block party. It’s a little too fresh a wound to just heal that quickly in a few decades and as humans we have too much pack animal in us to simply put aside our pride and fear to have the courage to let our guards down completely and come together as one.
I doubt I will see racism be eradicated in my lifetime and to be honest, I think we will see the end of us all before we see the end of racism but I truly think programs like this can lead the way to help shine a light to a better path for us all to take.
Wow, I can’t imagine being so calm about a situation like that. I definitely was anything but calm when that was said to me. I applaud your calmness when it comes to the matter. It’s nice that your team has diversity.
The closest I have ever remotely come to experiencing anything like racism in FIRST is concern from a couple of friends who did not like me traveling by myself in Texas back and forth to events.
FIRST is filled with some of the most kindest, thoughtful people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. If you need your faith in humanity rekindled (and in this day and age that is practically a constant need) just attend a FIRST event and get that fire lit exponentially every hour on the hour!