Q: I am a sophomore at a top university. I have gotten many comments from classmates that I may have had an easier time getting into both the school and my program because I am a "double" minority; I am a minority woman in a male-dominated field.
I graduated at the top of my class from a reputable private school, was an AP Scholar, president of various clubs, and participated in both music and theater programs. Even now, when instructors post average scores for tests, I am far above the average.
Quite often when a fellow student does not get the internship they want, they assume it's because of their race and/or gender. I have tried to defend myself by listing my qualifications, but then I am accused of being a braggart.
What response would you recommend that does not include me blasting the individual with a list of my accomplishments?
Trying Not to Be a Braggart
A: Oh my goodness. No, please don't offer any accomplishments to defend yourself — or offer any defense of yourself, period.
Why do you worry about being a braggart, when they're the ones who should be worried about making racist and sexist assumptions? Or, even better, worried that they're making excuses and blaming outside forces for their shortcomings instead of looking within?
Don't reward such faulty thinking and self-pity. Instead, I suggest you reflect what people are really saying back on them by rephrasing it: "You do realize, I hope, that you just said you're smarter than I am because you're white and male."
Or you can nod slowly and say, "OK, whatever you need to believe."
Or you can say, "Really?"
Or you can death stare.
Or you can laugh so hard you fall off your stool.
But explain yourself? Never. Again.