America is a melting pot, yes, but for most of us Asians, African Americans, and other people of color, we are kept on the bottom like wood. We feed the melting pot, and it is content to leave us on the outside until its fire consumes us entirely.
I don’t remember where I paraphrased that from, but it’s been rattling around in my mind as I think about the purpose of work. What systems does our work perpetuate? In the case of the non-quote above, many people of color were coerced of forcibly stolen from their homelands to build a country that denied them rights– the slave trade, the plantation system in Hawaii, sharecropping, the building of the transcontinental railroad, migrant farm workers, etc.
It’s a serious privilege to be able to select a job that satisfies your soul, but what a difference it makes. I think it’s because we pour so much of our time into our jobs. If people give us respect and treat us with dignity, that translates to our overall self esteem. Our jobs determine how much energy we have to devote to other projects. And often, it is what we do in our jobs that we expect to leave behind as our mark on history.
For those of us that have the privilege to choose jobs, what kind of systems do our jobs perpetuate? And do those systems reflect our core values? This isn’t an “everybody should leave major institutions and take a fight-the-power-job” post. Neither is it an “any job is good as long as you do your best” post. Finding a job that suits your abilities and your values and your passion is a daunting, challenging struggle. I’m just saying that it’s a worthwhile one.