Today on Twitter, I went on a mini-rant after I remembered an encounter I had with a young man yesterday. For the record, I currently work in retail to pay the bills so I’m used to assumptions being made about the level of education I possess. However, there was something this young man said that rubbed me the wrong way and his attitude did little to help the situation. During the “discussion,” he told me that if I got a degree, I wouldn’t have a problem finding a job because I’m a woman. Let’s momentarily forget that the country is in a recession and the unemployment rate for Blacks is almost twice that of the overall unemployment rate (15.7 percent to 9.8 percent) source.
According to this guy, holding all things equal, I would find a job in my field easily before he found one in his. There may be some truth to this statement (although in my experience, I’d still call this bull) but I was completely offended when I realized a few things:
- I told him I had my degree. He exercised his “right” to ignore me.
- He gave sexual harassment the ok (whether he realized it or not).
- He told me I was like the “BINGO!” in the field because I’m Black AND a woman.
Cue dramatic eye-roll here.
I’m the first to admit that racial and ethnic minorities face systemic and systematic discrimination that could possibly make it harder for us to earn a living and lead happier lives. But to simply say that I have a better shot at a job because I’m both Black and woman denies the truth of my everyday existence. As a woman who happens to be Black, there may be instances where I’m denied a position or opportunity and I have to ask myself, “Is it because I’m Black?” OR “Is it because I’m a woman?” OR “Is it because I’m a Black woman?”
After sharing my experience on Twitter, I made a comment where I asked the question:
“When will men admit that many of them only view women as objects to further their own personal agendas? I mean, once we get there, we can REALLY start to build ourselves up. It would also save many from being cussed out.”
This tweet led to exchanging comments/thoughts with two followers/friends. Both of them happened to be Black males (there was an interesting discussion and a brilliant idea born of this). While I understand that they was an offensive tone in my statement and the qualifiers that I used/didn’t use, I simply wanted Black men to understand that there are certain privileges that they enjoy because they are male.
Women in the workplace are subject to non-affirming behaviors every day. It could be the simple mistake of a visitor asking a woman who holds some power in her company to fetch them coffee. It happens in meetings when statements are made and people gloss over them ONLY to praise the male coworker who says the same thing. It happens when our work is stolen and our names are removed from the product. It happens when comments are made that are sexually harassing but nothing is done when it is reported OR we’re told not to report it because it could damage the credibility of the men in the office. We’re not affirmed when people laugh off or chuckle at our credentials. We’re not affirmed when we’re given 3rd author on a project that we’ve done a large bulk of the work for. We’re not affirmed when we’re asked to quiet down or change our behavior in such a way that leads to our male counterparts being more comfortable with their own ability.
For me, the discussion with the man in the mall, and the questions/comments that I received, point to a larger problem within our community. There are assumptions made about the status of women in this country and because of our background and history, some Black men seem to feel their behaviors don’t maintain the idea that women are lesser beings when they do. To me, this is sad. At the end of the day, this isn’t even about feminism and equal treatment and shit like that.
It’s about affirming women and our abilities for the betterment of us all.