Does Battling a Stereotype Wear You Out?
Situations like these, in which we come face to face with the Fear of the Angry Black Woman, are the equivalent of that ever-circulating story about an old white woman holding a bucket of quarters when she gets in a Vegas elevator with two imposing Black men. One man tells the other to "hit the floor"; the lady thinks he's talking to her and that she’s about to be robbed, so she throws her bucket of quarters into the air and hits the carpet. According to urban legend (and the story has been debunked), it was Michael Jordan asking Eddie Murphy to press the elevator button. Some others -- not all -- expect Black men to rob them; they expect Black women to “go off.”
This isn't some new post-reality TV phenomenon. Years ago at the beginning of my very first job, I was called into the office of my boss' boss unexpectedly. I arrived to find my supervisor in a chair, holding the edits of an annual report I'd recently submitted. I took my seat, and she began to go over the relatively minor changes in front of the higher-up. I didn't get it. Edits are a standard part of the job, and her concerns weren't global or an indication that I couldn't perform the work. I just needed feedback. I asked her if there was a reason she hadn't come to me first, before moving up the chain of command. She looked at me and stuttered, "I ... I just didn't know how you would react. I just wanted someone else around."
Huh? I can only recall "going off" once in my life, a regrettable moment fueled by too much of the Good Stuff. But in an office setting (and for that matter, everywhere else), I'm direct but unfailingly polite and civilized, just like my family raised me to be. There's no logical reason for anyone to believe I'll get loud and nasty, and I definitely don't get violent.
Read Demetria L. Lucas' entire piece at Essence.com.
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