Black Silence At Work

It is without question that working is different for Blacks than it is for everyone else. We go in to workplaces cognizant of unfair playing grounds and having to conform to a culture that swallows you whole. Being Black at work means knowing you’re the last one to be hired and the first one to be fired. It means not standing up for yourself when wronged and accepting so many forms of macro and micro aggressions just for the sake of staying employed. Work culture is toxic for everyone but even more so for Black people who contend with stereotypes and historical and contemporary injustices related to our employment. Out of all the aspects of working that I find exhausting ,none is more demoralizing than seeing my fellow Blacks en masse choose policies of silence in the face of the administration. It irks me to my core because amongst our selves , we have the most passionate people with huge voices and expansive intelligence. And to see these people choose silence as a policy just sucks. Because I know they have plenty to say and they do us a collective disservice when they refuse to speak up.

I get and I am beholden to the idea of keeping your job, needing to pay your bills , not wanting to upset people in authority. But I also believe and find it to be true that people do not change unless they’re forced to. And if there are policies or aspects of work culture that many people may have an issue with, then it does not serve us to be quiet and accept it. Professionalism as a concept is conforming to white supremacy based aspects of behavior and morality and modeling that. It is a concept that translates and plays out as a form of acting and pretend. Professionalism means smiling in the face of a liar and taking bullshit as gospel. I just hope that for my people we learn to speak up. If we are going to insist on being controlled by these spaces, if we’re going to swallow injustices and accept apathy , abuse and manipulation then the least we can do is protest. I had someone tell me recently that ,” they are playing a part till they’re in a higher position”. And all I could think of is that people who get any leverage or the higher on the food chain you are the more condoning and accepting of the bullshit you are. I won’t smile for Blacks who make it if all they are going to do is give me white heteropatriarchy in Black face. That is not progress, it is submission, it is acceptance , endorsement and permission.

I find myself outspoken if for no other reason than having been in spaces majority filled with people who look like me and the voiceless-ness that pervaded was startling. The smaller number of whites and non Blacks dominated the room with an intensity , an assurance , a smug belief that they are the all knowing, always right , most capable ,most intelligent people in the room. At first, I’d imagine that maybe the subject matter wasn’t believed to be important enough to comment. But later meetings would prove to be the same way and the Black folks chose vows of silence. So I speak if for no other reason than my voice and our voices are valid as well. This centuries old practice of not speaking up, of just accepting what “authority” dishes, of waiting to “make it” will not keep us safe or even employed for that matter. I’m challenging all of us to say something.

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