Glass-ceiling moments.

Can you share any “glass-ceiling” moments you might have had in your life when you realized the limits of “meritocracy”, “working hard to succeed”, and other assimilationisms?

7 thoughts on “Glass-ceiling moments.

  1. For me there was a glass ceiling in the capacity I would never ever be able to rise to the level(s) that a biological did in my adoptive parents eyes and mind and within the family. I could and would never be worthy because I was not one of “them”. The exclusion was invisible and unspoken, denied and dismissed. But, the dynamic of it was always evident in the difference of treatment, expectation, and unconditional love that were, or were not, given to us as the adopted children. It was noticeable by others as well if only later in life when we grew old enough, with enough understanding, that it was blatantly clear that blood was thicker than water.

  2. The familial aspect you describe…so devastating. I didn’t have to deal with this overtly in terms of immediate family. Later I would learn about its presence in extended family. Not that this makes it easier to deal with. The subliminal aspect of it as you refer to it I find even more destructive than more overt expression that you can at least point to….

    In terms of the workplace, one “covert” example I remember quite clearly is from when I worked for various temp agencies (typing; computer stuff) in New York City in the ’80s. My faxed resume didn’t “reveal” anything about me; my voice on the phone didn’t either. My presence, though, often resulted in a disturbing turnaround.

    Such that on the phone an agency would be over-the-moon enthusiastic, but then when I showed up would say, “we’ll keep your resume on file”. Or when I would arrive at a place of employ, I would be shown to the head of human resources—whose office was bigger than my apartment—who would “call up” to see whether I could go up “without a tie”. It all seemed so random to me….

    It turned out later, in a publicized minor scandal, that the Fortune 500s were demanding only “all-Americans” as temps in their offices, so as not to “tarnish” their image of themselves. We’re talking front-end executive office stuff. Apparently resumes were coded with “AA” and the like.

    “All-American” is like a leitmotif of racism for me growing up. This is just one example.

  3. Glass celling moments for me. The first time I asked if I was adopted – self evident to me even at 4 (though I’m sure I couldn’t express it as that) being a Chinese child in an all white family. I was harshly reprimanded and told never to speak of these things again. That started a chain reaction the more I wanted to know the more my adoptive parents shut down everything became a personal slight or attack as far as my adoptive mother was concerned. Every time I picked up the courage to ask about where I had come from (which wasn’t that often because of the punishment) I would hit a wall of angry silence.
    Second was having gotten into one of the top UK drama schools to realise that even in a “safe” environment the attitude towards me was that I should consider myself lucky to play maids, prostitutes and mad people. That’s all that I would ever be good for. It was then that I realised I was probably the token ethnic in the year. In the year above me there was a black student, in the year below me there was a disabled student.
    Third within the adoption profession – for want of a better word. I’ve started being asked to present/lecture/speak to “industry professionals” on what it means to have been raised as a transracial adoptee in the UK during the 60s. It’s clear to me even from the small number of talks that I’ve given that they need this. It is incredibly hard to get into this world, if like me you are a lay person. I have no desire to study to become a social worker, I already have a vocation of my own and am already working in my chosen field. I’d like to smash through this ceiling in a major way.
    Fourth and lastly in my career as an actor, writer and now filmmaker I have to fight on two fronts the fact that I’m East Asian and the prejudice, bias and racism that still exists in the industry and even the wider society in the UK but also from the East Asian community because for some I’m not and never can be Chinese, why because I was adopted. I was raised into a society in the 60s that was white and privileged and expected to take on board and be part of that white culture. Yet i was never able to take advantage of the privileges that the culture I was raised in gave. Why, because no matter what, I would never ever be white.

    • Oh, Lucy, my heart breaks to hear about your experience at a drama school in the UK. A lot of my research has focused on dysconscious racism in the UK Conservatoires and I will email you more about it. Drama training programmes think they are so very progressive and they are fooling themselves big time.

      My glass ceiling issue at the moment:
      I am overqualified for most EFL teaching jobs in Korea (most still just require a minimum of a BA degree and I have a TEFL and an MA) but have been told I am not going to be considered because I am not White or am told that I will be paid less than a White person. There is no discrimination law in Korea and recruiters are free to explicitly talk about race (or visa type, which is code for race) in job postings. After experiencing years of racism in the US, it is a special kind of pain to live in Korea and be rejected because of the internalized, Western-centric racism from my own ethnic group.

      • Your last sentence is my life in Lebanon, as well. The local “indigen” who sees him/herself as foreign, and looks down on the “local” in favor of the foreign….

        The flip side of this is the foreigner/expatriate who “confides” in me because I am “seen” by them as “not local”….this pisses me off even more somehow.

  4. Like you, Daniel, I surprised some people coming for an interview in Columbia, South Carolina. I am sure they expected a white person of German descent; but then I showed up and they didn’t know what to do or think. They were stuck and even made reservations at a country club someone told me later I could not have joined because I am of Japanese descent.

    Much that is “glass ceiling” in my life and work (I am an Episcopal priest) is invisible to me. I know that a person in my parish was disappointed that I was coming to the parish to be the priest because I wasn’t like everyone else (white) but she also said that “does not matter now.”

    I have been able to find a way to continue developing new work that is interesting to me and others – even in the church – but it does not pass through the usual channels and I am glad for that. I look for back doors and open doors. I don’t know if anything will come of these efforts of mine in particular, though. Is that a “glass ceiling”? – I don’t know.

Adoptees, what do you think? We welcome your replies!

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