After all we (society, not Black women in this instance) have learned, over the past 18 months it should come as no surprise, that the Black women of this country (and others) have no desire overall to return back to the office. Yes, the global pandemic has caused havoc and caused significant loss that many of us have not had the proper time to grieve. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the protection it has provided from the gendered racism Black women have experienced in traditional working spaces day in and day out since we were allowed in the door.
As the talk of going back into the office began to increase, I remembered a story from years ago. I was at a restaurant with a former colleague of mine – in her old company at the time, she was the only other Black woman who was employed there. She was sharing with me how she had decided to change jobs in search of a working environment that was more conducive to her feeling welcome and integrated into the team. I understood what she was experiencing; it wasn’t a unique experience. She expressed feeling tolerated among other things. The sheer exhaustion and fatigue of navigating microaggressions day in and day out had taken its toll on her. Black women face microaggressions at work, and when we try to speak up, we’re often punished for it, or considered unjustifiably angry. These microaggressions and racist instances aren’t rare, and they’re a significant reason why many Black women have found safety, psychological and so forth, while working from home.
Racism Is at the Heart of the Workplace
According to an Essence Magazine survey, 45% of the Black women interviewed agreed that racism was the most present at their workplace. This is understandable: considering most workplace cultures value whiteness and devalue anything else. To be both Black and woman is to face significant hurdles throughout one’s career, be it corporate America, higher education, the nonprofit world, or elsewhere. Hurdles and barriers that prioritize the safety of everyone else at the expense of our own.
Workplace Racism Has Been Running Rampant…
On August 3rd we celebrated, Black Women’s Equal Pay Day. Why? Because Black women have to work an extra 214 days to catch up to what a white man made in 2020 alone, considering there are only 365 days in a year, I’m concerned as to why this alone isn’t considered workplace abuse. Not only are we navigating spaces that seemingly force assimilation while accusing us of being angry, we’re doing so while being severely underpaid. It’s no wonder women like my former colleague are tired. Dealing with a litany of inequities and disadvantages at work is exhaustion personified.
…and the Microaggressions Black women experience are often sequestered
This exhaustion for many of us does turn into anger, rightfully so. When the existence of your pain is diminished and or denied, to expect someone to respond with poise is violence. To have the legitimacy of your harm and quite frankly your existence questioned is a form of violence. No really, where are you really from? To have people in awe because of the articulation of your thoughts and opinions due to the color of your skin- is indeed maddening. All while trying to perform well on the job you were actually hired to do. Sounds like two full time jobs to me, and we’re already underpaid for one.
Home has become our sanctuary from the two full time job storm
Covid-19 has made working from home the new normal for many of us. Something that many Black women have welcomed with wide open arms. Working from home has restored control and agency. From how we wear our hair to the other ways we express ourselves, home has become a workplace sanctuary from toxic environments, situations, and stress. With the safety working from home has provided, it’s no wonder that Black women are not rushing to enter back into workplace offices. In fact, a Slack survey found that over 64% of Black respondents could manage their stress better under the work-from-home scheme.
When I think about the violence our mothers, and mother’s mothers have had to navigate while working outside of our homes and the workplace trauma it has left many of us with. It’s no wonder- why would we ever want to go back?