How I Maintain My Blackness in a White Workplace

As a black woman, I realize more times than not, I make others uncomfortable with my presence, versus me being uncomfortable with my surroundings. If it’s a black woman with some power, their skin really begins to crawl. I’ve had the opportunity to grow up in diverse areas and I’ve had close friendships with people from many different backgrounds. My new position has been a challenge and a learning experience while being the token black girl.
I love being able to make a change and be a visible positive black face for the student body. I understand that I have to be “careful” as well. I was warned not to be, “too black, too liberal, or too me.” I would have to, “scale down” and be like a “Carlton Banks” in order to make it here.
I had a hard time swallowing this reality, should I not speak up on issues that plague my community because of my position? Of course not, I don’t agree with that stand point at all. I understand I’m very outspoken when it comes to the issues surrounding the advancement of black people. I also understand my beliefs can make others uncomfortable. However, none of that equates to me seeing the purpose of not speaking out. I have a hard time, “playing the part.” I don’t want to advance in my career because I, “played the part” and left a piece of me behind in the process. I wouldn’t be happy with myself if I did that.
I started this piece with the purpose of giving my view point on how I’m currently surviving in this predominately white field (with SO much more learning to do). One example that comes to mind during my short time here is being told, “You’re the only colored person on that staff” during a meeting. HA!, as if I didn’t know that.
I have no problem with white people and I believe some are genuine allies in the world. I refuse to lose my blackness playing a game that was meant for us to lose. I make sure that I allot time everyday to work on my dreams so that I’m not too busy working on someone else’s. I maintain my blackness by working on these dreams which are centered around uplifting the black community. I continuously read about the history of our ancestors as well as make sure I focus on self-love and self-care.
I want to open more doors and build up the image of black women in the fields that make a difference. We have the ability to inspire and we shouldn’t have to lose who we are, to be that light. I’ll always speak up and bring new ideas for our advancement. I’ll always push the envelope and say things that people feel, but may be scared to address. I won’t sugar coat the truth to make others feel comfortable, because dammit, we’ve been uncomfortable for years.
I understand the role I am taking on, but I will continue to look to Assata Shakur, Angela Davis, Fannie Lou Hamer, Kathleen Cleaver, Elaine Brown, Barbara Easley, Charlotte Hill O’neal, Tarika Matilaba, Judy Hart, Chaka Khan, Ruby Dee, and the many other women I discover each day who have paved the way for us to have a voice. I’m the token black girl, but I won’t be silenced.

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