This a post I have avoided writing for years, because I just didn’t want to deal with the possible blowback of white denialism.
But it’s on the 4th anniversary of the last day (September 30th) I worked for an employer in a 9-to-5 capacity. Hooray for self-employment and biz ownership!
So it seems like a good time to reflect back on how patriarchy and white supremacy have been barriers in my career as an employee — by white women in particular, and how they uphold patriarchy and white supremacy explicitly and implicitly.
And they don’t have to go full-on ballistic Karen to do that.
These concrete ceilings I believe are the main reasons Black women end up being the fastest demographic of people who end up creating businesses and start-ups, but are still less likely to obtain funding (CNBC talks about it here).
Simply put: Black women like me go into business for themselves because of the barriers of advancement in traditional employment.
Aggressions, microaggressions, being consistently paid less than their white counterparts, being consistently passed up for promotion, full-on racist and sexist behaviors from fellow employees and managers…it all pushes Black women out the door.
Black women create businesses mainly out of sheer necessity.
And other marginalized groups, such as disabled folks and LGBT folks (and you can imagine the intersections if you’re queer, disabled, and Black), probably have to do the same thing because of the lack of work protections and harassment they deal with on the job.
So it’s not an ideal situation, where I had been working for some company for years and started a side hustle that has grown enough for me to let it take flight and carry me as my sole income.
But necessity is the mother of invention. And out of necessity, I birthed a content strategy business that I’m really proud of.
The sins of racial bias don’t come off as sins of commission but mainly sins of omission — at least in my case. Here’s a short list of the bs I’ve endured (can’t really remember all the awful things because I don’t want to):
Granted, white women have also helped me get raises and supported me in my advancement. So they aren’t all villains.
Obviously, as with many ongoing inequities there are in the world, this is complicated.
One of my favorite managers, at the last position I was in, was a white woman. She really got me and appreciated my nerdiness.
But her staff? Well, not so great.
So why am I sharing this?
For one thing — sure, just like the person who sent me to that anger management class saw me as an angry Black woman, you may do the same reading this. And welp, that is your implicit bias that you need to deal with.
And, even if I was angry, consistently being discriminated against in the workplace is a good reason to be angry.
I am sharing my experiences to speak specifically to white women to think about how they behave in the workplace (and beyond), so they can make where they work more equitable, just, and safe for everyone.
I remember years ago sharing about these instances, and a white woman responded that she had experienced the same thing from other white women, and it really disturbed her.
So yes, I, as a Black woman, may experience all these aggressions and microaggressions. But if you’re a woman of any background or ethnicity, you’ve probably experienced this mess, too, in some capacity.
It sucks, doesn’t it?
And don’t even get me started on how feminism has its very deep-seated issues with racism that still persist today. Yes, I’m looking at you, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.
I’m not an expert on the patriarchy — except as someone who lives in a misogynist society. And the way the Karen archetype has arisen in our awareness during such political, social, and cultural upheaval…it’s for a good reason!
White women behaving badly is a commonplace and historically persistent phenomenon.
And in the workplace, it may not look like throwing wine bottles on the ground or destroying a mask display at Target.
It may look like…favoring your white counterparts while excluding women of color from advancement by being hypercritical of their work or flat-out refusing to promote them.
It may look like…not speaking up when you see all these awfulness go down.
It may look like…silent complicity because you don’t want to “rock the boat.”
It may look like…not wanting to have your school integrated or redistricted to have a more diverse school system.
It may look like…not wanting affordable housing or a shelter in your neighborhood.
That sort of complicity not only upholds an unsupportive work culture, it upholds patriarchy and white supremacy.
If you’re a white woman, I am sure you did not want to read this subheading. You may be cringing at this idea.
Well, I don’t go on scary racist rants in public. I don’t destroy property. I do believe that wearing a mask in public is a good thing to do for me and for everyone.
All good things.
But there is no way that patriarchy and white supremacy didn’t have help from white women, which is why I name-checked Anthony and Stanton.
(For further reading about the Karen archetype and white womanhood, this Time article does a good job of examining the history of white women and racial violence.)
We all live in this racist, sexist, phobic society, which means we’re all affected by it in some way. And with that comes the inherent racism that white people benefit from. One way to sum up white supremacy is the feeling entitled to everything because white people are deemed inherently good, just solely on their whiteness.
Other cultures aren’t given that grace because that’s not how white supremacy works.
So that racial construct goes unchecked all the time, until someone is told “no.”
The one thing I want you to examine in your life is your proximity to (male) power and how you use it.
To be really blunt, Karen energy is a tattletale energy: “I’ll call the police!” should not be the way you solve conflicts.
When you don’t get your way, how do you respond? If you feel threatened, how do you respond?
And then Karen energy is also a scarcity energy.
Not enough good jobs, qualified romantic partners, resources, rolls of toilet paper (OK, that’s sort of true), civil liberties, whatever.
Here comes Karen, feeling victimized, and will now throw a temper tantrum because she didn’t get her way, causing harm and trauma to anyone who comes in her way.
And this scarcity mentality bleeds into hiring practices, as well as what I was talking about earlier — helping women of color advance in the workplace.
I really like this article by Brand Pie about Black marketing talent and the alleged lack of it. And I say alleged because there isn’t.
If your world is basically a snowglobe vs. a colorful mosaic, then why is that?
Maybe it’s time to explore who you associate with and prefer…and why.
I am so grateful to still be in business after four years. I have the freedom to work with who I want now. And yes, I do work with white women that respect and value me.
I just will never knowingly work with bigots and jerks. 😁
Implicit bias may be tough to identify and root out, both when it comes to racism and internalized misogyny.
But this is work worth doing — for yourself, for your clients and employees, for your family and friends, for your community, and for the world.
It’s not important enough to feel like you’re being perceived as good (I.e., I didn’t call that person the n-word).
The only way to be good is to do good.
If you’re interested in working with me to create some captivating content for your audience, let’s chat soon.
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