7 Things That Happen When You’re the Only Black Person at Work

24 Jul
First job out of college and I’m the only black person in the office. It’s been interesting, to say the least.  Here are some of the funny and offensive moments I’m sure a lot of us solo black folks have experienced:
1. When you forget to code-switch your language at work.
GIF Oops
2. When your hair becomes a frequent topic of discussion. 
GIF hair
3. When you want to turn down your music in the office parking lot but this Kendrick song is EVERYTHING! GIF Car dance
4. When you’re at a loss for words because your white boss rolled his neck and snapped his fingers in an attempt to act out an “angry black woman.”
GIF 8
GIF Lord
5. When you don’t want to be a stereotype but you’re like “fuck it” and heat up your chicken in the office microwave anyways.
GIF oh well chicken
6. If your parents were a little creative with your name, people feel the need to ask and comment on it.
GIF So 2
7. When you frequently encounter microagressions at work and don’t quite know how to word your response.
GIF 9
Hey Y’all. really need your advice. At work, I’ve had to deal with some semi-racist (aka just plain racist) jokes that aren’t funny.
The thing is–there used to be one black woman in the office before I got there. Given the openly racist things that happen, I don’t think she said much about it. But I cannot be that person. I cannot let this go on while I’m at work and it certainly cannot continue after I’m gone. Then the next black person that comes along is going to have to deal with the same shit and will be stuck in this same awkwardness.
Some folks need to be told up front that what they’re doing is NOT okay. However, given the very casual, always-joking climate of the office, I’ve found it difficult to switch gears to a more serious tone and voice my opinion.
It’s easy to be outspoken with my keyboard, but in person I am sometimes more shy and reserved. I’m new to this office and don’t want to create any tension or drama, but I have to do something about it because it feels wrong not to. I can’t be that person who talks tough on the internet and becomes spineless in person.
How should I handle this?

Natural Hair vs. Weaves: It’s Time to End this Battle

21 Jul

NAT solangeLast week, The Root published an article criticizing a meme that made fun of black women who wear weaves.

Weave V. Natural

Writer Jenée Desmond-Harris pointed out that this meme makes various assumptions about black women’s feels about their hair.

Contrary to what I expected, when I scrolled through the comments, tons of people agreed with the meme. Many of them argued that all black women who do not wear their hair in a natural style are struggling with low self-esteem, internalized racism, and self-hate.

In order to pull some folks out of this shallow, misguided thinking, I immediately felt the need to write this post. Let a buzzed-cut girl (who’s been natural her whole life) break it down—because it’s been passed time to end this hair feud.

In defense of weaves and wigs:

Now I won’t sit here and act like internalized racism isn’t an issue in our community. Some people have been taught (at very young ages) that nappy hair is ugly and unkempt. Sometimes weaves, relaxers and other hair trends are an expression of the internalized black hate that has been in our world for centuries.

However, not every girl with a weave has internalized racist views about their hair.

Wearing a weave doesn’t automatically mean you have low self-esteem or self-hate just like wearing natural hair doesn’t automatically mean you’re confident. Michelle Obama wears a weave. So does Janet Mock, Oprah, Shonda Rhimes, Kerry Washington, Beverly Bond (Creator of Black Girls Rock), and many other powerful women. These women have to have a certain level of confidence in order to make it as far as they have.

Oftentimes women wear weaves for protective styling and convenience. Sometimes it’s easier to throw on a cute wig or wear a weave rather than raking through your hair and styling it all the time. Natural styles, including locs, can take quite a bit of time and effort to maintain.

In defense of Naturalistas:

Being natural isn’t always easy. It takes a lot of courage to be natural in a society that has an all-around hate for natural hair.

Natural girls get very little love in the mainstream, as very few of our major pop stars wear their hair natural when they’re in the spotlight. You hardly find natural hair in Hollywood, fashion, or even the White House (Wouldn’t it be cool to see FLOTUS rockin some double-strand twists). Natural hair is still pretty revolutionary, because unfortunately, our world still has an obsession with European standards of beauty. And unfortunately, our naturalistas are penalized and attacked for wearing their natural hair in various situations. Locs and afros are often viewed as unprofessional in a work environment, several private schools have banned little black girls from wearing afro puffs, and black women in the military have recently faced stricter regulations on certain natural styles.

NAT hairYet, natural hair has become on-trend lately. Tons of women are having the Big Chop, there beauty bloggers, tons of Pintrest, Tumblr, and Instagram accounts dedicated to natural hair.

Yes, we do need to teach that black hair is beautiful when it’s in its natural state, but we don’t need to shame others for straighter styles.

There are benefits and drawbacks to both natural hair, weaves, and relaxed hair. People do what works best for them.

At the end of the day, who died and made anybody the hair police? Browsing the internet, you’ll find memes making fun of natural girls and shaming girls with weaves. So whether you wear a weave or your own hair, small-minded people will talk shit either way. If you have a problem with anyone’s hair type or texture, this is all I have to say to you:

Mind ya businessMind ya business, that’s all. Just mind ya business. If it ain’t growing out of your scalp then you have no need to comment or feel any type of way about it.

 

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I’m Not Giving Hollywood Any More Money

15 Jul

Holly Transformers

I’m not a “movie person,” but summer always brings a few films I’m excited to see. However, after writing my recent article about Hollywood’s addiction to typecasting, I couldn’t walk into a theater without feeling guilty. Every time I purchased a ticket, my black feminist conscience would yell, “Are you really going to support an industry that doesn’t give a shit about you?”

I ignored her at first, but after the disappointments from the latest movies I’ve seen, X-men: Days of Future Past, Think Like a Man 2, and Godzilla—I’m officially done with Hollywood.

I’ll save my movie money for an industry that isn’t going to regurgitate stereotypes wrapped in lame, white-washed plots.

I have 3 reasons:

1. Hollywood doesn’t know what to do with women.

As a fan of all things alien and futuristic, Transformers is usually right up my alley. But third Transformers, released prior to the latest movie turned me off for good.

The majority of the time, the lead actress screams and runs from Decepticons in high heels. I’m watching the movie yelling “Bitch, if you don’t take off those heels and run like you got some sense.”

And can she do anything else besides scream, run, and act as the distraction while Shia LaBeouf saves the day?

So I refused to see the latest Transformers because I knew it would have all the same hackneyed motifs— and according to a few reviews, I was spot on.

I mean, is anyone else tired of the Damsel in Distress in action films?

Some of these writers need to take note from The Hunger Games series.

Transformers isn’t the only movie that could’ve utilized the female characters better. In X-men: Days of Future Past, the good white men save the day while the women and characters of colors sit and wait. However, in a 90’s cartoon version of Days of Future Past, it is actually Kitty Pryde who goes back in time to save mutants and humans from their horrible future. Xmen with a woman saving the day sounds like a cools concept. Especially considering Pryde’s mutation makes her untouchable, literally.

I love Hugh Jackman as Wolverine—but it’s time for a diverse range of characters to take the spotlight.

2. White = Universal

Where are all my black leading characters? Not in action films. Not in sci-fi. Not even in animated films. Oh that’s right: black characters are ghettoized into the black film genre, which currently includes the Think Like a Man series, Tyler Perry films (ugh), and whatever Kevin Hart’s currently starring in.

As for all the other people of color: Y’all don’t even get “race-themed” genres.

Yet, whenever all of the characters in a film are white, directors love to claim that “it’s not about race.” Films like Noah and the Gods of Egypt got a lot of pushback for their majority-white cast.

When asked about the lack of diversity in Noah, Co-writer Handel gives one of worst responses: “What we realized is that this story is functioning at the level of myth, and as a mythical story, the race of the individuals doesn’t matter. They’re supposed to be stand-ins for all people.”

And there lies the problem: white is the “stand-in for all people.” Only white skin can represent the whole of our society. This thinking is the very reason why movies are so white, why you hardly ever see Asian male characters in films outside of martial arts films (and Godzilla), and why Halle Berry is the only woman of color ever to receive an Oscar for Best Actress for a leading role.

Let’s get one thing straight: whenever a cast of characters is mostly white, it’s not an accident. If race really didn’t matter, then we would see more diversity. We live in an extremely diverse country with people of origins all over the globe. You just won’t find them on the screen.

3. We’re not humans, we’re stereotypes

talk about stereotypes a lot on A Womyn’s Worth. And I’m already over my word count, so I’ll be brief with this point.

The trailer of Dear White People, a comedy about stereotypes and white people’s discomfort with diversity, pretty much sums up my feels about seeing stereotypes on the screen.

 

If you want my in-depth commentary on this topic, check out my article, “Where Are All the Leading Ladies of Color?” which was featured on Ms. magazine’s blog.

Finally, I know my one-woman boycott doesn’t really make a difference in anyone’s life but my own. But imagine if every person of color stopped paying money for the exclusionary crap Hollywood puts out. Box offices numbers would drop tremendously, folks will lose money, and things would undoubtedly change (You know what they say: Hit them where it hurts the most—their wallets).

Representation matters, folks. Hollywood tells us that white people are the stars and the rest of us are just extras, brought in to uphold stereotypes and act as sidekicks. So I can no longer contribute to an industry that makes billions of dollars excluding people like me or making us look bad.

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