Home, Thoughts, Theories and Theatrics Blog

Black Women at Work: What Employers Can Learn from What Happened to Mo’Nique

Photo Cred: People.com – Lee Daniels and Mo’Nique

Unless you have been living under a rock for the past several years, you have heard something about the disagreement between the Comedienne, Mo’Nique, Oprah Winfrey, Lee Daniels, and Tyler Perry. I am going to focus mostly on Lee Daniels, as he was the most vocal in impacting public perception of the actress/comedienne.

Mo’Nique starred in the 2009 film, Precious, alongside Gabourey Sidibe. I will not go into the details of the movie since the trailer is linked, but to make a long story short, Mo’Nique was paid $50,000 for the role. At the time, no one had any idea that Precious would turn out to be an epic success, eventually winning the star an Emmy. As the buzz spread around the world, Mo’Nique was asked to travel far and wide to promote the movie. None of these responsibilities were included in her original contract and Lee Daniels, the film’s Producer, neglected to offer any compensation for the change in the scope of her work.

The actress refused to do additional work that she was not being compensated for and was immediately labeled “hard to work with”, “bitter”, and “angry”. Eventually, these stereotypes placed on her led to her being blackballed from the film industry for the last twelve years. To add insult to injury, when Steve Harvey invited her on his show to discuss that matter, he chastised her about how she addressed the matter, belittled her, and minimized her complaints. Mo’Nique’s words fell on deaf ears as public opinion had been formed based on the misinformation primarily pushed by Lee Daniels. Mo’Nique had her career stripped away in the blink of an eye for demanding to be paid for the work she was expected to do. Her “attitude” and her mouth were blamed for the loss of her livelihood.

Most people would have crawled in a hole and wallowed in self-pity, but not Mo’Nique. Now she was truly angry. That’s the thing; Black women at work are often treated in a way that would logically make any human being upset. When we finally do get mad, the bias is confirmed and the narrative set. In 2020, Mo’Nique filed a discrimination lawsuit against Netflix. Mo’Nique had been offered $500,000 for a comedy special on the streaming platform, while her white counterpart, Amy Schumer had been offered $11 million. In addition, Chris Rock and Dave Chapelle had received $40 million and $60 million respectively for their own specials. Mo’Nique believed that she had been underpaid due to both her race and gender. Prior to filing the lawsuit, Mo’Nique attempted to renegotiate the deal and was denied the opportunity. The case is still pending with the last update in 2020; Netflix attempted to dismiss the case and was denied.

Fast forward to early 2022. Mo’Nique gained an unlikely ally in the rapper and TV producer, 50 Cent, who is currently on a high in Hollywood due to the success of his hit show, Power. 50 happened to see Mo’Nique’s stand-up show on Super Bowl weekend and was so impressed by her that he vowed to put her back on top and reconcile the fractured relationships with Lee Daniels, Tyler Perry and Oprah Winfrey.

Apparently, 50 Cent’s voice carries weight because after twelve long years, Lee Daniels showed up to her comedy show in Staten Island, New York to apologize. He admitted to blackballing Mo’Nique and corroborated her story. After over a decade of being called a liar and constantly victim-shamed, her experience had been validated. The negative words commonly associated with Black women that refuse to stay ‘in their place’ had disappeared. Mo’Nique had won. But in a show of absolute humility, she immediately accepted Lee’s apology and hugged him. I applaud her for that because I am not sure how many people would have been so receptive after what had happened to her. As a show of good faith, Lee cast Mo’Nique in his upcoming Netflix film, Demon House, giving her the first appearance there since she filed the lawsuit against them.

Mo’Nique was validated and celebrated. Watching her win back everything she had lost was emotional for me because I know so many Black women that never get that chance. Most end up rebuilding their confidence and personal brand over several years with no admission of wrongdoing from an employer and with no powerful ally willing to vouch for them publicly. This situation eventually worked out, but many of us are still giving Lee Daniels the side-eye. It’s a shame that it took another powerful man to finally get him to do the right thing. Because of that I have to question his authenticity, but there are a few lessons employers can take from this situation:

  • Pay employees for all the work they do – If the scope of a job changes, compensate your employees for the additional work they are doing. According to this Gallup poll, in 2018, 43% of employees believed they were overworked and underpaid. With the Great Resignation in full swing and many Gen Z and Millennial workers willing to jump ship if they are not appreciated, pay and equity are crucial in retaining good employees and maintaining the stability of your organization.
nationalparternship.org – Black Women & the Wage Gap
  • Believe Black women – More often than not Black women in the workplace are put in a position of being both the victim and the advocate when treated unfairly at work. At first, they report an incident or pattern of behavior. Next, they are disbelieved and forced to advocate for themselves. Eventually, they are labeled “angry” or “difficult” because they refused to back down. In this Harvard Business Review article, the following paragraph stands out for me:
Harvard Business Review
  • Do the right thing… Even when no one is watching – It should not take over a decade for an employer to admit they are wrong. In fact, covering up the mistreatment of an employee should never occur. On one hand, most employers get away with it on the surface. On the other hand, other employees are watching and taking notes on how you treat people that work for you. They are fully aware and will be much more prepared when it is their turn to address an issue. A testament to this is that over half of American workers do not trust their employers when reporting workplace issues. Treating everyone at your organization with respect and dignity allows space to work issues out confidentially, avoids legal proceedings and EEOC complaints, and most importantly, signal to others that you are truly a good person, even behind closed doors.
Forbes.com
  • Do not make assumptions – I can already hear some of you saying, “But all of the participants in this story are Black, so Mo’Nique couldn’t have been discriminated against.” I know it seems like a logical argument… if you are not familiar with internalized racism/oppression. To sum it up, those suffering from this affliction have a desire to distance themselves from their own race, so adapt the same stereotypes and racist practices as those of oppressors. They tend to view themselves as “one of the good ones” and have a strong desire to be accepted by the majority. The fact that two people are of the same race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, etc., does not make it impossible for one of them to discriminate against the other.

Like many other Black women watching, I am happy to see Mo’Nique finally getting the apology and opportunity she deserves. On the flip side, I am skeptical (but hopeful) about the authenticity of the reconciliation. In the end, I would love to see those in control of our livelihoods take heed and do much, much better than Lee Daniels did in relation to Mo’Nique.

NyRee Ausler

Want to read more articles like this? Subscribe below

Home, Thoughts, Theories and Theatrics Blog

The Curious Case of Kanye: Why His Problems Have Nothing To Do With Black Women

Photo Cred: TMZ.COM

Another day… another prominent Black man is using his blackness to garner support from Black women. Let me start by saying that I have no problem whatsoever with interracial relationships. I believe that all human beings are entitled to and should love who they love. I do have a problem with Black people justifying their self-worth by their proximity to whiteness. In addition, nothing bothers me more than those same Black people getting shunned by the white people they have aligned themselves with and returning to the Black community for support in their self-imposed plight.

I remember when Kanye West first hit the scene with his College Dropout album. He was raw and gritty, from the streets of Chicago, had just survived a terrible car accident that inspired his debut single, Through the Wire, and had been raised by his mother, Donda West, for whom he had the utmost love and respect. We could relate, as most of us had been through or knew someone who had experienced some aspect of his life. He was the ultimate story of overcoming. Black women’s reverence for him was further solidified when he dropped his single with Jamie Foxx, Gold Digger. One verse, in particular, caught fire:

“So you stick by his side.
I know there’s dudes ballin’, and yeah, that’s nice.
And they gonna keep callin’ and tryin’, but you stay right, girl,
And when you get on, he leave yo’ ass for a white girl.”

I couldn’t personally relate to the lyrics and could not have cared less who any man chose but knew this was a strong narrative circulating amongst Black women. The belief that some Black men would stay with us while they struggled, using our loyalty to grow and flourish, then move on to white women when success hit was hurtful to many. Kanye understood. He, too, could relate. He put Black women’s pain to pen and paper and hit a gold mine. I was skeptical, as I knew the history of people using Black pain and suffering for profit.

As the years went on, Kanye seemed to change. He lost his mother, married, and created a family with Kim Kardashian, appearing to have followed the blueprint he laid out in Gold Digger. His supposed slap-in-the-face of Black women was the catalyst for Poet, Jasmine Man’s 2015 poem, Footnotes for Kanye. As the years went on, we watched him spiral into an abyss of perceived anti-blackness. He allowed his wife to repeatedly appropriate Black hairstyles, mimicking and exploiting the aesthetics of Black women. He supported Donald Trump, who publicly and aggressively sought to disenfranchise Black voters among many other terrible things. And let’s not forget the “Slavery was a choice” thing. Over the years, Kanye has successfully dismantled his reputation in many circles of black people unapologetically.

Fast forward to today. Kanye is in the midst of a messy divorce from Kim Kardashian. His unstable behavior over several years had led to the decline of his marriage. Last year we watched as he begged his wife to take him back. She seems to have ignored his pleas and since then, we have seen him publicize his co-parenting drama time and time again. Then today, Kanye issued the following statement on Instagram:

Divorce and co-parenting problems are not new or exclusive to Kanye West. With almost half of marriages ending in divorce, it’s entirely possible that many of us have experienced the same. Expressing one’s feelings on social media is the new norm. Although not ideal, many people do it to gain support, get sympathy, or simply to vent. But something about this post really bothered me.

The use of the word “BLACK” and the context it was used in feel inauthentic and in my opinion, take away from the real problems that Black people experience. In the first instance, Kanye talks about claims that he put a hit on Kim and how easily these false accusations can impact the lives of Black men. You have to be living under a rock to not understand the impact of police brutality on the Black community and the frequency of Black men being locked up, based solely on the testimony of white women. Although this is a valid concern, I believe Kanye is bringing it up to exploit the emotions that Black women feel when confronted with racism and injustice against Black men. It’s common knowledge that Black women are at the forefront of the fight for racial justice. He knows that and is using that for his own personal benefit, whether warranted or not.

In the second instance, Kanye uses the word “BLACK” in reference to his children, implying the need to protect them. Black women have a history of being viewed as nurturers and living up to that stereotype. Whether being forced to care for the families and nurse the children of slaveowners while ours went neglected, and even feeding our broken and battered men from our breasts when they were deprived of food or the expectation that we are the empathetic caretakers in the organizations, Black women are often given everyone’s burden to carry. When it comes to children, especially Black children, our natural inclination is to protect them from the unique dangers they face in this world. As the son of a Black mother, Kanye gets this. Instead of dealing with his marital woes like a man, he is using his platform to lay his problems at the feet of black women. Words have power and he is yielding that power to play on our emotions.

As a man with the resources needed for whatever legal custody battles he faces and undoubtedly, a team of “yes” men and women surrounding him, ready to jump at his every beck and call, there is no financial support that we can provide him in his time of need. But that’s not what he is looking for. What he needs is our anger, our empathy, our maternal instincts toward his Black children. Kanye wants to win in the court of public opinion and he wants to enlist the help of Black women to wage emotional warfare on his soon-to-be ex-wife. Make no mistake about it. There are some of us that have already internalized his plight and decided that we are ready to get in the trenches to protect this man against the racial injustice he is apparently facing. I am not one of those women and you should not be.

In recent times, self-care has become a 10 billion dollar industry, buoyed by the realization of Black women that our first obligation is to ourselves. We have awakened to the idea that it is not our job to save every Black man that needs saving. Kanye cannot launch a successful career off the backs of black people, say and do hurtful things to those same people, and return to them for support when it’s convenient. He made the decisions that he felt were best for his life and career and has to lie in the bed he made. Most of us get it and take the situation and his obvious pandering to Black women for what it is… gaslighting. My hope for all of us is that we save our energy for those that deserve it and live up to the responsibility they hold as influencers. Let’s prioritize ourselves and ignore the chatter. Don’t be sucked into situations that do not involve you, protect your energy, and certainly do not allow toxic and conniving men of any race to use your Black Girl Magic reserves to fill their cups while leaving your tank on empty.

Here is a list of 9 ways to practice self-care from Essence Magazine.

“I don’t have to go around trying to save everybody anymore; that’s not my job.” ~Jada Pinkett-Smith

Black Girl Magic – Shutterstock

NyRee Ausler

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe below to be notified about upcoming posts.

Home, Thoughts, Theories and Theatrics Blog

Friends vs. Co-Workers: Why the Two Can Almost Never Coexist

Photo Cred: Shutterstock

I can recall the very first time I came to the devasting conclusion that a co-worker I had spent time with, built a bond with, and treated like family was not my friend. I was working in Payroll/HR at a construction company, and she was a Project Manager. We hit it off immediately, going to lunch on a daily basis, supporting each other through family issues and work-related matters. She even helped to host my baby shower. Naturally, when I began to realize I was underpaid and overworked, she was my biggest supporter… privately. I shared my conversations with my manager, my stresses and frustration regarding what I felt was a discriminatory workplace. She listened and agreed, seemingly upset that I was being treated unfairly. The workplace situation escalated when I was “laid off” while on maternity leave due to a supposed reduction in force. It turned out that the company had decided to replace me with the owner’s niece, who I had trained to fill in while I was out. They also paid her appropriately. My co-worker/friend provided me with details about the office after I left the company, noting that there was no reduction in force and the owners of the company simply wanted to employ their own. This, of course, prompted me to take legal action.

After meeting with an attorney, my former employer had their company records subpoenaed. This included all email correspondence. To my astonishment, my friend at work had been passing all of our conversations along to my manager. I scanned email after email that detailed all of my personal business I had discussed with her. She had been rewarded for her loyalty to the company with an increase and promotion immediately after I left. After finding this out, I contacted my former co-worker and she was speechless, offering no explanation for her betrayal. I didn’t need one, really. She had used me and my situation to look out for herself. She apologized, but I ceased any communication with her. The situation landed in my favor, but the damage had been done. Over the years, there have been attempts by her to reconnect and I have rejected them because there can never be trust in our “friendship” again.

When friendships formed at work go awry, it is not always this dramatic. There are, however, variables in place that can prevent the relationship from being authentic. Workplace relationships are usually formed from compatible personality traits or a shared experience, whether good or bad. Either you are in the trenches together and form a bond or you are in a toxic environment and lean on each other to make it through a tough time.

The problem with believing that you and your friend/colleague have compatible personalities is that most people do not bring their authentic selves to work so whether you actually know your co-worker is questionable. What’s important to them? Is it equality in the workplace? How about opportunities for advancement? Does money motivate them? Do they know how to form healthy, functional relationships? I cannot count how many times I thought I knew what was important to a co-worker only to be surprised by their actions. As a dedicated activist for diversity, equality, and inclusion in the workplace, I have connected with many people to help them through trying times. Those connections have led to friendships. But I’ve noticed that once their trials and tribulations are over, the friendship we had formed was not the same. Sure, if they are in trouble again and need support, they reach out but is that really a friendship?

Let’s talk about human psychology. In my last blog post, Black Women: Stop Going Where You Are Not Welcomed, I talked about a psychologist, Abraham Maslow, and introduced Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. The illustration below shows the five human needs represented in this theory, starting at the bottom of the pyramid. As you move up from the foundation, each need must be met before moving to the next. One necessity cannot be fulfilled unless those beneath it have been achieved.

Photo Cred: Shutter Stock – Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Once the physiological needs (food, clothing, and shelter) have been met, the safety needs, including employment, resources, and property must be met before we even think about friendship and social interaction. I would even submit that the physiological and safety needs are interdependent as you need money and resources to obtain basic needs. Let’s face it; no matter how much you love what you do or how good you are at it, most people work to provide for themselves and their families. Employment and resources equal financial security and stability and will always be a primary concern. To further exemplify this, in an article by Employment First Florida, the top two reasons people work are listed as money and independence.

To add to Maslow’s Theory, another psychologist, Frederick Herzberg, developed the motivation-hygiene theory illustrated below. The idea is that the hygiene factors on the left must be fulfilled before the motivation factors on the right can even be considered. The motivation factors are what people need to be satisfied and happy in the workplace assuming the basic hygiene factors are met.

Photo Cred: Shutterstock – Herzberg’s Motivation-Hygiene Theory Illustration

Although “relationships” are listed as one of the hygiene factors, once relationships are established, they can be impacted by the quest for achievement and advancement. Simplified, it’s highly likely that despite your friendship with your co-worker, if the possibility of losing a job, opportunities for achievement, recognition or advancement come into play, they may through you under the bus, drive over you like a speed bump, then throw the bus in reverse to make sure you are dead. Even more will play both sides against the middle, telling you what you want to hear while simultaneously using your situation to benefit themselves. Since you, too, need your basic needs met, it’s important to consider the why in workplace interactions. Be friendly. Be cordial. Be easy to work with, but also be reasonable. Always bear in mind that everyone is there to fulfill one of their basic needs and everything else is secondary.

With that said, I will tell you that I have met some awesome ladies in the workplace and been able to maintain authentic, supportive friendships outside of our professional connections. The landscape of those relationships has changed because we are no longer having a shared experience in our careers, but the common denominator is that we have things in common that have nothing to do with our jobs. In addition, when we did work together we were upfront, transparent, and never created an element of distrust. From a Human Resources perspective, I can say that often, friendships that start in the workplace fall apart when tested with the possibility of losing stability and resources or the introduction of an opportunity. Choose your close associates wisely and set boundaries. Remember that a listening ear is close to a running mouth.

People come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. When you figure out which it is, you know exactly what to do.

Author Unknown

Home, Thoughts, Theories and Theatrics Blog

Black Women: Stop Going Where You Are Not Welcomed

Photo Cred: Shutterstock

I usually don’t write about pop culture, but this story caught my attention for many reasons. Yesterday, I came across an article on Yahoo by way of HelloBeautiful. The post talked about an incident that occurred at E11even, a nightclub in Miami. A group of black women was waiting to get in and apparently being bypassed by the doormen. Cardi B approached to make an appearance and the women advised her that they were being discriminated against. After being made aware of the situation, Cardi proceeded to “advocate” for the women by chanting, “Let them in!” until the men at the door relented.

Although we can all appreciate the Latina rapper stepping in to make sure these women were able to drink, dance, and party the night away. As a black woman, I experienced some serious secondhand embarrassment. Before I get into the reason for that, I would like to say first that Cardi B has no obligation to stand up for me or you or anyone. With that said, instead of leading a “Let them in” chant, I would have preferred she left a club that refused service to any people of color and took her talents and fans elsewhere. But I digress.

Black women throughout history have fought for the right to be seen, heard, and treated fairly and equally. We have protested for the rights to vote, read, write, against police brutality, escaped the horrors of slavery, and came out of Jim Crow and segregation. We have come from some of the worst circumstances to become who we are today. The stakes have been high, and we have always risen to the occasion.

Today is a new day, though. Collectively, black women are becoming well-aware of their worth no longer settling for mediocre treatment, and foregoing inclusion in spaces that make us feel like an outsider. Whether it be a job that is devaluing us, a relationship where we are settling for less than we deserve, or establishments that make it clear that we are not a part of their target demographic, we are just saying no. So it astonishes me that a group of grown women stood in the face of rejection with such low stakes and collectively begged to enter a nightclub that did not want them there.

I get it; human beings have an overwhelming need to be accepted. According to this thoughtco.com article explaining Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, human beings have five requirements to be happy in life:

  • Physiological food, shelter, and drink. These are the basic things you need to survive. Without meeting this need, nothing else matters.
  • Safety – the need to feel safe from harm and have stability in a predictable environment. Without feeling safe and meeting your basic needs, it’s difficult to consider less pertinent necessities.
  • Love and belonging – this applies to romantic relationships, family, friends, and social circles. People must feel loved, accepted, and included.
  • Esteem – self-confidence and feeling good about oneself along with being valued by others. We need to feel that we matter and that our contributions are valued by others.
  • Self-Actualization – the feeling that we are walking in our purpose; the idea that we are doing exactly what we are supposed to be doing.

Assuming that the women that pleaded to be granted entry in this nightclub had their physiological needs met, my guess is that their actions were taken in pursuit of love and belonging, and esteem. From code-switching to attempting to meet Eurocentric standards of beauty, black women have long felt the need to fit into spaces we were never intended to be in; despite what we thought about ourselves we felt forced to compete with the barrage of non-black images inundating our daily lives and labeled the epitome of beauty. Even with our black features and vernacular in high demand, these attributes were still unacceptable when paired with black skin. A lot of progress has been made and black women have decidedly shown up authentically wearing natural hair, full lips, and covered in black girl magic. Even still, there are many of us that want to be accepted into circles that are not interested in us. Some of us want to prove we are special by getting validation from places that have forsaken us in the past.

These ladies waited outside in the December cold, overlooked and ignored, imploring a woman who has allegedly been colorist toward women that look like them in the past to throw them a lifeline. They were finally admitted as a negotiation to secure the presence of the said non-black woman. Perhaps they felt the need to be included in the social circle that E11even represented or maybe they felt that entering this business would prove to everyone around them that they were among the women that were considered beautiful by the patrons and staff. Either way, it was a sad sight to see. The disappointment I felt in my heart for these women that settled for being treated like second-class citizens while contributing to the offender’s bottom line was heavy.

I will sit in my house alone for the rest of my life before I allow myself to be marginalized, disrespected, or mistreated anywhere. But I don’t have to. There are people and places that respect and appreciate black women. There are social circles that you will be welcomed into with open arms; cultivating your sense of belonging and boosting your self-esteem by connecting with people that wholeheartedly believe that black is beautiful.

Below are a few resources with black businesses to frequent and support. A simple Google search will turn up many more. We no longer go where we are not welcomed and in the words of the amazing High Priestess of Soul, Nina Simone, “You’ve gotta learn to leave the table when respect is no longer being served.”

Thirty Black-Owned Restaurants Throughout the US

82 Black-Owned Clothing Lines

27 Black-Owned HairCare Brands

Home, Thoughts, Theories and Theatrics Blog

Is it “Imposter Syndrome” or Gaslighting?

Photo Cred: Shutterstock

Over the past several years, the term “Imposter Syndrome” has inundated social networking platforms like LinkedIn. Imposter Phenomenon was first introduced in 1978 in an article entitled, “The Impostor Phenomenon in High Achieving Women: Dynamics and Therapeutic Intervention” by Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes. The idea behind imposter syndrome or imposter phenomenon is that despite overwhelming evidence that you are competent, you doubt your skills and abilities and have a constant fear of being exposed as a fraud. You attribute your success to luck or the ability to deceive people into believing that you are smarter than you actually are. Wikipedia provides a detailed description here. Imposter syndrome is usually used to refer to women in the workplace but also occurs in men and in interactions outside of work.

I wasn’t aware of the term in my early twenties but clearly recall the first time I doubted myself. I was working in a Payroll department with no manager so decided to apply myself and take on manager duties. The CFO of the company was happy with my performance, so much so that they decided not to hire a manager for over a year. As the company grew, the need to expand the department became obvious, so the role of Payroll Manager was opened. I had performed all of the duties and done them well, but to my surprise, an external candidate was selected and I was completely overlooked. To add insult to injury, I was enlisted to train the new manager to take on the duties I was already performing. When I got up the nerve to confront the CFO, I was told that although I could perform the job, they were still (after two years) trying to determine whether or not I was a cultural fit for leadership at the organization. As the only black woman working in a company full of white men and sprinkled with a few white women, I read between the lines and understood that I was too black to be promoted.

Despite understanding what had gone unsaid in that situation, I began to overthink every single action I took during my tenure. Maybe I should have gone to lunch with co-workers more. Could I have smiled more? Is it possible I could have handled even more work? Was I “angry” or “aggressive”? Perhaps I was not as smart or talented as I thought I was. Despite being fully aware that my skills and abilities in payroll were exemplary and receiving confirmation from numerous outside sources, that self-doubt stuck with me for several years. I would refrain from applying to positions I was qualified for and stay in roles I was overqualified for, constantly working above my title and pay grade. I was afraid of rejection; scared of finding out that I was stupid and didn’t know it. Even after realizing my worth, I continued to battle with “superiors” who wanted to keep me in my place throughout my career.

I believe the term “gaslighting” originated from George Orwell in his book entitled 1984. If you haven’t read it… Whew! You really need to. But a great explanation of gaslighting can be found in this NBC news article by Sarah DiGiulio. The article defines gaslighting as someone manipulating another person into questioning their own perceptions, recollections, and reality. The manipulator is essentially telling the victim, “Don’t believe your lying eyes.” It’s a form of emotional abuse and usually occurs in relationships, whether professional or personal, where there is a power dynamic. Sometimes imposter syndrome starts internally. Other times it is imposed on you by outside sources. External gaslighting from those in positions of power can cause you to believe that your success was a fluke or that you are pretending to be something that you are not.

Imposter syndrome is not an equal opportunity condition. As a matter of fact, according to this Equality Matters write-up by Sheryl Nance-Nash on BBC, women of color (specifically Black and Latinx) are impacted by this far more frequently than their white counterparts. With less than five percent of corporate board seats held by women of color and virtually no black women heading up Fortune 500 companies, it’s no surprise that there is an overwhelming sense that we don’t belong when considering roles in leadership or submitting our candidacy. Even more often, we are allowed to do the work but denied the recognition and compensation associated with it.

It is vitally important to differentiate between authentic imposter syndrome and being gaslighted into believing you are an imposter. A feeling of self-doubt prompted by being the only one, the first person that looks like you to be in the position, coming from a non-traditional background, or being unable to relate to the people around you is normal and can be overcome with self-work and personal counseling. But the latter, being told that you are unqualified, not ready, or not a “cultural fit” despite exhibiting competence and living up to expectations is downright abusive. Determining which is afflicting you is important and whatever the cause, taking action is necessary. If your self-doubt is self-imposed, seek help. If you believe that you are being used and abused, speak up and remove yourself from the situation. Your feelings are valid nothing is more important than your mental health. Know your worth and protect your peace.

If you or someone you know is suffering from a mental health crisis, the CDC offers connections to various resources here.

If you believe you are being/have been discriminated against in the workplace or subjected to disparate treatment, contact the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission).

Thoughts, Theories and Theatrics Blog

The Kyle Rittenhouse Verdict: 3 Meaningful Ways to Support Your Impacted Employees

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.
Photo Cred: Shutterstock

Unless you’ve been under a rock for the last year, you’ve likely heard about the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse. On August 25, 2020, the 17-year-old traveled from his home in Antioch, Illinois to Kenosha, Wisconsin claiming to be there to protect businesses during a protest against police brutality due to the shooting of Jacob Blake. I won’t go into all of the details, but you can read up on it the Rittenhouse case here.

As expected by most of the Black people I know, just a couple of hours ago, Rittenhouse was found not guilty on all charges: First-Degree Reckless Homicide, First Degree Reckless Endangering Safety, First-Degree Intentional Homicide, Attempted FIrst-Degree Intentional Homicide, Possession of a Dangerous Weapon by a Person Under 18, and Failure to Comply with an Emergency Order. Even though acquittals of white men who murder Black people and our allies are par for the course in the criminal justice system, it still hurts. We all know that had Kyle been a Black teen, he would have most likely been acquitted.

Over the past several years, we have watched as murderers were given the benefit of the doubt when killing black people. The Trayvon Martin case reiterated to us that we are exempt from claims of self-defense and subject to harassment based solely on our skin color. Breonna Taylor’s killing confirmed to us that Black women’s lives do not matter no matter how much you accomplish and that the same Stand Your Ground laws that have repeatedly been applied to white men who slaughter people of color would not be applied to her boyfriend. There have been too many cases like this to count, but one thing remains consistent; the legal system was not meant to protect Black people and it is working as intended.

The trauma inflicted on the psyche of Black people is compounded by the routine dismissal of our rights and the absence of justice in the face of clear and intentional murders and assaults. I’ve sat at work time after time, crying at my desk in between meetings and unable to focus because of the emotional toll of the news of yet another unjustified homicide or unwarranted acquittal. I could have used some support in the workplace but found that oftentimes, these matters are avoided and business continues as usual. I want to change that, so here are 3 ways to support your impacted employees.

  • Cancel Work Obligations – One of the most difficult things to do is put on a happy face while dealing with devastating emotions. One of my first jobs was as a 9-11 operator. When we took a stressful call, the center would offer the opportunity to debrief afterward and take the remainder of the day off. This offer was not just extended to the employee that took the call, but everyone in the center who beared witness. The ability to stop and process emotions is important for the mental health and healing of your affected employees
  • Onsite Support – Most companies have EAP programs to assist employees in personal situations. Allowing access to this support is important, but should be paired with onsite help during major incidents. Form a team that is aware of circumstances that can potentially negatively influence your workforce and proactively set up the resources needed to address those needs
  • Monitor & Address Workplace Chatter – Whether your organization frowns on political conversations or not (sidenote: silencing your employees is a bad idea), they are being discussed. I can recall multiple times race matters spilled in to the workplace, causing conflict between black employees who felt betrayed by the system of justice and white employees who considered the outcome to be fair. These communications should be monitored and discussed transparently and any resulting discord dealt with fairly and effectively.

Regardless of your opinion on the case, if you are serious about diversity, equity and inclusion, it is your duty to create a safe space for your employees to express anger, grief, and empathy. Ignoring these matters continues to compound the scar left on your Black employees by generations of unfair treatment and discrimination. Be an empathetic leader, listen, understand and take action to keep toxicity, exclusion and racism at bay in your business.