Updated: Jun 15, 2021
You can sense the very moment the energy seems to shift in White American Corporate Culture.
The following is a partial glimpse into an experience...
It can come from anywhere and from anyone - your direct reports, your manager, a colleague, upper management, a vendor, or anyone that believes or somehow decides that you’ve reached too high and it’s their job to take you down.
Not only do they think you don’t deserve it. They don’t WANT you to deserve it. They hate to see you excelling, they cringe at the promotions and despise how you rise above all the hate hurled at you, and the more love, compassion, respect and care you share, the more infuriated they become with you. Even if it means they lose, they're determined to make sure you don't win.
The process is simple:
Deny you the opportunity
Prevent your success
Or destroy you altogether
Their hatred turns to desperation and their focused ambition becomes painfully clear as you realize that they don’t want to just get rid of you. They want to destroy you.
You’re an early riser (4am), and yet spend hours in bed before actually getting ready for work, with your stomach in knots, fearing and dreading what fresh hell will be hurled against you today.
As you lie there jaws clenched, stomach flexed, bracing yourself, as you rake through all of your past interactions with a fine-tooth comb wondering: what you could have done better, said more, said less, said nothing, said anything, said or done things differently, felt differently, sounded differently, written differently, breathed differently, walked differently, smiled more, smiled less.
When you’re being targeted it’s not even a battle of logic.
So there is no reasoning to be had. And the more you attempt to apply logic, the more frustrated you become as you realize this is not a battle of logic, it’s all about destruction. Your destruction. Our destruction as a people.
Hope is not a strategy, but you’ve got nothing else. There’s no roadmap to navigate out of this hell, so you just bear down and hope they see you for who you really are, and not the feelings rooted in the anchoring bias implanted by the one that is driven to take you down.
When you finally make it to work, you dread getting out of the car, head dizzy and clouded with the past and present hatred endured for so long, you begin to take hours drafting and revising simple emails, agonizing about what any recipient might think, searching for anything that could be misconstrued, overthinking every action or inaction, scared to speak, scared to make a decision, scared to think, scared to manage!
You sit in meetings afraid to contribute, clearly seeing solutions, but you remain silent, fearing anything you say will be shot down or come back later to be used against you.
Don’t be too smart. Subdue your intelligence, it may come across as being aggressive.
Too much eye contact, too little eye contact.
What fresh hate and horror will be unleashed against you today???
You leave your office door halfway open, a symbolic gesture to remain professional and open, hoping it will deflect the arrows hurled in your direction, but it must still remain open for more attacks. After all, you wouldn’t want to appear unavailable.
As you stand up from your desk, and reach down into your filing cabinet, you hear someone enter your office, and before you have a chance to stand upright, you feel two hands smack you on each side of your backside at the same time. Startled - horrified you quickly raise yourself up ready to defend yourself from your attacker when you quickly realize within a nanosecond as you face him that if you react in the way you feel, there will be consequences for YOU!
He’s a white male, he’s a colleague, he’s always been friendly, and in a fraction of a second, you rationalize because you know if you retaliate, he could deny it all and be believed, or you could be blessed with the title of the Angry Black Woman, stirring up trouble against a "good guy" - a perceived ally.
Retaliation is forbidden. Standing up for yourself, forbidden. Speaking out, forbidden. There are silent and overt consequences to be paid. And you are the only one that will pay them. You feel something within you break as you realize what you’ve reduced yourself to by not saying a word.
Stunned as you look into the eyes of your attacker, he’s smiling! So you force back the tears, your fists at your side, swallow all pride, your outrage internalized, and you say absolutely nothing, but something in your expression makes him hurtle out of your office in a hurry.
True to your training, even though you’re breaking, you cram all that you’re feeling so far down, you take a heaving breath, begin to take a seat at your desk, but first make sure your door is open all the way, and then you get back to work. All appears normal to anyone that passes by, or comes through your door to say hello.
Everyone thinks you’re so strong.
Who do you turn to when it feels as though everyone thinks you’re in the wrong anyway, simply by being Black. After all, you don’t have the luxury of default credibility as your white, or non-Black colleagues.
No one will ever know the pain behind your smile.
Breath in the indignities and exhale pain.
Get back to work and do your absolute best, regardless of everything you have experienced, all that you are feeling, and all that is to come.
As you walk across the campus, you make sure you smile everywhere you go.
You know that to be seen as anything less than smiling would mean you're being seen as unapproachable or aggressive.
Keep smiling. Keep smiling. Keep smiling.
Because… You’re lucky to work here, right?
And anyone would kill to have a job like yours.