Mean Girls or Racism : Navigating a Tough Workspace

0

Black women will always be too loud for a world that never intended on listening to them Speak up anyway. @speaklovetoher

 

I screen grabbed this from Instagram because it resonated with me so much. It reminded me of a time I received criticism in the workplace. I know, put your big girl panties on and deal with it! And, at the time, I did: I took the blow and went on about my day.

I cried a little when I told my husband, and I also called my Mom. Aside from those two people, I never spoke of it again.

Until I read this quote, and it brought back those memories.

I am all for constructive criticism, but the point of criticism is to teach so we can, in turn, do better. The Black Lives Matter movement is just that: teaching so we can be better.

Reflecting on incidents of the past, now with a new perspective, I am realizing that what I thought was constructive criticism in the past, was actually borderline racism.

I never even realized it, and, a few weeks later, the exact same scenario happened to me again like Deja Vu.

So….it began when I applied for a promotion.

I didn’t tell my manager (a white woman), or the superior above her (another white woman). I didn’t think I needed too, I suppose. This was about me, personally, wanting to advance my career. When they both approached me, somewhat bewildered at what I had done, I wondered if perhaps I broke some unspoken code. Naively, I thought the application process was supposed to be anonymous and unbiased.

Several weeks later I attended the group interview. I thought I had aced the questions and activities. I even assisted my peers when they had trouble! An excellent candidate for a manager, right?

Our appraisal was private and I sat before two other women both of fair skin. I do not presume to know their races I as do not know them, but I assumed one was white and one was a Latina. (Again I am not certain.) I was told I did not pass, and word-for-word, “You have a dominating personality and it does not work well in your favor.”

The 2 interviewers nodded in unison at that phrase, while holding disapproving glares – you know the kind…the kind that your Mom gives you when you messed up! That moment is burned in my memory. I was bummed.

I thanked them for the opportunity, shook hands, and left with my head held high – like any respectable southern lady. {I probably went and got ice cream after that. πŸ™‚ } Β I don’t remember exactly what I did, but I do recall shedding a few tears as I told my husband that night.

I went on about my days and put that goal of promotion on the back-burner, all the while trying to figure out how to improve. That phrase was still burned in my head.

Fast forward to several week later when it was time for my annual appraisal back at work. I excelled in most areas, or so I thought, as I received the accolades I nodded in agreement. Then came my criticism,

“However, you have a dominating personality and it does not work well in your favor.”

Wait…. “WHAT???”Β  Okay. So, I do not have a Doctorate or a Master’s Degree. But I consider myself an educated and well-read person. I have never in my life heard that phrase, much less to hear it directed twice! First by “unbiased anonymous interviewers” and then again by my manager (of several years) just a few weeks later.

Once again, I took my criticism with thanks. The disappointment continued when I only received the minimum raise available. Nowhere near the goal I had set for myself. Still with no clear direction as to how to actually IMPROVE, (other than to shut up), and a suspicion that maybe my “anonymous unbiased interview” wasn’t so anonymous and unbiased.

I ended up leaving that company a few years later and that phrase has never left my mind. When I read that quote today it immediately brought it back to the forefront of my memory.

I never did receive the constructive portion of that criticism, and, to this day have no idea what I could have done despite all my efforts to restore a positive performance.

I believe that my opportunity for advancement was foiled by upper management colluding against my promotion. At that time I never thought it was racism. I simply thought it was a “means girls, you can’t sit at our table” kind of thing.

However, now in this current racial climate, and seeing and hearing so many other BIPOC stories and points of view, it has caused me to reflect on my own experiences and this instance keeps coming to mind.

I simply thought they didn’t like me. I never thought about WHY they didn’t like me.

I suppose I will never know for certain, and that is fine. I am content and I am happier than I have been in many years. By the grace of God, and forgiven by me to be me apologetically. PERIOD.

My personal experience is in no way a reflection on any company as a whole. Just as the BLM movement is in no way directed at all police, solely those that display harbor racial discriminatory views

I will continue to share my experiences as a Black woman in the South, as a mother of biracial children, and as a wife to a Hispanic man, until these things no longer matter to everyone around us.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here