It’s been a painful and challenging week. From stomaching the horrifying deaths of two unarmed Black men at the hands of white police officers, to watching or being among the protesters in Charlotte being teargassed, to being subjected to listening to the distorted, institutional biased media coverage, all while having to show up and be fully present at work and in our daily routines, I’ve straddled between feeling drained and distraught all week.
We are beyond excited to launch a new series called #BlackMagicMondays, where we will be featuring inspiring Black professionals who demonstrate and embody the essence of #blackprofessionalmagic in their lives everyday! While one of the key purposes of this blog is to provide critical insight and into the systems and institutions that we all engage within everyday, another important purpose is to elevate the authentic stories, perspectives, voices and accomplishments of Black professionals, to continue to show the world how magical and powerful we are.
So, without further ado, we’d like to introduce you to today’s #BlackMagicMondays feature, Joy Monet Kajogbola!
In a perfect world, we’d all see eye to eye. Despite our differences, we’d understand each other’s lived experiences, and lead with demonstrating empathy and support. We’d avoid making harsh generalizations or rash judgments, and rather than characterizing or shunning certain behaviors and stances that we didn’t understand, we would graciously accept the fact that not understanding something doesn’t make it wrong.
This week, I’ve had the privilege of attending the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s 46th Annual Legislative Conference in Washington, DC. Here, I’m surrounded by inspiring, Black change-agents who are all working tirelessly to eradicate the social and systemic injustices that plague our community. For a few days, we don’t feel like minorities. We look around rooms full of positional power, and we see ourselves. For a few days, we don’t have to justify our feelings or make a case for our perspectives; we don’t have to code switch or rework our standpoints so they fit within the unspoken dominant expectation. For a few days, we are surrounded by a sea of raw, authentic, beautiful Blackness. And it feels good.
Being Black in a profession that requires specialized training and/or credentialing is a complex and inevitably isolating experience. Despite companies and organizations ramping up diversity efforts in recent years, the white-collar workforce is still overwhelming white. 8 out of every 10 lawyers are white; 80.8% of social scientists are white; 78.2% of education professionals are white; nearly three-quarters of business professionals are white; over 70% of healthcare professionals, engineers, and physical scientists are white. The list goes on and on.
It’s all good until people of color start coming for what has historically been explicitly reserved for white people.
As we’re all aware, we have a long, disturbing, brutal history of racism in our country. The construct of race itself was created to ensure white people would consistently benefit from the systems of our government, while guaranteeing the opposite outcome for people of color. It’s important to understand that the fight for racial justice and reconciliation didn’t begin with this idea of “leveling the playing field” that is often discussed in race relations today. Instead, it began with the desire to just be seen and treated as human. It began with the yearning to not live in a constant state of fear. It began as a fight for survival.
Let me start by saying that I love the fact that there are dynamic, powerful, highly accomplished Black women being portrayed on TV shows like Scandal and Being Mary Jane. And, I absolutely love the fact that these shows were inspired, created and produced by Black women (Shonda Rhimes and Mara Brock-Akil). Characters like Olivia Pope and Mary Jane Paul are portrayed as complex, career-obsessed, power hungry, and at times, ruthless. Why? Because they know and are constantly reminded that they have to work twice as hard to get half as much. They know that for every one accomplishment, they’ll be greeted with 5 criticisms. They know that their merit and intellect doesn’t stand on its own or speak for itself–it has to be proven time and time again, and even after it is, it’ll still be called into question. I’ve talked previously in great depth about the pervasive influence of systemic racism in our society, so let me be crystal clear that the so-called complexes that powerful Black women have about their success is a direct result of the systems and structures put into place to ensure our subordinate position in society (especially in the workforce). That being said, let’s not act like powerful Black women are crazy for crazy’s sake. We are “crazy” because we are cognizant of the innumerable barriers to our success and have to work tirelessly not to internalize them; we are “crazy” because we have to work harder to be seen, respected, and considered an equal than any other demographic in the workforce; we are “crazy” because rather than receiving empathy, we receive rejection and judgement.