Tuesday, July 12, 2011

I'm Sorry, does my Black Bother You?

Have you ever watched a co-worker do or say something, and thought to yourself, "I would probably get fired if I did that?" Or been asked your opinion and when you give it in a professional, respectful manner been called negative or aggressive? Have you been accused of not being a team player? Now look in the mirror. I bet your skin has enough melanin to classify you as a person of color. I've found that all too often in the workplace our non co-workers of color (aka White folk) are very quick to inscribe these negative attributes on the backs of their colored counterparts. I was once told that an email I sent asking if I could purchase bagels for my early a.m. meeting was aggressive. Mind you, I didn't use unnecessary capital letters or bold print. No exclamation marks or any other emoticon generally associated with being angry or aggressive. I simply asked a question and offered a few solutions only to be told a few weeks later that my email seemed angry. Seriously..I seemed angry about bagels. Sounds ridiculous right? Unfortunately I've heard of far too many similar experiences from my other Black and Brown working friends. We've been asked to share an opinion on ideas and later been told that our opinions are negative or that we are not team players because we choose to pass on beer and baseball outings. We've all watched our co-workers with Blonde hair and fair skin express similar opinions and be applauded for thinking outside of the box. Go figure. I've come to realize that my very presence in certain work environments can be quite intimidating. It doesn't matter that I laugh often and make sure I exchange at least one pleasantry with everyone daily. According to them I'm Black, so I must be angry about something. Of course, my cocoa skin comes in handy when they need a token to show their diversity, but the minute I open my mouth, I'm the "Angry Black Girl." I've found myself overcompensating to ensure I don't intimidate people. I use phrases like "okey dokey," and make sure I include stupid smiley faces on emails to make sure no one thinks I'm angry. When asked my opinion about something, if I don't agree I simply don't speak up. All of this extra work (for not nearly enough pay)is enough to actually drive a sista crazy! Am I the only one to experience incidental intimidation, solely based on skin color?

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