That one time when I was deliberately left out of the office lottery pool.... I was also the only Black person in the office.
"Shut up, or I will give you something to cry about" is the phrase I've heard since probably my first cry as a toddler, and it worked. I was taught to push through that loss, pain or disappointment and manage that shit with no complaints.
I just showed my strength last night when I fell off of my bike. Yup, I fell all the way off the fucking bike. My left hand and left hip prevented my face from smacking the pavement. The Husband rushed over to see if I was OK but I immediately hopped up and said "I'm fine". He didn't believe me though. Maybe it was the sound of the bike crashing onto the ground or the awkward position my body was in... but now that I think about it, I wouldn't have believed me either. My hand felt like every bone in it was broken and my hip felt like it was detached from my body, but I didn't cry. I was fine and that was that.
But, I have a confession to make... I'm really not that strong. I mastered the art of being a Strong Black Woman because that's what I was told I had to be.... strong and independent... in relationships and especially when working in an all White office.
I've had some very uncomfortable experiences at work. Being the only Black person in an office has left me thinking WHAT THE FUCK? often. I've laughed at jokes that insulted me because I thought I had to be that.... Strong Black Woman that everyone "praises"... because ummm.... I'm "different than other Black people" is how some put it. And I will admit, at times I tried to be.
Now that businesses are starting to reopen and the country is trying to manage some serious damage control, there will be a new sensitivity when conversing in the office. Water cooler talk with racial undertones will be met with side-eyes and won't be tolerated like it had been pre-pandemic ...especially when addressing Black women.
I'm used to bullshit office talk, like .... "How was your weekend?" and "How's it going?" the things people say to start conversations.
But, some office talk is just ignorant. Like these... and yes, these all were really said to me or other Black women.
1. I would never support you being promoted to that position. Black people don't own buildings and honestly, I cant imagine anyone wanting to do business with a Black woman.
2. Do you speak differently when you leave the office?
3. Do you start speaking with a Jamaican accent when you lay in the sun for a long time?
4. We are all immigrants. Black people have been here the longest and can't seem to get their shit together.
5. Is it hard being an African American? What does that feel like?
6. Why do Black women wear black bras?
7. Most Black women are scary but you're not like them. I'm glad you don't get all angry.
8. If you spray water in your hair will it turn into an afro?
9. You look very ethnic today... it's a little intimidating.
10. My husband and I entertain our Black friends all of the time.
Two Black people were hired within a month...
White co-worker to me: I see more Black faces. Did you tell them not to fuck up your hard work and make you look bad yet?
My response? I laughed... what else was I supposed to do? I really liked my job...
FYI, I was the solo Black again after a couple of years.
But... see what happens when it's flipped! No it's not in the workplace but it will make you laugh...or not.
Minus the bike spill setback I'm learning to cry a little more. Fortunately or unfortunately depending on how you look at it, 2020 is making it a lot easier for me...Between Covid and racism I shed tears almost every day now.
Being the Strong Black Woman is not fun and it really fucks up my psyche. I officially retire that title, especially when at work!