The Foreign Service Journal, July-August 2021

34 JULY-AUGUST 2021 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL Tianna Spears, a Foreign Service consular fellow from 2018 to 2019, is the creator of the blog “What’s Up with Tianna” and founder of Tianna’s Creative, a storytelling collective. She writes about her experiences navigating the world and highlight- ing communities of color. She has written for American Diplomacy , DurhamMagazine , the Los Angeles Times , the Matador Network and Politico , and was featured on ABC News, CNN and NPR and in Business Insider, CNN, INDY Week and The New York Times . ThePower of Vulnerability A Black former consular fellow, whose report of her ordeal at the hands of U.S. officials at the border with Mexico shook up the State Department, shares her thoughts today. BY T I ANNA SPEARS I t’s been more than a year since I came forward with my story of what happened to me while serving as a first- tour State Department consular fellow in Juarez in 2018 and 2019. I experienced repeated harassment and racial profiling by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials when crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. As horrific as the harassment was, the utter lack of support from the State Department proved just as damaging. It took me time to realize that my experience was not only abnormal, but traumatic. There is power in calling something by its name. On my last day as a consular officer, I had a going-away lunch with a few colleagues. Then I cleared my desk and went home to my apartment. It felt like a failure that the dream that I’d worked so hard for was over. On my flight back home to North Carolina, I was pulled into a back room by U.S. Customs and Border Pro- tection, and all my belongings were searched. Afterward, I sat in a bathroom stall at the Houston airport and wept. The thing about trauma is that often, we carry it alone. We do not know whom to trust. I found myself in an environment that was downright unsupportive. Who feels safe to speak up when it FOCUS PERSPECTIVES ON DIVERSITY & INCLUSION