So, I broke down and watched The Hot Mess of Hotlan Real Housewives of Atlanta. I wanted fights and beat-downs and shenanigans. The show is what it is, so of course there was some ghetto in it, but I wanted fireworks. I was slightly disappointed…until the last eight minutes! Nectar from the hood gods. There’s a ghetto heaven and it has a candy lady and somebody’s cousin braiding hair on the porch.
This morning, while chatting with my boss about the most talked about five minutes of last night’s episode (Sheree’s run in with the party planner for those who don’t know), he said, “I wonder how much of that is staged?” Now, in all fairness, I consider 90% of reality TV staged, and that’s being generous. Part of the reason I avoid most of it is simple: Reality TV distorts reality. Unfortunately, even if that scene was 100% scripted, we also know that it is 150% plausible.
Black people, show of hands, how many times have you had an incredibly similar experience. How many times have you had an unnecessarily combative encounter with a black person in a supposedly professional setting. At a time where we argue whether or not we are in a post-racial society, nothing speaks more to the progress that still needs to be made more than black folks dealing with other black folks.
Over a year ago, my most esteemed colleague blogged about the challenges faced by his own wife in her professional environment, and all I could do was nod my head, sip my coffee and give the Sista Girl “Mmmm Hmmm.” I’m going to say something that is hard for some of you to hear. As a black woman in a professional environment, I am subject to harassment for no reason other than the fact that I am a black woman in a professional environment. I believe that it is hard for some of you to hear, because it’s hard for ME to type it. And this harasssment is almost invariably at the hands of the men I consider brothers.
Basing it on personal experience alone, there is a certain type of brother (NOT ALL) that will get in “just us black folks” mode, and make you wish you didn’t know them. There was an occasion where my boss (white) and I were having a conversation with a coworker who is a black man (we’ll call him “Grumbles”). While my boss was there, he was pleasant and charming and pronounced all of his “eeeee’s and arrah’s.” The tone was pleasant, amiable, and had all of that “we should be working but to hell with it” camaraderie that you need from time to time to break up the work day.
My boss went into her office and the brother hung around. He got glassy eyed and talked about how attractive and nice she is (both facts) and how he would love to take her out to dinner, get to know her outside of the work environment, etc. I told him that if he thought she would be responsive, he should ask her. He then asked if that’s how it works with me, and I told him yes, if I’m interested in a guy, then I would want him to ask me out. He then got this lecherous look on his face and said, “So what if I asked you what color panties you had on?” He got the gas face, and I busied myself with work. Undeterred, he said that I should make it a point to visit his place.
Now, I enjoy a cordial relationship with almost all of my coworkers, but I had long since dismissed this dude as lame. I’m not a fan of workplace dating in general, and this cat was definitely did not inspire the desire to break that rule. My boss gets crab cakes and stimulating conversation. I get “what that thang smell like,” and a booty call coupon. Pass.
I believe I would have taken it personally if he did not have a reputation of mishandling all of the sisters in our office. I’ve even witnessed a certain degree of familiarity with a sister who actually ranks higher than my bosss, that he would never have expressed to one of her white counterparts.
Don’t get it twisted and think it’s an “us v. them” mentality when it comes to white women. My boss had NOTHING to do with his inappropriate behavior. I understand that black men feel that when around black women, they do not have to be “on alert” and to an extent, that’s fine. But for those that cross the line into disrespect, there’s another issue entirely.
And why don’t we tell? Guys make the rules, so you can’t believe that the proces of subverting the “boys will be boys” mentality will be made easy. We face the typical stigma faced by all marginalized people (in this case, women) who speak out against ill-treatment. But as black women, as we have made strides professionally, so has the notion of “The Angry Sista.” So we have the additional potential of being charged with keeping a brother down or suffering from the “crabs-in-a-barrel” mentality.
So my question is, how can expect for others to respect us, to not profile us, to not aarrest us in our homes, if we can’t be respectful amongst ourselves. I’m not going to address all of the issues, because we know it goes both ways, but we’ll start here: Talk to a sister in the work force that you respect; your mother, your sister, a church member. You’ll be surprised to find that she more likely than not contends with a similar situtaion. So for the brothers who respect their sisters, thank you from the bottom of my heart. For the ones of you that are caught up trying to prove something by being knuckleheads:
THE BLACK WOMEN AT YOUR JOB ARE NOT YOUR CONCUBINES!
*drops the mic*