Let me give you some background:
A businessman approached me to do freelance work for his firm. He contributes to my employer’s website; so I’ve worked with him on occasion.
Needing the extra money and credentials for my freelancing career, I accepted his proposal. We drew up a contract and I got to work.
The assignment was for a guaranteed four weeks, with possible work thereafter. The first two weeks were fine as he reminded me that I was a talented writer and deserved to be paid well for that.
The second two weeks came and went, and all was fine… or so I thought.
You see, my job was to “re-write” articles for him. Basically, I find his already published articles online and make them sound better. Over the course of two weeks I had to rewrite six articles (600+ words each). You can imagine that on top of my already 8-hour full-time job where I have to write my own two articles each day (plus other duties), this was a lot of work. And although each story took a good chunk of my time, I bit the bullet and worked hard to produce quality content.
After I sent him rewrite #3, he called me to specifically praise my work, saying it was the best he’s read and how happy he was with the content. Understand why, in my eyes, all was going well (as stated above).
Yet, last week after sending him rewrite #6 (and after spending the last two hours on this story), this businessman calls me… and ladies… this time his words weren’t so nice.
“Shala, I am unhappy with your work. I know you can write better. I am unsatisfied and I don’t want to pay you the full amount.”
Can you imagine my shock? Talk about a curve ball.
The week before my writing is phenomenal and one week later it’s below average? I was totally confused.
So, as he continued to talk, I tried to speak my peace. Yet, each time I attempted to talk, he cut me off. He would not allow me to talk, as if I were a child who needed to listen to an adult.
Y’all know this was beginning to irk my nerves, right?
So, when I tried yet again to speak, he says, “Shala, I am not going to argue with you. We are adults and I’m not going to argue with you. We can discuss this or I’m getting off the phone.”
Okay, the “irk” is quickly turning into frustration at this point. I say, “How can we discuss anything if you don’t allow me to speak? You get to say how you feel and why you’re not paying me yet when I try to talk I’m cut off with ‘I don’t want to argue.”’
Then, ladies, he raised his voice.
Okay, that “frustration” has now kicked into defense mode. So, I elevate my tone a little as well, making sure my statements are direct and confident.
Needless to say, the convo did not end well. And to be honest, I hung up the phone feeling bad.
I am a young business professional, and as someone who doesn’t want to establish their brand as the “angry black woman,” I wasn’t too pleased with how I handled the conversation.
So, taking the humble, high road, I sent him an email apologizing for raising my voice and for his lack of satisfaction with my work. As I did on the phone, I thanked him for the opportunity.
And do you all know what he emailed me back? Thanks Shala.
That’s it. Thanks Shala. As if I was the only person who raised their voice or had any reason to accept all the blame. As if he was justified in his actions, and I had come to my senses that I was not.
This upset me all over again. And it was not because of his response, but because of mine.
Why did I question my feelings toward the matter? Why did I question my expressions of frustration and disappointment? He surely didn’t. He did not feel bad whatsoever with his response to his unhappiness with my work and how he approached me about it… so why did I?
Then it hit me: I was afraid of the angry black woman image.
I was too busy thinking that I didn’t want this businessman, a white businessman at that, to view me as unprofessional and an “angry black woman” who doesn’t know how to control her emotions in business.
Yet, my focus on his views overshadowed the truth: I had the right to feel how I felt. Whether that was anger, disappointment and/or frustration, I had the right to feel this way, especially when someone places me in a position to do so.
He raised his voice at me. He kept cutting me off. He would not allow me to speak as two adults do when truly discussing a matter.
I am a grown woman; I am a businesswoman and I deserve to be respected just as much as anyone else. If anyone violates this, you’re darn skippy I can get angry. And it just so happens that I’m black and a woman. Black people get angry, but so do Whites, Latinos and Asians. Women get angry, and so do men.
I had to learn from this unfortunate incident that it’s okay to feel how I feel, especially when my feelings are justified. No, a black woman doesn’t have to go off cursing or yelling to get her point across when she’s upset, but there’s nothing wrong with elevating the tone of your voice and speaking directly and firmly to get your point across.
There is NOTHING wrong with demanding the respect you so rightfully deserve.
I did not deserve for my opportunity to speak and defend myself (or even ask a question about his views) to be continuously taken away. I did not deserve for him to raise his voice at me. I did not deserve to be treated like a child instead of the client, businesswoman and professional that he hired.
Ladies, we are not less than. Not in business, not at home, not in society. And if anyone tries to treat us as such, we most assuredly deserve to defend ourselves without fear of being labeled “angry,” “black,” or “woman,” as if all three are things to be ashamed of.
Besides, I wasn’t even angry; I was taken back and frustrated by his approach. But, a few hours later when I discovered he had in fact published one of my re-written stories that he was just “so unhappy with” ONE WEEK PRIOR to our conversation… oh please believe I was angry.
But that’s another story…
Have you ever felt conflicted about expressing your emotions for fear of the “angry black woman” label? Share your experiences in the comments below!
Service is her passion, writing is her platform, uplifting women and the Black Community is her purpose. Shala Marks is a writer, editor and soon-to-be published author. Through her work, Marks aspires to demonstrate “The Craft of Writing, and the Art of Efficacy.” She has a B.A. in journalism from Arizona State University. Connect with her at: http://shalamarks.com/ and stay up-to-date by following @shala_marks.