During those few years unemployed, I spent the majority of my time developing my own non-profit organization. I spent countless hours at the university library, self-educating myself on how to start and run a small business. Within one year, I completely legalized and filed with the state of Nebraska, The Beauty Is Skin Deep Movement, Inc. which is a non-profit organization designed to eradicate the general perception of women of color living in America through programming and other educational outlets.
At the time, I went back to school to receive my Master’s in Urban Studies at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. I assumed that my expertise, along with my educational background, would consistently open doors for me, and would also create a level of acceptance that I had not experienced before. Unfortunately, that has not been the case.
I’ve always understood the phenomenon of race relations and discrimination as it relates to Black working class individuals because I studied it all throughout my undergraduate college career; However, I had not experienced it directly, or at least I didn’t pay that much attention to it, until now.
I have noticed the distinct disrespect and disregard that some white women that I work with display towards me; I believe the term now used is “throwing shade”. I walk into a room, or I will see a group of white women speaking to one another, I politely greet them with, “Good Morning”, and not so much of a “good morning” back is given. Some of them will not acknowledge me at all unless I speak first, and even then I am not guaranteed anything back.
I work in a building filled with educators, mostly white females, who are attempting to educate majority black students. I am housed at a high school as a community agency worker. I work directly with students every day to provide them resources to ensure their academic success. There have been times that I have tried to advocate for our students and I’ve been told that I am “out of line” for doing so, that I am not a disciplinarian, and that I am a “threat” to most of the educators that I work with, which is supposed to be justification for the way they treat me.
At first, I thought I was being too sensitive or too racially conscious, but after speaking to some of the very people who warned me about what I would be facing as a more established black woman, I now understand completely why I’ve been treated like an outsider.
I’ve even been told by a supervisor that I needed to tone down voicing my opinion at meetings because most of my co-workers (who happened to be all white females) thought I was being too aggressive in my approach; that I was coming off too much like an, “angry black female.” I mentioned to my supervisor that none of my co-workers ever mentioned to me that I was offensive at the meetings. I also thought it was bizarre that most of my white female co-workers were way more aggressive in their approach when it came to voicing their opinion than I.
Another white female co-worker of mine saved an email correspondence between her and I, and later presented the entire email to my supervisor in the attempt to terminate me because she “did not like my tone.” My supervisor did not want me to address the matter with her because he felt that it would cause too much friction. I did not find it fair that I was expected to stay quiet while she attempted to voice her opinions about me.
I often wonder, if I did not voice my opinion as often or did not advocate for change within the workplace, or if I wasn’t as skillful as I was would I be accepted then? I know the answer to this, but I see this happening day-in-and-day-out where black women are expected to kiss ass all day and become dumbed down just for others to accept her. I dislike coming to a hostile and unwelcoming environment, and I often keep to myself because of it. I kill everyone with kindness; I continue to speak, even though I am not guaranteed a greeting back.
I have spoken to many of my black female friends about workplace hostility with white female co-workers, and they have experienced the same frustration as I. It’s a shame we, as black women, aren’t able to be just as confident and impactful as a white woman in the workforce without direct opposition. How, as black women, do we progress within the workplace without aggression, if our efforts aren’t being taken seriously?
Kara Warner is an upcoming author, blogger, and educator from Omaha, NE, by way of Hammond, IN. She has placed much emphasis on supporting, and becoming an advocate for women and youth who struggle with self- esteem, image, and perception issues.
In 2009, Kara founded a program entitled, ‘Beauty Is Skin Deep Movement, Inc.” in order to reconstruct the perception and image of women of color in American society. She has conducted classes for the YMCA, Urban League of Nebraska, Middle School Learning Center, and Girls Incorporated of Omaha.
Kara is currently working on a book titled, ” False Feelings Appearing Real”, a compilation of experiences and stories by women who have, throughout their life, struggled with understanding their feelings and are now learning how to cope with them.
Follow Kara @Conquistanoir (IG) Livelifwpurpose (Twitter)