In this age of full-throttle Black Girl Magic, it is important to know that racism, stereotyping, abundant microaggressions and sexism are still viable venom in the life of Black folk. Here, our own Shauncea admits that sometimes the magic is low, and the shadows are thick. Remember, as #Torches we are to being light and heat. Sometimes in order to bring that light, we have to relight someone else’s Torch. Here, Shauncea is being vulnerable, and reminding you why Black spaces, unapologetic Black spaces are still needed. And effing necessary. We see you sis. We’re here. We leave no one behind. You aren’t alone. And neither are any of y’all. For support, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. -JBHarris
I’m at work and I’m tired.
I’m emotional and angry and scared. I’m realizing more and more just how much racism and ugliness exists in this world. Black women have never been immune or exempt from racism and emotional abuse. It’s not as if I’ve never encountered racism: be it quiet or bold. I’ve certainly been called a n*gger, a ‘nasty Black bitch’ and a whole laundry list of other creatively hateful epithets.
What I deal with at work is different though. I work in an office–at night. I am one of only two Black women on the entire shift. I hear crazy stuff at work. So many hushed comments, some aren’t very quiet at all. They’re bold and hateful and ugly. They’re racist and classist and it’s soooo hard to hear and not say anything.
I’m not a punk.
I am bold and intelligent and not afraid to speak. I speak for what I believe in and I am proud to do it. But at work? I’m silent. I half-smile and turn around and check my email. I ignore. I brush off. I get home and I’m stressed. The other day I asked someone at work if she ‘knows how to make that salad white people make for holidays’ (it was pistachio pudding but I couldn’t remember the name at the time–lol). She laughed and got loud, then said “Imagine if I said something like that, I’d be called racist.” I apologized for being rude, she responded that she wasn’t offended at all and that I was excused.
I went home and cried though; I do get offended by a lot of the things I hear at work. Yesterday, I found out that many of the women after work wait for each other at the end of the night to make sure they all safely get to their cars. There have been numerous times that I was left upstairs.
I literally never even knew they waited for each other because no one has ever waited for me. Maybe that realization shouldn’t have hurt my feelings, but it did. I cried because I knew that they expect me to keep smiling, acting like I don’t hear shit and don’t see shit. I don’t know how long I can keep up the facade.
I’m scared to say anything to HR because I’m the only new person, the only Black woman. They would know it was me and I can’t guarantee I won’t face retaliation.
I don’t want to be shut out of the team.
I don’t want to be fired.
I don’t want to be treated badly until I give up and quit.
So, I’m trying to grin and bear it. I’m trying to just keep checking my emails and pretend like the things I hear don’t break my heart and set my soul on fire. It’s Black History Month. I want to feel pride and strength; I feel rage and fear and exhaustion.
I am exhausted with pretending like everything is fine when Black women and men and millions of other Brown and Black folks are openly hated; disrespected for no other reason that that we are sick of the same ole bullshit our grandparents were sick of! I don’t even know what else to say. I didn’t want to write anything that made me cry this month–I didn’t. I wanted to write a powerful piece about the love Black women offer the world, but right now? I just feel small and weak and other. I’m not happy or prideful. I’m exhausted.
I don’t know what to do. I know what I would like to do. I feel powerless to do it. Rent gotta be paid. My cat likes to eat everyday, so I know I’m gonna keep going to work. Just quietly checking my email because I honestly can not afford to speak up. Nothing has ever made me feel so useless.
[image from myblackmatters.com]