So yesterday there was some unnecessary-but-unsurprising ugliness in the world. There was April Ryan getting scolded and bullied by the White House press secretary. There Representative Maxine Waters being insulted by Bill O’Reilly. It was a bonanza day for Black women. Bo.nan.za. If you missed it, you can get a recap, complete with lame, insincere apologies over at The Mary Sue.
I was feeling that #BlackWomanAtWork hashtag, for sure. This nonsense had me remembering a lot of things that have happened to me during the long course of my work life. I posted some of those thanks-for-the-memories moments on FB:
“Don’t get excited.” Said by coworker when I leaned forward in a meeting as I spoke.
“Okay, stay calm,” said by coworker every time I express displeasure at something.
“Calm down, don’t get so upset,” said by a friend any time I expressed anger, displeasure, concern. Went on a long time until I finally called her out. Hasn’t happened since.
Boss looking at my natural hair and asking if I think it might be “too street.” (Whatever the fuck that is when it’s home.)
HR manager after I interviewed with him (many years ago): “You’re very intimidating, you know. You should work on that if you want to find something.”
“No, you cannot be the director. I need to speak to the director.” Man trying to bully his way into the program I used to direct.
Presenter looking directly at me for the only time during his presentation: “We have programs for single parents and people who didn’t finish college.”
“Hello … again!” Member of another team who thinks he’s seen me already even though he hasn’t … even though there is not a single other Black woman on our floor who looks anything at all like me.
“You’re listening to rock? Black people don’t like rock!” Coworker in ed program where I used to teach.
This crap is ridiculous. And it’s all the time. It’s everywhere. It’s when you expect it, and — best of all — when you least expect it. There’s a reason both April Ryan and Maxine Waters dealt so well with the awful treatment they received. They have had years of these experiences, and they have learned how to brush off their shoulders and move on.
I have to wonder at O’Reilly, though. Coming for Mother Maxine is just foolish, plain and simple. Ms. Waters is not here to play with you and your racism. She is not going to take her ball and go home because you chose to show yourself to be a hateful bag of wind (again). No. Ms. Maxine will take that O’Reilly, raise you a Spicer, lay you and your misogynoir out with a royal flush of proud Black clapback, and walk away with the pot every damn time. (Yes, note the Oxford comma. Just like Ms. Maxine, it is not here to play.)
But I’m not really expecting sense from O’Reilly. Or Spicer. I know better.
And I don’t need to defend Mother Maxine. She can take care of her fine self by herself. And, too, she has R. Eric Thomas in her corner, writing his love for her practically every day. If you haven’t caught up with him yet, you can click over and check out what he wrote about this foolishness. Because of course he wrote about this nonsense.
Here is a scrummy little taste:
Because Bill O’Reilly (whoever that is) can’t come for her. He wasn’t sent for. His hairline doesn’t have the range. She has 40 years of political receipts. He has tired, racist dog whistles about hair. These are not equivalent. If he thinks he was reading her, he needs Hooked on Phonics.
Giving me life. 100%.
As you can see, Ms. Maxine is fine out here without me. Me, on the other hand? Mostly I’m just tired. All the ways we are always and always being pushed down, pushed back, silenced, shamed, erased. Can’t folks just give it a rest already? Can’t we just live? I know this answers to these questions is going to stay “No,” maybe for a good, long while. Knowing the truth of that doesn’t make it any easier to swallow, doesn’t make me feel any better about any of it. As a friend said in response to my FB post: “We call them microaggressions, but what about a constant onslaught on your very being and existing is micro?”
Yes. What she said.
But then I remember Representative Waters. And I remember one of my coworkers telling me that I gave total Maxine Waters in a meeting on Monday. And I feel a little energized. Feel a little more like I can keep standing up, keep clapping back.
It’s the 10th annual Slice of Life Story Challenge!
Head over to Two Writing Teachers to see all of today’s slices!