Being other at work makes me wonder

When you’re a minority in a mostly white work environment, sometimes you have experiences that make you wonder “was that racist?”… I’m not naive, I know racism still exists. Some racism is overt and in your face, other racism is more subtle. However, as a young adult I want to believe that most of that stuff is behind us and that racism is just a small component of American culture. But then there are these moments….

So before you give up on reading the rest of this post, hear me out.

Growing up black, you’re often told to work twice as hard as your white counterparts so you can succeed. You are told to not blame anyone for your problems and you are expected to have thicker skin than most kids your age have. I can only speak to the black experience because this is the experience I know. So I did it…what I was told – I did it. I went to college and grad school. Studied hard, worked hard and continue to do so. But still there are these moments…

In college, I experienced subtle racism here and there but nothing that really rattled me. The occasional professor making an off the cuff remark about race, students either making fun of or being overly involved in what they consider “urban culture.” In various work environments over the past few years, I’ve experienced it as well. I’m beginning to experience these things again, again very subtle. But the things I experience now, though subtle, sometimes make me wonder “is this racism?”.

So someone at work sends me an email asking me to make copies  for a meeting. I make the copies. While I’m organizing the copies, the requester walks in a says, “was it clear what I wanted you to do?” I’m thinking and actually say, yes you wanted x number of copies, here they are (as I hand them off). The requester continues to make this moment awkward by asking me if the documents have been stapled (the answer being yes, because the documents were about 15 pages long). This moment makes me wonder if this person thinks a little less of people of my hue or if it’s just me.

The only reason I even wonder if it’s a little bit racist is because of past interactions I’vewait had with this person. Interactions where this person is genuinely surprised when I complete a task that was asked of me. Let me be clear, this is not just the normal “I’m glad you figured this out” reaction. This person is genuinely shocked that I can handle logistics for events (i.e. reserve space, confirm setup, etc.). This person is equally shocked when I know the answer to a very basic question being asked. It really bothers me that there genuine and I mean genuine surprise that I can make copies, make a reservation or even make budget decision (which I am capable of doing). These moments..these moments…make me wonder.

You might be thinking…I’m overreacting, it isn’t necessarily a race thing. You might be right. All I know is that feeling that I get in the pit of my stomach when I experience these moments say otherwise. For now, I confront these things head on the only way I know how, by asking questions like “is there something I’ve done in my time here to make you think I wouldn’t understand how to complete this task?” The answer is usually no. That get’s me no where, so I move on. No sense dwelling, right? But these moments…these moments…make me wonder.



Era of the Mistress?

There are two dramas on the air that, while they are good shows, make me uncomfortable. But before I get into what makes me uncomfortable (although it’s no big secret if you’ve read the title), I want to talk about why these shows are good.

Scandal, ABC

Scandal, ABC

Scandal (on ABC) and Being Mary Jane (on BET) are two dramas that have captured an untapped audience, black women.  There are very few shows, dramas particularly, that target black women as an audience and casts black women in leading roles.

Kerry Washington (who I adore) plays the fierce Olivia Pope who is having an affair with the President.  This is major…Kerry is the only black woman in a leading role on a major network show.  She is an awesome actress and really deserves all the glory she’s receiving for the role.  Gabrielle Union plays the successful single news anchor Mary Jane who has a complicated personal life.  As a black woman, it excites me to see these women taking on challenging roles and getting some (much needed) attention for doing so.

What really grinds my gears (Family Guy reference noted) is that these characters, though successful, attractive and smart choose to be mistresses.  Now, I’m not one of those “these shows are an attack on the institution of marriage” types…because I really don’t think that’s what these shows intend.  However, it does concern me that main characters in these shows are mistresses.  What also bothers me is the reactions that I’ve heard (or seen) on social media.  They range from “I’m waking up early to go down on my man” to “what you won’t do for your man another one will” with the #beingmaryjane or something equally disturbing for #scandal.

Being Mary Jane, BET

Being Mary Jane, BET

Are these shows subtly trying to keep women in “their place” by telling them “if you don’t do everything for your husband, he’ll cheat so you better get on the ball”?  I resent the notion that women must always cater to men…husband or boyfriend.  Men and women should cater to each other.  Furthermore, why are we encouraging women its okay to share a man who has a wife?  A cheating husband is a cheating husband and he should be blamed for his actions.  BUT, he is cheating with someone. If you know a man is married, why would you take part in helping him destroy his marriage?  If he wants to destroy his marriage, let him do it on his own and deal with his conscience.   Are we also showing men (if they’re watching) that its okay for you to cheat if your wife doesn’t do what you want sexually (or otherwise)?  If men don’t want to be married, they need to figure something out (without cheating on their wives).  But us as women, particularly black women, need to stop accepting the role as the mistress (side chick).

What worries me the most is that I hear 14 year old girls talking about Scandal while I’m riding the bus.  Fourteen year old girls should not be watching this show (and parents can deal with that part the way they now how).  I just hope these young girls aren’t absorbing this stuff and thinking a) it’s okay to be a man’s mistress or b) it’s okay to accept being cheated on because it’s a part of life.

I’m going to get off my high horse now, because again I do watch them (Scandal more than Being Mary Jane). I just wanted to get out something that has recently started to bother me.  I may stop watching them, I may not, I don’t know.