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The Black Family: Representation, Identity and Diversity

By Emily Burton, Senior Auditor, North Texas Branch Office

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My black family is large; my mother is one of 12 children birthed by my grandmother who picked cotton, fruits, and vegetables as a part time job. She could turn a few simple ingredients into something so amazing!  Due to the massive number of people, our family gatherings are basically events. We take up a section at church, “ain’t” and “y’all” are standard terminology, and hugs are mandatory greetings! Although times have changed, I have made it my mission to embrace those things that I wish would never change. Growing up in a single parent home, in a predominantly black community, there were many limitations presented to me during my childhood - limitations on money, resources, and ultimately knowledge on the important things that would affect me as an adult. The thought of a two-parent, married household was a fantasy, and “house-dogs” were for rich people. It was those limitations, those unspoken truths swept under the rug, which sparked my interest in learning what more the world had to offer and led to my interest in accounting – something everybody would need, no matter what race box they checked or how much money they had in the bank.

That ultimately led me to be one of the first persons in my family to graduate with a bachelors AND masters, work as a government civilian, and be considered one of the most successful by some. After a summer co-op turned permanent in 2008, I started my federal career as a Management Analyst Trainee with the Food & Drug Administration, National Center for Toxicological Research, in Jefferson, Arkansas.

In November of 2008, while attending the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff - a historically black university - I attended an informational session with DCAA hosted by the school's office of career services. The DCAA recruiter who provided the briefing was a member of a then Special Emphasis and Diversity Team within the EEO office, which had a special focus on increasing representation of minorities in the Agency. After attending the informational, I was invited to interview for an auditor position the next day. A month later the recruiter reached out to determine my locations of interest. My first choice was Texas because it wasn’t too far away from home and held tons of opportunities. And then, I heard nothing for months (welcome to the world of federal hiring!). Meanwhile, I interviewed for several other accounting positions, but none of them were accompanied by the benefits, salary, and work-life balance potential that DCAA offered. So, when the federal hiring freeze was lifted just as I prepared to graduate, I was offered a job with DCAA and I happily accepted - thus, my DCAA career began! 

Today, my immediate family of 4.5 looks a little different – well a lot different than the 14 in my grandma’s family photo – but the values remain the same, just with a little hot sauce on top! My black family is a dream come true. Family is everything – the rock you lean on when everything else is blowing away.  So while Covid hit like a hurricane, I found great joy in having the advantage of time to spend with my family, which I seemed to never have before. We created and published a children’s book together, and even got – a house dog!  Whatever color your family is, remember inside we all bleed the same; our differences, well that’s just the hot sauce on top! I challenge you to love on your family just a little bit harder today and don’t be afraid to talk to your black coworker about their heritage.