When I worked in corporate, particularly when starting at a new company or joining a new team, I had a hard time trying to figure out who to trust, who to spend time with, who to form alliances with. Naturally, my instinct would always be to gravitate towards Black women, because, HELLOOOO, that’s my tribe. Admittedly, I would only start relaxing towards the men when I felt there was no risk of being hit on or sexually harassed.
Yes, that is a very real process that happens in my mind.
The relationships I had with Black peers in the workplace have often revolved around jokes and bitchfests when getting coffee, complaints about workloads and working for unqualified bosses who treated us poorly, the weekend, people’s frustrations with their kids and husbands and of course, grand plans to finally stand up to “the establishment”.
The thing about me is that when I say I’m going to do something, I actually mean it. It took me a while to finally figure out that for some people, they just say things for ambience. They have no intention of doing anything.
When I became an agitator in the workplace whilst fighting for equality and justice, what disappointed me most were the Black colleagues who tried to “manage” me by publicly acting like no injustices or abuse were taking place in our department or that I was rowdy and causing trouble that would affect them or that I need to stop taking things so personally. Even after I left the organisation, Black colleagues would talk about how I was just such a troublemaker. A rebel rouser, if you will. Why? I refused to tolerate being mistreated and I was certainly not going to be quiet.
That was five years ago. A few months ago, when Gabrielle Union was fired from America’s Got Talent and she revealed the discrimination that took place behind the scenes, so many of us were shocked, but not shocked. But, when Terry Crews fixed his mouth to say, “I can’t speak for sexism because I’m not a woman. But I can speak on behalf of any racism comments. That was never my experience on America’s Got Talent.”
STOP ERASING BLACK WOMEN’S VOICES. STOP ERASING BLACK WOMEN’S EXPERIENCES. LISTEN TO BLACK WOMEN. And as a Black man, do not compare your experience to mine as a Black woman. We go through very different experiences.
Let us please remember that you don not have to be a woman to see/notice/witness sexism. You need only care about the wellbeing and protection of women. And please, if someone is courageously sharing their experiences, especially after being subjected to punitive measures, you cannot, in your bid to “other” yourself by showing that you’re “not like her”, erase her experiences or call into question her integrity.
It has always hurt more when it has been Black people who gaslight me or isolate me or sacrifice me to protect themselves. My forever hope is that we get to a point where we always choose each other first.