Two weeks ago- like millions of Americans- I was glued to a screen for most the day to watch the high stakes Brett Kavanaugh hearing. In the morning and early afternoon, I watched a woman do everything in her power to present herself as a credible, stable, expert witness…in her own assault. Later that afternoon and into the evening I watched a Supreme Court nominee rant, cry, and scream at Senators as he “defended” himself against the allegations.
By the time I got home from work that night, I was livid. It’s wild that in 2018, women still have to beg for respect while men can carry on like children and think it is owed to them.
A few months ago I dealt with a situation at the office where I had to work overtime to appear calm, steady, and reasonable in the face of true insanity.
I had been angrily approached, pointed at, and demanded to do something, “NOW.”
I wanted to cuss. I wanted to yell. I wanted to cry. And every single one of those reactions would’ve been justified.
But I am a black woman who works in the corporate world- that is simply not allowed. I knew as a woman, if I cried I’d be seen as weak and unhinged. As the only black person in the room, I knew if I went off, I’d be labeled as a stereotype- an angry black woman. I refused to be characterized as either.
So I took a walk to calm down, prayed to get my bearings, and then went back to the office and spoke truth to power. And boy did I set off an interesting sequence of events.
The person in question did apologize and their rattled state told me they had never been held accountable for their actions before. I listened as they uncomfortably tried to justify what happened. I only had one thing to say. Talk to me like that again, and I will walk out of this office and never come back.
The freedom of expression that is given to white men in America is unparalleled. It has been surreal watching a man ascend to the highest court in the land while yelling, lying, and behaving like a toddler. Watching men freely express their anger and frustration without the labels of hysterical, dramatic, or emotional ignited a rage I didn’t even know was there. I realized that as a black woman in corporate America, I was bending over backwards to make other people comfortable; from the way I wear my hair, to the tone I use when I speak to my coworkers, and the micro-aggressions I let slide.
After witnessing the events of the past few weeks, I’ve come to a decision. That is over.
I am done going out of my way for the comfort of others. I refuse to be less than who I am in the workplace. And when I need to speak up, my voice will be heard.
If a white man can be rude and disrespectful on national television and still not be automatically disqualified for a job, I can wear my natural hair to an interview or client meeting without thinking twice. If he can demand power even when it’s obvious that he doesn’t deserve it, I can demand respect. And if he can make open threats when his credibility is rightly questioned, I don’t have to be afraid of coming off as aggressive when I stand up for myself.
I know my worth and I know what I bring to the table. It is why I was able to demand respect that day and know I wouldn’t be questioned. In the words of Aretha Franklin, “They say that it’s a man’s world but you can’t prove that by me.”
Wowwwwwwwww!!!!! I experienced this exact thing about a week ago (but I must admit I just broke down crying! 😂) well they only saw a few tears. Then I left building and balled my eyes out. Lol and only prayer got me through it. Thanks for the read… absolutely reassuring that we are not alone in this! And the struggle is real and it’s rough out here as a Corporate Black Girl. You said it it best .. KNOW YOUR WORTH and what YOU bring to the table… they can not question you then! Until then STILL I RISE lol
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It’s not easy. Hang in there!
Nice post, Norell
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