Started my new corporate gig last week, in a multi-billion-dollar industry, under the national purchasing director. The tetris-like, drab cubicle jungle connects capable and educated women, few of them black. Each department, my side the marketing and requisition/acquisition boasts only one in each, inclusive of myself (now is not where I cry about racism, there are plenty of Latinos to elongate the gradient).
I began my tenure seated directly next to the only other black woman, who gave me a long address of the eyes: The usual body, outfit, hair, makeup scan that only basic women distribute to those who are filed under competition. The woman, who I will call Jade, I took a mental note of her visceral behavior and moved on. Later on in the day, on the elevator ride down to lunch she showed me a few places to eat around the Brentwood/Santa Monica borderline.
Days later, I asked Jade if I could join her for lunch. The company has a half of a wing dedicated to relaxation, massage, sleeping and eating: a rec-room and spa. Not yet receiving my company key-card, I needed someone to allow me access. Jade agreed, but around the time of lunch she texts me (we had exchanged numbers) that she needed to get her key card and would return within 15 minutes. I sat waiting for her a whole hour, she returned with a doggy bag from the bistro downstairs laughing with her supervisor. I guess the lunch was good.
This isn’t “Mean Girls,” nor am I bitter that the chicks in the office made no effort to welcome me. Couldn’t this same scenario have happened with women of another nationality? Of course it could, women will be women, girls will be girls. This whole scenario made me think back about all the times that I tried to befriend black women in the past, I’ve been taken advantage of through my weakness to be kind and it’s left me ‘eating lunch alone,’ if you will.
When I was younger, and brainwashed by society that I had to cohabitate within the black community, I had a black woman who visited my house and stole from me. She later denied it, then tried to get me jumped by her friends. I mean there was an entire group of people in on it. With the exception of two women, every close/personal relationship with a black woman has ended in duplicity and treachery.
One of my more recent posts, Daniel, says that black women “are notoriously difficult.” Now as a white, Jewish male with no black friends I didn’t appreciate this judgment. I’d like to shoot the messenger but as a black woman trying to network within the black community, how far off is the message from the truth?
Now let’s take the argument by the moral majority, not by the exceptions of well-read, upwardly mobile women: is the average black woman walking the streets or grocery store friendly, open, and helpful to her fellow black females? Does she value her friendships equally as she does her relationships? How kind are black women with other black women trying to succeed? I would say all of these questions dependent upon where you are and dependent upon whom YOU are.
What messages are you echoing through your actions towards other black women? A message of love, faith, encouragement, support, and appreciativeness of all beauty? What are you doing to be kind to black women in real life? Or are you only complaining about how ethnocentric outsiders are treating us?
Be honest now.
Is it worth the effort trying to befriend other black women?
I asked myself this question after a series of events that lead me to the ‘hell no’ conclusion, which is erroneous for me as a black woman myself. It would be nice to be able to echolocate other likeminded women but since mammals do not innately possess sonar, I guess we will have to sort through the crass citizens of humanity:
This topic brings me to the very first time I met Christelyn (who is a gorgeous, encouraging, sage who behaved with such grace and spoke faith over my life and future). Chris introduced me to an uber successful black female author who has graced the pages of magazines and television screens as a news commentator. Christelyn introduced me as a colleague to the author’s PR team and family, two of the black females refused to shake my hand as a greeting. They looked at me like I was stupid for daring to try.
The beautiful and successful author, whose congregation was A-list media socialites and assimilated the biggest names of black businesswomen in LA area. At the night’s close, Chris got us into a VIP room with the author’s family and friends, I naturally felt out of place, but remained upbeat and off to the side. The author and her entourage took the elevator down to The Standard Hotel, where the after party in her honor was ongoing. Christelyn asked the famed writer to chat with me, and she refused aloud, sternly. Granted she was talking for hours, and everyone wanted a piece of her that night.
Three-hours later, eating and drinking together within the author’s small group of workmates, she avoided eye contact with me and referred to me as ‘Chris’ friend.’ Not in a term of endearment way, she made no effort to ask/learn my name at all albeit I introduced myself hours prior. First and foremost I came to meet Chris, secondly network, but definitely not be brushed off like misses nobody. Based on those behaviors, the author said something that night that bothered me: “On the east coast or down south people are typically kind and truly care about who you are, not what you can do for them (as opposed to Los Angeles).” I thought to myself, ‘you do not know this woman well enough to call bullsh*t Carrie, you’ll be asked to leave.’
I made the conscious effort to insert myself in certain areas of the conversation, to learn about the celebrated scribe, but soon gave up once I realized the effort wouldn’t be mutual, I turned my focus on Christelyn who made the night a riot. That night was not about me whatsoever, but I believe in treating the janitor with the same respect as the pope.
Are we only seen as somebody’s and nobody’s by successful black women? Are we seen only as competition by black women on our perceived playing field? Is it worth the effort to search for the in-betweens like Christelyn, who give you the warmth of heart and genuine attentiveness no matter who you are or what you can do for someone?
In conclusion, though it may be a burdensome undertaking sifting through the people who enter your path, but in the end it is worth it for the one, two, or few that do stick around you. With the world being in the shape that it is today, what makes a good person is the fact that they are even willing to try.