For so many years many of you have probably heard or even said the infamous line “I am black. So that means I have to work twice as hard as anyone else to be equal.” That infamous line is factual but even more, it is degrading. It means that because of the color of my skin, society believes that I am “less than.” Even more degrading is that as a black woman, I not only work twice as hard but once I prove my qualifications as a person of color, I then have to defend myself as a WOMAN of color.
As not only a student, but as a professional, my character, my knowledge and my abilities have been questioned. It wasn’t because my résume didn’t align, but it was because my blackness and femininity disqualified me.
Society makes it clear every day that black women are simply not enough. By “not enough” I mean, we are not enough to hold executive level positions. We are not enough to be paid equivalent to our equally qualified colleagues. Our natural state of hair is not enough to be the face of the company. We are simply not enough.
So, let’s jump right into one of the leading topics regarding women today. Statistics show that the median salary for men is 21 percent higher than the median salary for women. White men working the same or similar job as a woman, make $1.00 to women’s $0.98. To go even further, statistics show that women of color (WOC) earn 26 percent less than white men. So, for every dollar a white man earns, a WOC makes $0.74. The pay gap between white women and white men is $0.80 on the dollar. This is all according to 2019 statistical findings from payscale.com.
So, the gender and racial pay gap is the first barrier for us as black women in professional settings. It’s sad to say that it doesn’t even stop there. WOC are less likely to move up the ladder in their careers than white men. According to PayScale 2019 findings, black women are more likely to remain an individual contributor (someone who pursues a career path that doesn’t involve management) throughout their careers than white women. I believe this is the case because of several reasons. I believe WOC work jobs tirelessly for years and when promotions are given we are overlooked and undervalued. I believe majority of management positions are created for white men. It is difficult to lead and excel in a position/place that was never meant for you to be in. I also believe that black girls don’t see their grandmothers and mothers in leadership and executive positions. They see their relatives working hard to pay bills for their families. So, for generations we settle with being the employee and not the CEO.
Next is our hair. According to Urban Dictionary natural hair is “hair that is not dyed, permed, relaxed or chemically relaxed.” I have been a natural sister for about six years now. While I have never had a colleague or executive person express their distaste of my natural tresses, I have noticed the looks. I notice the facial expressions I get when I wear braids, protective styles or puffs. I have heard the stories of black women being told that the natural state of their hair was not professional or appropriate. To say this is baffling or unacceptable is an understatement. So, it is appropriate for me to wear my hair straight and silky but the moment a kink is intervened, it is an issue. Because let’s be honest, the straightness of my hair is the equivalent to a large percentage of how white women wear theirs. Therefore, I am expected to uphold the same presentation as white women. Therefore, it is without issue for her hair to be in it’s natural state but not mine. Wow, that’s crazy, right?
You know, going throughout high school I tried so hard to fit in with white people. I was always told that I talked white and had “pretty” (permed) hair, so I felt I could somehow relate more. Today, I am so ashamed that I ever felt that way. When Monique said “I love us, for real,” I felt that. When Issa Rae said “I’m rooting for everybody that’s black,” I felt that. I’m tired of society making me, my family, my friends, my black colleagues, and black people in general feel less than. I’m tired of living in a society that wasn’t meant for me to ever succeed as not only a black person, but a black WOMAN.
I don’t want to get preachy, but Psalm 139:14 tells me that I am fearfully and wonderfully made. That means that the kinky-ness of my hair, the deep melanin of my skin, the “proper-ness” of my voice, the education I’ve worked so hard for, my personality, and my character qualifies me. So, the audacity of society to ever belittle my excellence or the impact I can make is distasteful and a shame.
I’ll never try to “fit in” with another race. I am a BLACK woman, I am enough and it is a shame that I have to prove that to others. But that’s okay, because I’m going stop making an effort to take a seat at the table that isn’t welcoming/deserving of me and my blackness. In the words of Tyler Perry, “I’ll just build my own.”