Boston Globe, Updated September 9, 2020 As told to Katie Johnston
Photo by SUZANNE KREITER/GLOBE STAFF
Aixa Beauchamp is a Newton philanthropy consultant, cofounder of the Latino Legacy Fund at the Boston Foundation, and a philanthropist. Here, she talks about challenging the racially coded language people use and trying to understand what’s behind it.
When I was a recent graduate of Harvard Kennedy School, working for a foundation in New York, I attended a conference in Philadelphia and started talking to a white couple, maybe in their mid-60s, who had a foundation started with family money. They kept asking me questions: Where did you grow up? What did your family do? Was it a different experience to go to Harvard?
At first, I thought maybe they wanted to hire me or collaborate on a project. However, as the questions got more personal, it became apparent to me that, because of the way I looked and because I came from a low-income Puerto Rican family in Brooklyn, they thought I got some sort of diversity scholarship. Perhaps they’d never spoken to an educated young Latina before. Statistics show that most white people don’t have any friends of color.
I felt compelled to answer their questions. I didn’t want to be rude.