By Krystal Tang •
Take initiative – Okay here I go! I did it. Oh I did it slightly wrong…a different way? I didn’t do it right? Oops. Let me learn. Give me another chance? Teach me so I can grow…. “No”.
Gets belittled, screamed at, no empathy, no sympathy, everything you did right before gets stomped on.
“Stupid Black girl. Why did she get this job? Underqualified.”
Gets talked to like a child that just shit her pants. Loses self-esteem. Doesn’t want to try anymore. Gets insulted for lack of enthusiasm. Gets the “be confident, take chances etc.” speech again. Tries to rise to be a model employee while being kicked. Fails. Gets kicked harder.
Gives up. Tries to find empathetic coworkers, some that have learned how to cope, and favorites who were coddled and allowed to make mistakes. Ones that command more authority by age, class, color, gender. Ones that are stronger. Ones that use you as a mistake scapegoat. Ones that keep you down so you do not rise above. Ones that want you around for entertainment but no authority. Ones that want you around to feel better about themselves. Ones that want you around to boss you around, to recycle the cycle of power, to make them feel more powerful, and to scream at you to release the screams from them.
Oh, how silence falls when you say, “I think that was unfair” “I think that was maybe even a little bit harsh?”
And silence only falls for you. Outrage falls for others. You think you’re an employee? You think you’re a human? You’re a comic relief. You’re a sponge to keep the cycle of capitalism going. The low rung. The one to make middle management feel useful. The bolt in the wheel.
“But you’re bright. Oh, how you are so bright, with so many ideas.” You have contributed so much, but your ideas are talked over and stolen. Even though your words are silenced and taken, you are still expected to smile. You are also expected to rejoice the one time you’re invited to lunch, to cry tears of joy at your one compliment a year, and to hear stories of others who fell down, got up without the kicks. You are made to feel lesser for not doing better and to feel belittled by the belittled, all because you are who you are. In that brilliant mind of yours, you are who you are. They will always see you for this, and in moments of awakening, you will be taken back 100 steps; for a typo, and for something that others also didn’t understand, but won’t admit. “I mean, you took the fall. That’s your job.”
Black. Young. Woman. You command no authority. Still, I rise. Still we rise. Even with skids still on our backs, we rise. Even through the torments of class systems that everyone else struggles with, through our atrocious world, with the torments of racism and sexism, we rise. Even from other people, from our own, from ourselves, we rise, and we are expected to rise. Anything less would be lesser. “Thank god it isn’t me,” they say. If you weren’t around, it would be them. They know this. They feel less sympathy because of this.
“She’s used to it.” “She’s stronger.”
Maybe this time. Maybe next time. Maybe each time a bit of my soul is chipped off, grinded, chopped, a bit of me is sunken down, and lost. A bit of genius is repressed, and a bit of darkness takes over. Even if, out of it, I rise.
Still, the kicks hurt. Oh, do they hurt. Just an email, a message, taking that false advice of confidence and leaning in. That is pseudo-support. That is white feminism. That is empowerment to take your overqualified, under paid, and mistreated roles. It’s biting the bright poisonous apples that we are fed, made to believe we are equals, when we are really above, to fake stupid so you feel relevant. It’s wiping our asses with our degrees, crying in the bathrooms and getting the “what’s wrong” silence for not smiling. The quiet walks around your desk, along with the tension of “will she be a problem?” “what’s her problem?” The knowing of the biases fill the air around you like pollution.
Trying not to get angry. Trying not to be the “Angry Black Woman.” Trying not to breathe; trying not to be. Trying not to fall into those boxes you claim you don’t want us to be, but push us there to be, for we cannot exist in your box. So, you can be made to feel like you still have a box. So, you can smile a little harder. So, you can feel a little better about yourselves. So, you can convince yourself “things aren’t that bad.”
Lesser powered, powered people. Enough. White women. Enough.
Krystal Tang is a college receptionist who graduated Old Dominion Univerisity with a double BA in English & Women’s Studies & MA from UCL in Gender, Society and Representation.