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In the second part of our series celebrating Black History Month, our own Muriel Diggs, a Charlotte-based software services manager, offers her personal history, and her perspective on how a connection with a teacher shaped her professionally and personally.
“Before there was the term STEM, I was really interested in a career in science, technology and math. I originally thought I’d be a doctor, [and] I considered oceanography because I was offered a full scholarship from NOAA, but I couldn’t swim. At age 12, I realized I would do what we now call IT.
Coming up from a very poor upbringing, but being academically gifted — at least that’s what they told me in school — it brought some pressure to be a good person and achieve a moderate amount of financial success, even though I had the background I had. So I very purposefully chose a career that would utilize my skills the best, and pay well, so I could experience the childhood I didn’t have and be responsible at the same time.
[My role model growing up] was my third-grade teacher, Ms. Curtis. She brings tears to my eyes thinking about her now. She did things with us you couldn’t do as a teacher anymore. She’d pick up a few of us every weekend and take us to museums, shows, basically to show us things that we wouldn’t know were out there. If you can dream it, you can be it, you can have it –she instilled that in me. Because even though I was supposedly academically gifted, in the neighborhood I lived in, I didn’t see many people achieve success. She showed me there was another way.
[Black History Month means] acknowledging how far we’ve come as a nation, and as a world, yet, how far we must go. Events today remind us we still could slip down that slippery slope.
It’s important for people to see brown people as people first. I think sometimes when we describe things as black it gets equated with bad or evil. Even in the Bible, things that are described as black are evil. I don’t like that it’s called Black History Month. Martin Luther King Jr. wanted all people, no matter what shade of brown, to be treated the same. We need to strive for that. We may never get there — people naturally mistrust — but I think we must always try to get there.”