The anxiety of being young, black and in corporate America.

So let me give you a little background on myself. I am a 27-year-old black woman. I have a BA in bioscience as well as a Masters in Public Administration. I currently work in the corporate office for a durable medical equipment company. It is a decent job, but it does not pay very well. You would think living the corporate life would be a dream right? Nope. This job is so draining mentally. I wish I could attribute this to the workload that I have but I can't. It's the weight of wearing this facade all day long. I do not know any other way to put it but white people can be exhausting to me and it's my fault. 

Before that last sentence gets you in an uproar, let me explain why. Black people in general ("in general" does not mean all, it means the greater majority), historically fear any power structure because it has never benefited us without consequence not to. We may push the limits sometimes but our wars are never fought with our input on the rules. This fear has even trickled down to standing up for ourselves in situations where it is undeniably legitimate. This happens to me all the time at work. I sometimes feel that I am constantly put in situations where I must sacrifice my dignity in order to secure my job, a consistently minimal level of respect, and even levels of tension in my white dominated office. It weighs on me heavily because I am usually not tolerant of people taking out their microaggressions against blacks on me in my life outside of the office but when I am there, it feels like an obligation because it really is hard to find and keep jobs.

Just to give you an example of what I am talking about here is a short story....

My first couple months at the job, I was really having a difficult time adjust to waking up in the morning because I used to work late evenings. The week of this incident, I was on a crazy sugarfree Redbull binge so that I could stay awake at work. One of my coworkers noticed and decided to jokingly tell my boss on me. He comes out his office to the area of cubicles that myself and other team members sit in to then say "If you die, I am not saving you. I will just go buy a bottle of ripple and pour on your dead body in honor of the dead homie." I had known this man for maybe a month and a half and he already thought it would be okay to make a joke like that. Everyone laughed and I was just at a total loss for words because I knew I could not do what I wanted to do. I felt totally disarmed because I knew it wouldn't even be fair game to make a joke back. So eventually I just nervously laughed too.

I was so disappointed in myself. I thought about it all day after that.  I concluded that I was being overly sensitive and that I am lucky this guy gave me a chance at this job. I thought it was probably an isolated incident and that it would be in my best interest to just drop. But it kept, happening. Not only from my boss but literally everyone in my department, in the 9 months that I have been there had said "some stupid shit" to me in regards to my blackness. Not only that, I have now become the authority on all things black that they have a question or "some stupid shit " to say. Do not get me wrong, I LOVE being a black woman but it is so exhausting to represent my entire race accurately while playing by the rules of the white institution and not be pushed into the category of "the typical angry black woman." Talk about a balancing act....

 

One day I will take off this mask...

 

Lauren Barnes