The Unfortunate Reality of Being A Black Girl at Work

woman sitting on black chair near brown table
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There is no denying my mother’s cruelty towards me and I think part of the reason why was to maybe to prepare me for what the real world offers black woman. Which is pain and abuse. I was an odd whimsical black child I saw the beauty in everything and everyone to the point I’d get those “is this bitch serious?”snickers. I loved books, art, and music and digested and frequently regurgitated random historical facts as if everyone else learned the lessons from past mistakes. I often refused to code switch which no one understood what the hell I was saying and I found joy and comfort in being alone. The world can’t seem to handle that black people are different and unique like everyone else.  I think maybe she was preparing me for more snickers, more undermining, and preparing me for a world that constantly discredited and invalidated me.

Part of being a black woman is dealing with character attacks received by non black people on a daily basis.  And on occasion receiving the “I’m the better black person bullshit from other black people” usually at work or in places where there are predominately white people around. Being a black woman means being eye fucked all the time in places you wouldn’t even guess. Feeling uncomfortable with your body and being made to feel like you have to apologize about it as well.  Being a black woman means being told by black men that you are not a team player and that your job is to somehow elevate and care for them. Listen to their plights and frustrations, but yet you become weak the moment you vocalize your own. On the flip side being told by other black men that you simply existing is why they prefer white women. Being a black woman means listening to random strangers critique your appearance (often white) as if they have the final say in your life, being a black woman is being taught to put everyone else above you and never think of yourself, and to circle back to the white girl thing..being a black woman is having to hear the never ending narrative that black girls aren’t checking for black boys because they were nerds who did not have money and while I’m trying not to laugh because I had been a black girl nerd forrreeeevvvvaaa!!! yet the black nerds (which are an incredible small percentage) chased after your gorgeous sister and often asked why cant you be her? Being a black girl at work means working twice as hard, receiving no credit, and everyone trying to box you into some sort of stereotype and when they can’t and see you as a decent human being you’d receive comments like “I forgot you were black” try to engage you in some sister-girl banter with exaggerated hand gestures and make you fully aware that their somehow comfortable around you all while making themselves look really fucking racist.

So, Where is a black woman to turn when she encounters this on a daily basis?  Unfortunately, I had no one to turn to because I am not close to my family and also I come from a family that believes  self denial is true survival.  And for direction I turn to my books and therapist. No, I’m not ashamed to see a therapist. I looked to books on identity politics, microaggressions, racism, community outreach, discrimination all written by black women. I turn to black feminist writers to help me find names to experiences I’ve dealt with and to validate that I’m not the only one who thinks the way I think.  I turned to old coworkers from an old job while we laugh at what we dealt with at work, but it seemed that with all that I turn to I decided to leave another job.

I left my job due to the othering, I left my job due to the fact that I would always feel like an outsider, I left my job because with every micro invalidation and microaggression I received on a damn near daily basis felt like I was being punched in the fucking chest. I remember when I first came to my supervisor she didn’t know what to do or say and to this day she doesn’t know what to do or say. So, she ignores it. Attempts to gaslight me, but what I’ve learned in achieving some level of consciousness is that you can’t go back to what was. I had anxiety, still do. Had depression, still do. Felt empty and my job title was shallow. I felt if you paired my job title with the fact that I am a black woman expect to receive an endless stream of mammification. I didn’t realize what the fuck was happening, why was everyone telling me their personal problems and yet not giving a shit about mines?. There were other things I noticed that no one caught onto for example whenever my white coworker whom I had to work directly with  started a lot of drama with me said something out of turn and I reply in defense of myself she was entitled to innocence and I was entitled to bitchery. There were many things that I encountered that made recognize how real white privilege was,but the one thing that really got me was the fact that I wasn’t recognized as a woman.  Whenever my white coworker struggled to carry things it was as if the offers for help came pouring out, but if I dropped a box it would be walked around (or jumped over which has happened to a few times) doors aren’t opened for and no matter how overwhelm or frustrated I felt no one thought to offer assistance. I’ve encountered various incarnations of this, but yet it feels more and more intolerable.

It’s not that I hate my job. I don’t. It’s not that I hate the people. I don’t. It was after taking on a second job where I am helping people in need that I truly knew that I needed to feed my soul with work that was emotionally rewarding. I had felt better about myself, better about life, and more optimistic in the past few months there than I had in the past two years. I knew it was time for me to go.

I am now preparing myself and my  job for my departure to move into a field I’m passionate about and the amount of years it took for me to receive a position in this field also bothers my soul, but I am going where I want to nonetheless and for that I’m grateful. I know that I will probably encounter what I’m encountering now, because the bullshit doesn’t really change it just reincarnates. It’s pretty devastating going into each job with the hope and optimism that maybe things will be different, maybe you can finally let your guard down, but maybe never seems to materialize and after the benefit of doubt starts to wear out.  I wonder if I will stay this time because it will be in a field I love…or will I let the racism wear down my soul??

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