When Silence Isn’t Golden…

 

How many people can go to work daily and face the kind of adversity that the African American woman often times experiences on a regular basis? Not many I predict.  As if it isn’t enough, to have to be two and three times better than her white counterparts – but to also have to prove herself, over and over again, is beyond comprehension. Then comes the ultimate slap in the face. All of her hard work was done in vain, because there really was no plan to promote her, the African American woman. There wasn’t even a vague promise of being elevated to the next level for fear that she, might take it seriously and hold ‘the powers that be’ accountable to an expectation they never had any intention of fulfilling.

What is the ‘woman of color’ to do when she finds herself bound by the tight reign of a corporate arena that neither accepts nor acknowledges her intelligence? It seems apparent that the corporate world would rather give up a third of its wealth than to share it even remotely with a woman of ethnic heritage. All this while knowing full well, that she has everything it takes to be an asset to the company, while enhancing its overall image and bottom line.

Where does this kind of disdain and resistance come from? It might be easier to solve the problems of the nation’s economy, rather than tackle the long-standing issue of differential treatment; a problem that is so prevalent in today’s workplace setting(s). The reasons for this behavior could stem anywhere from unfounded insecurities and preconceived notions to outright racism and indifference. But, no matter what the reasons are, the problem is alive and well and needs to be addressed.

How long is the ‘woman of color’ supposed to suffer in silence for fear of retaliation from those who have contributed to her present state of mind? Should she wait for change that may never come? Should she give in and grovel in hopes that a few pebbles might be thrown her way? If she stands strong as only she knows how to do, what will be the fallout of that stance? These are just a few of the things that the African American woman faces daily, in addition to all the other curve balls that life throws her way.

Thank heavens she’s a good catcher, this remarkable woman that seems to have eyes in the back of her head! How is it that she can instinctively duck without ever seeing the curve ball come her way? How is it that she can sense danger long before it reaches her front door? Why is it that she, more often than not, seems to know when something just isn’t right? It could be because, the African American woman has a built-in radar that is crucial and very necessary for her daily survival. Thankfully, these skills of ducking and dodging bullets are naturally ingrained within her, because there is always something she has to watch out for.

That is why exhaling is something the African American woman often finds so hard to do. Can she ever truly relax, when dropping her guard would only leave her wide open to being pelted relentlessly with life’s many unpleasantries? For her, this is risky business; a chance she would rather not take. So, she has to walk through life with shoulders that are strong and square; able to sustain the weight of the world while wearing a smile, dodging a bullet, and ducking a curve ball, simultaneously. What an extraordinary woman that can master all of these things while maintaining an air of class, dignity and grace.

Is it just easier to disregard the African American woman and dismiss her as expendable? Or would it be a display of humanity to just give her the respect that should come naturally and effortlessly? It is amazing what some will expend energy on, especially when it comes to negativity. You might be wondering how I know all these things? Well…I am that African American woman!

By Sylvia Porter-Hall

 

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13 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Levi Thetford
    Jun 17, 2014 @ 16:22:36

    Bless your heart Dear Girl. I’m so sorry that you’re treated so unfairly. I’ve always thought that women in general got a bum deal but being black woman in a lot of places would be a double whammy.

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  2. BrixHouseWife
    Jun 17, 2014 @ 19:06:25

    Brilliant piece!!

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  3. C.G.Ayling (@CGAyling)
    Jun 17, 2014 @ 19:18:50

    I strongly dislike injustice. I see it every day, and against the advice of many, I comment on it when I do. However the injustices I face are insignificant when compared to the constant prejudice with which Women in general, and African America Women in particular are treated. You ladies have it tough during the day, and then you have it tough during the night when you’re often the sole breadwinner in the household.

    As I said on Twitter, “The world needs to learn how tap the wells of resilience and courage every single African American Woman draws on daily.”

    How do you do it Sylvia? Where do you find the strength to rise in the morning when you know that what awaits you is in no way equitable, or fair?

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    • sporterhall
      Jun 17, 2014 @ 19:53:28

      Thank you so much for commenting? How do I do it? I can say that my strength lies in the very act of ‘rising’ each and every morning. Once I’ve been blessed to wake up another morning and my feet touch the ground, there’s an unspoken creed that I make daily to myself. I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the perils that may lie ahead each day; for fear of staying firmly planted in one place, never moving in any direction. I just do what I have to do, what needs to be done.

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  4. D'aller Naturel
    Jun 21, 2014 @ 22:25:13

    Lovely piece! As an African American woman in the legal profession, I know all too well what you are talking about. We are a dime a dozen in our fields and truly in it alone most of the time. I was trying to explain this phenomenon to a friend of mine (caucasian female) while we were in law school and found that unless it is something you have personally gone through, it is particularly difficult to describe, as most of these perils are done outside the presence of other people or are systemic issue (there’s no one thing that is done, it’s more like everything all together).

    She asked me “well what specifically have people done to hold you back?” It’s hard to explain that in a class of 363 law students, 27 African Americans, half of that female, is too low a number–even if it is a top law school (like that should be a valid excuse?); that the almost singularly caucasian male professor staff rarely calls on the African American female whose hands are up just as many times as her caucasian counterparts, leaving her little time to build rapport; that professor hours are short and curt even though she just witnessed the endearing camaraderie spent on her peers; that there is a reason other than “we’re just not cut out for it” that there are almost no African American female partners in any of the AmLaw 100 law firms.

    Unfortunately, it’s a battle that (even in 2014) we still fight. And that we fight daily. Thank you for shedding some light on this. I know I always hesitate to comment on issues like these for fear of the “oh it’s just another black woman complaining” retort. But sweeping it under the rug doesn’t solve anything. Feigning ignorance isn’t bliss.

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    • sporterhall
      Jun 22, 2014 @ 03:42:02

      Hello there! I had been wondering where you’ve been. Thank you so much for the very intuitive and in depth comment. Believe it or not, I went back and forth a bit about whether or not to post this piece and finally came to the conclusion that it needed to be said and heard. So, I took my chances. I’ve received some feedback but not a whole lot. I think sometimes people are afraid to come near such a touchy subject. I think the bigger fear should be in the topic not being brought up at all. Falling in line with what you said, not bringing it up certainly isn’t going to make it disappear. If no one ever talks about it, how will anything ever change? How will anyone ever know how we, the African American women, really feel? I can see and feel that you know exactly what I mean. And you’re right, it is hard to put into words that others can understand or even catch a glimpse or a hint of what we go through daily and what that feels like. I resonate so well with the way you describe your experience in law school. The caucasian male professor overlooking the numerous African American females whose hands are clearly raised, only to be passed over to call on their caucasian counterparts. I’ve felt like this a million times. It’s almost as if we’re invisible, which clearly, we are not. So we are often made to feel as if what we have to contribute is insignificant and/or not of value. It’s infuriating to say the least. Thank you again for commenting and for always chiming in when I’ve written something that strikes a nerve. As we both know all too well, ‘silence isn’t golden’.

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