I have no problems telling you which short pier you can take a long walk off. Especially if you are delivering inadequate customer service. My preferred weapon of destruction is the pen or these days the computer to construct sentences which articulate my displeasure. If, however, I am fuming I will part my lips and instruct you where to place your head if you are really out of order. This direct approach works for me so a. the offender knows immediately what they have done, b. are less likely to repeat the offence, and c. I am not walking around upset because some inconsiderate person has done something insensitive like sneezed on me without bothering to cover their mouth and nose.
This style of communication does not work in the professional world and in certain familial settings. The past six years have seen me struggling. There is a perception by many that black women are actively hostile, angry for sport. The Reds I described in the previous paragraph is not an modus operandi but a series of momentary reactions.
Knowing how society views black women, in my professional life I am extremely cautious in my communications and interactions with others. (I have even had some co-workers do impersonations of black women, neck rolling and all. It was quite insulting but still I said nothing to stop from adding to the stereotype of the ABW) I am probably teetering on duplicity because I do not present home/holiday/Carnival Reds in the office. I read, re-read, re-read, re-read and re-read my e-mails. Before speaking in meetings, I practice my words carefully to ensure my tone is not harsh and only harmony can be interpreted. This probably makes me come across as personable as a stick of gum (at least gum freshens the air? I know that’s a stretch).
What I don’t want to chance being perceived as overbearing, condescending… an angry black woman. There have been many times when I have wanted strategies to be changed, noticed something was incorrect or needed to bring up something that wasn’t pleasant but this was particularly difficult for me. In the past when I did this (when I lived in the US, I was surrounded by strong black female mentors who encouraged me to be unapologetically me) I received some backlash but I had a network of support. Now, I feel isolated so I take 3 hours to draft emails that should take 5 minutes to send. I sugar-coat everything and smile excessively to avoid being perceived as a problem. I am certain my work colleagues perceive me as lacking a personality or probably the everlasting bobblehead. I rub all traces of my personality out of existence and replace it with some Play-Doh I don’t even recognise. If my family and friends were to encounter work Reds, they’d hate her and mock her. She’d be the subject of WhatsApp chats.
This leaves me feeling as though I am not being true to myself. I walk into the weekend with a sense of frustration that I don’t feel able to be myself and share my genuine self with the people at my job because I am so busy doing pirouettes on egg shells to keep my co-workers and colleagues comfortable. I’d like to talk about my love of Carnival, travel, writing, books, crocheting (I can only crochet square and diagonal things – don’t judge me) but there is a barrier of glacier thick diplomacy that prevents me from sharing.
Is anyone else struggling with duplicity of this nature?
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