Let’s face it: Half the country has been in a funk since Nov. 9. Not only did Donald Trump become president, but he went about shoring up white supremacy as swiftly as possible.
Under his leadership, hate groups have grown and protections for marginalized people have been eagerly dismantled by the administration. And people of color, women and anyone who can be identified as “other” on a census form became even more obvious targets of overt prejudice, racist violence and blatant sexism.
Don’t take my word for it. A February American Psychological Association poll found that 57 percent of Americans feel “significant stress” thanks to today’s political climate. We’re also more anxious, more restless and extra sensitive in familiar surroundings. It’s like we’re drifting away on a wave of sadness.
But there might be an antidote to this languishing emotional recession.
I wholeheartedly believe that supporting and encouraging women of color to start their own businesses can give all of us a jolt of new energy and help us slow the descent into the psychological black hole that is the Trump presidency.
Stay with me.
We need women of color to start their own businesses—en masse—for a few reasons. First, the rest of us can go work for them! (Explaining why that would be beneficial requires its own article.) The rest of us can support their creativity while experiencing what it’s like to be valued and respected. We’d also get a collective break from white supremacy at work (pun intended).
And right now, we need a break.
In 2017 we’re going to therapy more, with online therapy company TalkSpace reporting a jump in new patients this year, especially among people targeted by Trump’s policies and rhetoric. We’re also self-medicating more, as evidenced by the spike in drinking among women of color and other groups.
Let’s also face the fact that under Trump, women of color probably encounter even greater obstacles in getting promoted and earning what they’re worth in traditional work environments. Trump governs by toxic masculinity and white supremacy. And he is taking a sledgehammer to opportunity and protective programs like Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, Title IX and Obama-era measures that would require companies to disclose how much they pay workers in order to address the gender pay gap.
According to the research group Catalyst, women of color often lack the support (pdf) needed to move up the ranks in their workplace. They also face challenges for “sticking out” and in trying to “blend in.” The report concluded that “[b]ecause corporate environments typically do not reflect the behavioral norms common to the cultural backgrounds of women of color, these women may have to go to great lengths to adjust to the corporate environment and to network effectively.”
So the rest of us have to step up and support women of color so that they can work in environments that utilize skills, perspectives and experiences that are not always fully expressed or nurtured in white-dominant workplaces. Two words: Ava DuVernay.
The visionary filmmaker recently explained that instead of trying to break the glass ceiling, she is focused on “building my own house.”
We need more Ava DuVernays. And Shonda Rhimeses. And Issa Raes. And Maria Hinojosas. But the rest of us have to put in work so that these gifted women among us can start their own enterprises—to maximize and monetize their talents and possibilities—and set the country on a better path as we prepare to become a majority-minority country.
Truth be told, women of color have already mastered so many of the requisite skills. From their work leading extended intergenerational families to organizing PTAs and church groups and running informal beauty and catering businesses from home, women of color have the human resources acumen to run successful enterprises and to empower employees to do their best work. They delegate, supervise and orchestrate major events like weddings, annual family gatherings, quinceañeras and large Greek-life gatherings.
From these private and public experiences, women of color also emerge with a hard-won emotional intelligence, which a recent study shows is already more abundant in women. Experience shows that women of color have borne the burden of being de facto social workers, group therapists and conflict mitigators at work and school whenever racial tensions and intersectional misunderstandings flare up. The rest of us need to make sure they capitalize on those so-called soft skills.
We can start supporting women of color right now.
Patronize their online stores and brick-and-mortar restaurants. Support their crowdfunding campaigns. Hire them for corporate projects. Donate to their nonprofits and join as volunteers. Buy their books, artwork and clothing lines. There are many opportunities in our daily lives to be intentional about finding and supporting a woman of color. We just have to seek them out.