March 28, 2017, was a big day for small white men with too much power.
(Then again, when is it not?)
Instead of listening or responding to her points, Bill O'Reilly stopped in to "Fox and Friends" to make a racist joke about Rep. Maxine Waters' hair. Barely hours later, Sean Spicer told respected White House correspondent April Ryan not to shake her head during a press briefing.
Here's Sean Spicer telling April Ryan not to shake her head. https://t.co/ojHnkt7MVW— Matthew Gertz (@Matthew Gertz) 1490722452
It's infuriating. And as a black woman, I know men (and women) like O'Reilly and Spicer are not anomalies.
We are constantly told what to wear, how to style our hair, to soften our voices, and how to behave by people who have no right to make those decisions.
But it's never about the hair or the facial expressions. It's the need to control, denigrate, and dismiss black women.
If we don't fit into their idea of blackness or womanhood, then we're described as "difficult," "a poor fit," or the old standby "angry." That makes it a lot easier to fire us, keep us from getting promoted or paid fairly, or not hire us in the first place. Score one for white supremacy.
Time and time again, we've reminded the powers that be that we are not here for their bullshit.
What Waters and Ryan experienced was an all too common occurrence. Like many black women, educator and activist Brittany Packnett had had enough.
"I felt like, 'You are not going to come for these respected, important, committed black women,'" Packnett says. "I felt very much like they were coming for ... two family members and that there has been entirely enough of that."
She added, "I also was sort of simultaneously realizing that there would be ... the assumption that these were exceptional events. But black women know better."
So Packnett started the hashtag #BlackWomenAtWork and invited black women to share their experiences.
Listen to black women. Trust black women. And believe black women when we tell you: This happens all the time.
1. It happens to doctors.
Them: Can I speak to the pharmacist? Me: I am the pharmacist. Them: Oh, I thought it him (points to the white tech) #BlackWomenAtWork— Brenda’s Skinny Hand (@Brenda’s Skinny Hand) 1490733586
2. It happens to attorneys.
There was the time I ran into a judge in court in downtown LA and he assumed I was a defendant and not a lawyer. #BlackWomenAtWork— 🎅🏿Imani Gandy Cane🎅🏿 (@🎅🏿Imani Gandy Cane🎅🏿) 1490735948
3. It happens to professors.
Me: I'd like to check on the status of the books for this class. Staff: The faculty member does that. Me: I am faculty. #BlackWomenAtWork— Nyasha Junior (@Nyasha Junior) 1490739491
4. It happens in meetings.
Me: *makes a suggestions in meeting* -Silence- A white: *Says same exact thing I just did Whole room:… https://t.co/75VTMdrQ8J— SWV “Rain” is about getting 🥜 on (@SWV “Rain” is about getting 🥜 on) 1490736144
5. It happens with co-workers.
6. It happens with managers.
Me rocking my short afro. My boss, "you know we're having guests at work today?" #blackwomenatwork— Tawana Petty (@Tawana Petty) 1490797580
6. It happens when you're just trying to get your work done.
News Director: When I first hired you Tyler I didn't expect you to be so verbose. Me: #BlackWomenAtWork https://t.co/c4Xox5wlsi— GirlTyler (@GirlTyler) 1490732350
7. It happens when you're auditioning.
Me: hey I really loved this script..is that role open? Them: Oh, we aren't will to "go ethnic" on that role #BlackWomenAtWork in Hollywood— jurnee smollett (@jurnee smollett) 1490745658
8. It happens when you're interviewing.
Clearly being more qualified, but not getting the job bc your hair isn't "done" (evn though u just a had fresh braid out!) #BlackWomenAtWork— MAMA MAJESTII ✨✨ (@MAMA MAJESTII ✨✨) 1490803268
9. It happens to women who are in too vulnerable a position to do anything about it.
LRT. Most #BlackWomenAtWork can't even participate in the hashtag because they need to keep their job.— Jasmyn (@Jasmyn) 1490784580
10. It happens everyday, and it is exhausting.
11. It happens every day, and it feels awful.
Having white customers throw money/checks at me because they don't wanna touch my hands #BlackWomenAtWork— Jojo 💅🏾✨ (@Jojo 💅🏾✨) 1490802741
But in struggle, there is solidarity. There is resilience. There is hope.
Maxine Waters, the legislator who inspired the hashtag, even got in on the social media groundswell. She also had an inspiring call to action on "All In With Chris Hayes" last night.
.@MaxineWaters on Bill O'Reilly comments: "I am a strong black woman and I cannot be intimidated" #inners https://t.co/B1vRE4nelt— All In with Chris Hayes (@All In with Chris Hayes) 1490747270
After the hashtag's overnight virality, many black women returned to Twitter this morning renewed, energized, and more determined than ever to confront this daily injustice.
12. Because black women won't be defeated.
Supporting my truth telling sister @AprilDRyan. We won't be intimidated! #blackwomenatwork https://t.co/s9j0cPiN5B— Melanie Burney (@Melanie Burney) 1490803250
13. Won't be denied.
This morning I put on a dress and heels, fluffed out my braids and went to teach Nursing Leadership . I am a black woman!!!#BlackWomenAtWork— Hisrobin (@Hisrobin) 1490797701
14. And will never stop grinding, pushing, and working...
Saluting my sisters telling their truth via #BlackWomenatWork. Onward for all of us. Queens, we can't be stopped. xo https://t.co/8TyUsZv784— Ava DuVernay (@Ava DuVernay) 1490756134
15. ...to show you what we're made of.
#BlackWomenAtWork don't be afraid of a strong black woman, you might learn something!— B-R MOM (@B-R MOM) 1490803639
For Packnett and many others involved in activism and resistance work, this hashtag is just the beginning.
All of us have a responsibility to create inclusive work environments where everyone, particularly women and femmes of color, have a chance to succeed. Reading and listening to the stories black women shared last night is a great starting point.
"I hope people recognize that black women deserve dignity in the workplace whether they're a congresswoman or a domestic worker and everything in between," Packnett says. "I hope people who read this have a duty to not let this be their workplace, to not let this be their team. And to not let these stories be invisible."