My sista’s where do we even begin? We all know that the struggle is real being a black woman in the workplace. In spaces where we are not the majority we have to deal with backhanded comments, unsolicited advice, stereotyping, conscious and unconscious bias and this is just scratching the surfaceoo hmm.
We here at the Froday HQ have decided to pinpoint just some of the comments we often hear in the office. If there are more that you often hear share-am below!
Let’s get into this wahala.
1. “Can I touch your hair?”
No sis, you cannot ah! Black women are not pets; we don’t want to be stroked or petted. We don’t want to be questioned on our hair style, type and choice. We don’t want to twirl or parade around for your interest and amusement. We are at work abi, to work abi! It is bad enough that our hairstyles are often challenged, we are told that our own natural tresses that come out of our own scalps are not professional or appropriate for this work place.
So no, we do not want or need the attention, chatter or questions regarding our sudden hair change. I understand the fact that going from a pixie cut to long back length braids in less than twenty-four hours is mind boggling but charge it to the game Maame.
That’s that Black girl magic!
2. “I’m the same colour as you now!”
Please do not use my naturally brown skin tone as a measuring tool for your post-holiday redness. How cheeky can you be? Sitting in the sun all day or applying fake tan does not make you the same colour as me. Also, the mere fact that you can spend hours in the sun to become a certain shade and think that’s all is required to be Black or understand the plights of Black people is a problem in itself. Say it with me: "Black skin colour is not a measuring tool!"
3. “You don’t need to be so aggressive”
There is a certain type of narrative that when a Black woman knows what she wants and does not accept anything less she is aggressive. From the angry Black narrative to the Black women are not friendly narrative we have heard it all before word to Sunshine Anderson.
Why is there a problem with Black women being assertive and confident now? Why is it that when a white woman in the office is direct or straight to the point then she is deemed as confident, hardworking, focused but when it is a Black woman she is aggressive, rude, over reactive and argumentative? As Black women our opinions and actions are often overlooked or our hard work is often taken with someone else receiving the credit.
With our contributions often going ignored being hit with the word aggressive when we speak out is often a slap in the face sha. There are Black women in the office scared to vocalise dissatisfaction or problems because they do not want to be branded as aggressive. Oftentimes when we stay quiet in the office to avoid issues we then get branded with being unapproachable or not easy to talk to. Ah ah, what more do you want from me abi? It’s a lose/lose situation!
Let’s give these angry Black women stereotype remarks a rest ok?
4. “Why are you always so defensive?”
Why is it that when a Black woman does not allow herself to be walked over or second guessed she is deemed as defensive? Shebi why are we not assertive? Thinkkk about it.
There are certain words and connotations that only seem to be used when it is a Black woman. To not come across as defensive Black women always have to go the extra step by adding additional pleasantries at the end of emails, ignoring certain side comments or protecting themselves by saving proof of foul play in emails. All this is done in the name of not being dismissed or having evidence when called into a meeting with HR or management. There always seems to be a moment where the Black woman in the team has been accused of being defensive or dismissive. Let’s add this terminology into the box with “aggressive” close it and bury it somewhere deep, yes?
5. “What’s that you’ve got for lunch?”
I have rice and stew sir and no I don’t want to show you and I don’t want to be quizzed on the smell or the flavour. I do not want the attention on the choice of my lunch, I do not want questions about why I’m having a big lunch when you always get a sandwich I do not want to compare dishes or talk about the ingredients within my lunch sha.
I just want to sit down and have my lunch in peace. I am aware that my lunch smells amazing and yes it does taste even better but unleashing a Q&A session on my choice of food is not only making my food cold but it is also eating away at this precious hour of the day that I have to myself.
Please Sir, mind your business and let me be!
6. “You never come to the pub with us?”
I am well aware and understand that pub culture is part of British culture but in all honesty it is not a part of mine. Going out for drinks once a week is not only daunting it is actually quite expensive, oya where is all of this money? Where do you get all this money to constantly go out for drinks every single Friday?
Maybe this falls into the debate on pay discrepancies between Black women and everyone else (that is a topic for another day oh, don’t let me go there today) because my mind does not seem to understand how this can happen every. Single. Week.
ALSO! Black women tend to not like coming to the pub because as the alcohol intake increases the self-awareness decreases and all those “cheeky questions” you have been dying to ask begin to slip and slide out of your mouth and then tada we are left in an awkward situation. In order to avoid any awkward positions and moments I’m just going to give the pub another miss ok?
7. “You don’t sound Black or act Black”
What exactly does a Black woman sound or act like? Where are the laws and rules that govern what a Black person or any person for that matter should sound like? You questioning the way I speak or act is based on your preconceived thoughts on Black people and that alone is problematic. Before you approach a Black person on your assumptions check yourself and where your opinions are coming from. If they are not from a place of sense, then I’d advise you to leave the commentary out.
8. “I prefer your hair like this. You look more professional.”
Please do not share your opinion on a Black woman’s hairstyle and what you think is professional or not. My hair does not affect my work ability, rate, skills and talents. It is bad enough that Black women have to operate in a society that tells us that our natural Afrocentric features are not beautiful and that we must pander to Eurocentric beauty in order to be noticed or admired. It is bad enough that our natural features and styles are only beautiful if they are appropriated by a white person. So please I beg, keep your preferences to yourself ok?
9. “You’re admin aren’t you?” – Assuming my job role
Why do you assume my job role based on my appearance, skin colour or voice over the phone? How is this acceptable? What, because I am Black I can’t be a senior member of staff or a manager? How insulting. Never ever judge a person’s job role by their appearance. Not in this realm, the next realm or the realm after that. As the saying goes, “If you do not have anything good to say then mind your business” or whatever the saying is.
10. “How do I pronounce your name again? Oh that’s too hard can I just call you something else?”
Hello, Hi, no. The same way you learned how to pronounce Renee Zellweger, Chloë Sevigny or Nikolaj Coster-Waldau is the same way you can learn to pronounce my full name. It is not hard at all you are just being lazy or rude and no you cannot just make up a short name that you think is more pleasing and socially acceptable. And umm no you cannot give me a name that makes you feel comfortable or sounds more English. My name is my name for a reason so call me by it.
Please and T for Tenks.
Lastly, my Sista’s, remember who you are and the power you possess. Remember you are the wildest dream that your ancestors dreamed of. No matter what odds are stacked against you, you will always rise.
Never let that crown slip!