According to LeanIn State of the Black Women in the Workplace Report, Black Women have the worst experience in the Workplace than any other demographic. The picture is not too different in the South African Workplaces, evidenced by the scant representation of Black Women in leadership positions in South African Corporates. One of the main reasons for this state of affairs is the impact of Bias on the experience of marginalized identities in the Workplace.
I am inviting you to a Webinar on Bias in the Workplace and How to Navigate it.
We all have a duty to unlearn in order to heal ourselves, relate better with one another and to create the change that will enable the next generations to inherit a better world than we had found it. Just as those who have come before us have done.
Living in a WhiteSupremacistCapitalistPatriarchy as BellHooks has aptly termed it. Has created a world in which these systems of power have over ridden our humanity and has rendered us harmful to one another.
These systems has taught us that it is the nature of things to dominate and be dominated. That there are those who are entitled to privilege and superiority and naming and questioning that is reverse racism.
That others are impostors to equality, leadership and abundance, such that they live their lives jumpy, in case they lose it all and go back to their ‘default’ . That we police one another to ensure that each stays in their place.
We have a responsibility to unlearn, to heal, to relate, to reclaim our humanity.
Trevor Noah was asked by a guest in his show what the difference was between racism in the US vs in South Africa. He said that in South Africa the advantage is that Apartheid was visible, brazen, discrimination was real and in your face; while in the US it was invisible such that you have to prove that what was happening was racism before we can even talk about accountability and resolution.
What Trevor did not acknowledge was that the tables have been turned. Racism has become an invisible Phantom in South Africa, especially in Workplaces. In 1994 a miracle happened, just like in a Christian Baptism a new soul was born and all old things passed away, forgotten and never to be mentioned again. Suddenly we became a Rainbow nation without a past. Anyone who talks about racism is divisive and can be accused of hate speech. This miracle left us with an invisible enemy, a non existent problem that we can’t name and therefore cannot solve .
Eusebius Mckaizer in his podcast ‘In the Ring with Eusebius’ during anti racism week talked about the difference between Anti-racism and Non-racialism. Do go listen but in essence non racialism’s approach is that race is a construct and we are all human beings who are equal while anti racism acknowledge that even though race is a political and social construct; It is real, it affects how people are seen and treated and has to be taken on decisively.
The US workplaces have at least taken the steps in undoing racism by appointing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion officers and not just programs that come and go. This is a rare occurrence in South African Workplaces, if it even exist. Employment Equity and Transformation is an almost a non existent project, look at the Employment Equity Commission report. For those entities who even bother reporting their EE numbers, there is almost no change.
The bottoms line is we need to bring back the conversation on the impact of WhiteSupremacistCapitalistPatriachy (thanks Aunty Bell Hooks) in South African workplaces before all Black women especially; who due to their intersectional marginal identities often find themselves at the centre of all these systems of oppression; loose what’s left of their minds and their physical health.
Whatever platform has been afforded to you use it to be a change maker, be the voice of conscience, call people up to their humanity. Because when we oppress others, when we cause harm to others; we inadvertently cause it to ourselves. Whether we believe it or not, or like it or not, we are all connected.
It takes courage to disrupt, to call out or call in. It takes courage to say ‘this is not okay’ ‘we can do better’. People will destroy you first rather than face the shame of their bad behaviour. People will give you all sorts of labels, rather than deal with why what you say triggers them.
There is no such thing as fearlessness. Courage is not the absence of fear. It is forging ahead in spite of it. So go ahead be a Disruptor, do it imperfectly, with butterflies in your stomach and the shakes in your voice – Do it anyway.
The so called national icons of today like Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther were once called the same names . You don’t have to do the great deeds that they did, that’s their journey. You just Disrupt the little corner where you are. Remember the absence of fear is not a requirement.
I am not sure if people come into our lives to teach us something about ourselves. I am weary of believing that’s the absolute truth because it may take away accountability from people for their bad behaviour. Absolving them of their faults because ‘every thing happens for a reason’.
I think this one of the reason people resist forgiveness, because it can feel like we are abandoning a part of ourselves that needs an acknowledgment that a wrong was done.
I only know that we can learn a lot from observing the ‘actors’ in the story of our life. There are people in our life who reflect to us how we reject ourselves, how we silence ourselves, how we deny our power and the beauty of who we are.
They way they treat us, reflect to us the part of us that is still in enmity with ourselves. I’m not sure if we should absolve them of their responsibility. I know we should welcome the opportunity this observation gives us.The opportunity to heal those parts of us. To integrate all parts to the unity of our purpose.
When you have been taught that humility; being a good girl means shrinking yourself to take up as little space as possible; You might realise too late that you have been abused and you should have cried out. A lot of Black women are getting sick mentally and physically and end up dying from the sickness of Resilience, of being the Strong Black Woman.
A friend once told me that she felt sick and couldn’t tell whether she was sick enough to go to the Doctor. She said she cried from the frustration of not being able to make that decision. This shouldn’t be, we need to sharpen our intuition, our self care radar.
Malcolm X in his bio talks about the value of crying out. He says his mother was especially hard on him because he was the lightest of his siblings and his father’s favourite. It was his mother’s way of ensuring that he didn’t think he was better. His salvation when his mother would try to excessively punish him would be to cry out make a real spectacle of it and it worked.
I have a pic of myself as a 5 year old of the most beautiful day of my childhood. At least as I can remember. I had refused to go to church and my uncle took me to town and spent the day spoiling me. I learnt that day, that protesting may get you a hiding but it can also get you rewarded.
In the Netflix crypto swindler documentary. It is narrated that when things went south in that company, the loudest protesters were paid first. It pays to speak out, to protest, to cry out. They may call you a victim, divisive. It doesn’t matter, they want you to keep quiet so they keep abusing you and say that you’ve enjoyed it.
I have protested and left relationships-family, friends , religion and institutions. Protesting though it made me some enemies, attracted disapproval and has had detrimental financial and emotional consequences to my life has bought me freedom. The freedom to practice self reclamation and self sovereignty. That is my most prized possession and my wish for all Black Women who desire it.
I dream of a world where everyone would embody true self-sovereignty. Where we will all relate in our full power. Where there is no need for others to be inferior or shrink to relate in harmony with others. Where there is no need to subordinate, to shrink, to wield power over others.
At some stage you need to divest yourself from needing to prove anything to anyone. You need to step away from showing anyone that you are not whatever or that you are whatever. You need to stop performing and start living your life, stepping into your greatness, fulfilling your life’s calling.
You need to set boundaries not to punish others but to protect yourself. You need to make that money, get that degree, get that promotion, buy that car, make that business work not so that you can prove anything to anyone, even those who believe in you, that you can. Do it for you because you are worthy. Your approval of yourself is enough.
Toni Morisson quote below says
‘The function, the very serious function of racism is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining, over and over again, your reason for being. Somebody says you have no language and you spend twenty years proving that you do. Somebody says your head isn’t shaped properly so you have scientists working on the fact that it is. Somebody says you have no art, so you dredge that up. Somebody says you have no kingdoms, so you dredge that up. None of this is necessary. There will always be one more thing.’
Not just Racism but patriarchy as well for Black women. At some point you have to stop trying to prove you are good enough for that position or company, you will have to stop proving that you are wife material or a perfect mother. It’s a distraction, go about the business of building your life, smashing your goals, stepping into your powerful self.
I was reading one Peggy Macintosh’s essays where she made the above statement, that young people should believe in the power of their own ideas.
Not only should they believe in them. They should pursue them, expand them, look for clues that success always leave behind. Spend their 10000 hours that leads to their Tipping point that Malcom Gladwell’s writes so eloquently about .
I was watching a cool reel recently that said be delusional. I loved it, I totally agree, be delusional. All powerful ideas started as a delusion. Think about it, no one who made anything of significance was realistic.
I actually think that those we call realists are actually cynics. Cynics who mask their fears with an arrogance of cynicism. Be careful who you listen to.
When I doubt my ideas, I ask myself; who’s voice is in my head? Whose this cynic that is living rent free in my head?
Young people, old people, be delusional. The strength of the belief in your delusions, will power your persistent actions in the direction of your delusional visions.
Be delusional, then back those up with consistent, persistent action.
That’s how you change the world, that’s how you get to the 10000 hours and your Tipping point. That’s the stuff legends are made out of.
Freedom from the fear of disapproval by others. Part of my own healing, growth and Self-reclamation as a Recovering People Pleaser is to be comfortable with being disapproved of by others. Not only the disapproval of others but the acceptance of my own character flaws.
I have walked around all my life with a dominant story of ‘ I have done something wrong’ it had nothing to do with anything I would have done at the moment. It made me want to hide and I did. Parts of myself are still hidden in this journey of healing.
Bethany Webster in her book ‘ Discovering the Inner Mother’ talks about the freedom that comes with being comfortable with being misunderstood. She says it frees us from needing to maintain an image of ourselves to others.
Humility is touted as a virtue to be pursued by everyone, I am learning that the posture of humility is not for everyone. That it is sometimes tied to the politics of respectability for the sake of survival. Be careful who your role models are, ensure that their example is tied to your destiny. Everyone has their own journey and it is tied to a specific personality.
It took rebellion against respectability to make Muhammad Ali a champion, how dare he speak like that! seek to call himself and strive to be ‘The Greatest’?
It took MamWinnie Mandela’s disobedience to keep the name of Tata Mandela alive, when respectability politics would have approved of her living a quiet life as a married woman should. Freedom comes at a great price. Visibility comes at a price, be cool with being misunderstood, being disapproved of, being flawed.