There’s a woman who was recently hired at her company. If you ask her supervisor she's quiet she does her work and they are happy to have her. If you ask anyone else, she's aggressive, intimidating, and some women (you know which ones) fear for their lives around her. When she was first hired someone brought her Facebook page up in an attempt to get her fired. But there is no policy that talks about behavior outside of work so as long as she hasn't been convicted of a crime she can't be reprimanded. While that was a win for her, the new issue is that every time there's a conflict, she's seen as the aggressor. Duh she's angry! She just wants to come in and do her job without having an issue!
This is a perfect example of how the Angry Black Woman stereotype follows you. She has every right to stand up for herself but since she's stuck in a company that refuses to address their biases she’s always just going to be seen as “angry.” I’ve seen this chart in a lot of discussions around Black women being hired to change the culture in the workplace.
It talks about the Black woman who wants to change the system and the issues they face but what about the one who just wants to work and be respected? The one who refuses to play the professionalism game because at the end of the day its a social construct. A tool used to look down on people who don't play into the hands of the majority. What about the women who don't know how to work this system? They get pushed out the same way but instead, they are fired, and maybe even have a tarnished reputation.
While the impact of this stereotype is obvious externally, internally a lot of damage can be done as well. Constantly worrying about how you are perceived at work can lead to stereotype threat. Stereotype threat happens when people are or feel themselves to be at risk of conforming to stereotypes about their social group. Research shows that being in this situation is something that can impact performance, make someone less receptive to feedback and impact their career goals.
I’ve spent some time thinking about how this is something that we can fight or change and honestly I think we’re screwed. Many of the recommendations that are made by researchers such as, have a more diverse workplace, change workplace culture, and giving wise feedback take up time and resources. If we do not work for people who see the value in trying to make these changes nothing will happen. All we can do is keep being angry. Use that energy to to stand up for ourselves and those like us (in the calmest way possible because “professionalism”)
I look forward to the day where Black women can be themselves without needing to take on the emotional labor of making others comfortable but until that happens, document everything, speak up for yourself when you can and remember the EEOC is always on standby.