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.”