I used to work in government. In my years there, it became clear that expectations for my work were lower than those for my white colleagues. I knew that I was capable of doing better work, but sometimes I would just coast along. It’s as if the bar was always set lower.
I’m not your mammy
African woman said back, “what are you talking about?” The client then goes to bring out the paper/magazine from here, and says “see, this is you! You didn’t tell me” The African woman says back to her, “that is not me Mrs. Smith”, the client insists that it is her, and says “are you saying that I’m lying?” The African-Nova Scotian woman just said she just gave up…but when speaking with me, she said, “there are so many other African people in magazines, she didn’t think I was Oprah or Beyonce. Why a woman that could pass for a slave?”
Would you say this if a Black person were here?
Sometimes I hear co-workers criticize black people in supervisory positions in our field. Often in these discussions people will roll their eyes and say “equity hire” in reference to these people, i.e. implying that they only have their position because they’re black. I know lots of white people in supervisory positions, though, who perform just as badly in their job, yet when criticizing them no one says their position has anything to do with their race or ethnicity, as if white people don’t get any benefits for being white.
Stereotyped as a crook
I own a construction company. I’ve worked very hard at building a good reputation. I’ve gone to people’s houses to give a quote on a job, and been greeted with a frown. Then followed with a statement that asks if I’m from another Black community that has gotten a bad rap for cutting corners and taking money. (Even if it’s a sterotype) I have to defend that I’m not from that community, even though I have friends from there because they won’t give me the job. The first thing out of their mouth is: “are you from _______?” I never win a bid with the corporate industry, or city bids. It’s always the same companies.
Caregiving while Black
I work for a health care provider company. I normally have a set schedule with many different clients, but they are consistent. Recently I got a new client who I went and did the home visit for, but by the following care day, I got a call from the agency saying my client has been moved off my roster. I asked why was my client moved from my list, and they couldn’t give a reason except to say it didn’t work.
I work for a health care agency, and attend home visits daily. Some clients verbally tell me that I cannot touch them with my Black skin. They refuse care, and make nasty comments. If I tell my employer I would just lose my job.
I was invited to join a community health board, on arrival it was obvious that I was the only person of colour on the board. Before the meeting begun people began to talk small talk. One woman was talking about her upcoming vacation to Jamaica and her excitement of the trip. She then proceeded to say “can you imagine how dark I’ll get, no one will want to see me!” At that moment, everyone looked at me in shame. Some laughed. I felt silenced, and alone. Yet in the silence, no voice of others would comfort me in resistance.
So the rest of the meeting went on, and I couldn’t hear anything but the pumping of blood in my ears. It wasn’t until after the meeting, that I approached the lady about what she had said. She listened to me attentively. I asked her to think about what she meant by “being too dark that they WOULDN’T want to see me” as if being dark is ugly or invisible. She apologized profusely and said that she couldn’t believe she had said that, considering she’s a diversity trainer. She agreed that the group needed diversity training. I then approached the other lady that looked at me from across the table in shame, and asked her what she thought about the statement. She responded by saying, “I know can you believe what she said?!” I then asked her, then why didn’t you say anything?
White folks always leave the person of colour to defend for ourselves as if our voice is huge and powerful enough to rain over them all.