To be a born a woman is to be seen as less than a man (one chromosomal difference). To be born black is to be seen as inferior to those with Caucasian ancestry (one amino acid difference, it’s just melanin).
However these two ‘small’ differences change everything. Change the way one views the world. Most definitely changes the view society has of beings with these differences or deviations from the ‘ideal’ blond, Caucasian man. To those of you who are already annoyed by this post, you’re probably part of the problem with society. To think that these issues don’t matter (#Alllivesmatter) shows that you simply don’t get it at all. I hope that this post will somewhat challenge your thinking.
A few months ago, a friend and I were chilling on the settee (probably eating cookie dough Ben and Jerry’s ice-cream) when she brought up something that had been playing on her mind. In short, she explained that she had recently had a meeting (my friend has afro hair and is also female), in which a caucasian male repeatedly undermined her authority. She was running the meeting as head of her society, but repeatedly he kept butting in, throwing out her ideas and using the friendships he had built with individuals within the society to undermine her.
Okay, so every black female out there is probably lifting up their hands to testify ‘been there.’ So yeah, sadly this behaviour is not uncommon and maybe it’s something we simply have to put up with from time to time. Why? Because it’s often hard to prove these microaggressions, especially when there’s not another woke melaninated sister in the room who understands exactly where we’re coming from and whom has our back.
However, the greater issue I had with this situation is how it made my friend feel and think. She felt that if she called out the male undermining her in that meeting she would have been viewed as harsh or aggressive. She didn’t want to make her team members look at her differently. She didn’t want to pull the black card or the female card. Her story that evening massively highlighted to me how a black person or a woman and especially the black woman have to manoeuvre themselves differently in this world. They must navigate themselves with a great deal more of care to avoid allowing others to stereotype them or without making others feel uncomfortable.
That evening I told my friend, MAKETHEMFEELUNCOMFORTABLE! If someone is undermining you, use the black card or the woman card, or both. And if you’re not brave enough to call it out, imply it instead e.g. tell them ‘If you patted another womans’ afro like this, they may feel like you were massively violating their personal space.’
Forget the stigmas surrounding the black woman and just be you. If you’re annoyed, you are allowed to raise your voice a little, or convey it in your intonation. That’s not you being ‘aggressive’, that’s you being annoyed. If a caucasian man can show his annoyance why can’t you?
I also reminded her that if they already have these preconceived ideas of you, you may as well live up to their stereotypes, if it is the only means of expressing your true emotions. They’d need enlightening in order to lastingly change their minds about you whether you show emotion or not, so you may as well do as you please and be yourself.
‘Don’t reduce your shine to appease others.’
Now you may be thinking, Liv that’s university it’s not the real world. The real world is a lot more grown up! News flash: those in this story are currently 21-23, we’re already adulting. What makes you think these same undermining individuals are suddenly going to ‘grow up’? (They’re grown! Their characters are fixed!) And this is not just a one-off incident. I have a friend who worked at one of the top corporate accounting firms, who was told her emails were too aggressive, they were not, I checked (and seriously, how hard would one have to try to make emails aggressive? Like nobody has time, well definitely no black woman). I have a friend who was told she needed to straighten her hair for work. Let’s not even talk about the people who think we’re animals and think they’re entitled to pet our hair.
So be unapologetic! Be like Serena…
“Sometimes you’ll see the tears, sometimes you’ll see the anger, sometimes you’ll see that but I never feel like because I’m black I have to say ‘Don’t let them see me do that.’ I am who I am and I don’t apologise for my colour, for my sex or for anything.”
Don’t apologise! Don’t reduce your shine! Simply glow and allow the world to adjust to you… #Makethemfeeluncomfortable2017