Hi, How Can We Help You?

A Message From A Black Woman

Black History Month 2023 is coming to a close. I’ve been uplifted by news spots on local Black leaders. I’ve enjoyed seeing Black authors featured on book displays. I’ve connected to social media posts celebrating Blackness. I also know that come March 1st, the Black Community will be forgotten.

As a Black woman in Canada I’m not allowed to forget so instead I’d like to share my story. It isn’t one of unbearable hardship or devastating inequality. I’m proud to say that my parents worked hard to provide a good life for my brothers and myself. But every Black person you know; every stranger, friend, neighbour or co-worker experiences a daily reality that’s often exhausting and demoralizing. I hope that my voice helps the broader community understand how it feels to live while Black.

Growing up in a mostly white neighbourhood I was picked on at school, my hair and skin was fetishized and I was called hurtful names. At home family members teased me for listening to alternative music, telling me I wasn’t Black enough. I built a wall around myself and put on an air of confidence, doing my best to ignore the negative.

As I grew so too did my wall. I toughened myself and pretended not to notice when store clerks followed me through the aisles. I learned that no matter what I must always be flawless, confident and upbeat. I must always be “on” because as a Black woman I am not allowed to have a bad day without permanently being labelled “difficult”.

I learned that in the corporate world I had to work harder than my counterparts to prove myself. Time and again I was dismissed, passed over and given tasks with no guidance. I was expected to fail and ignored when I sought direction. Despite it all I would leave with my reputation intact, a well-run department and a list of ideas that were implemented after my departure.

Some days are more that I can ignore, some days I face outright hatred and aggression just for being. One day that I will never forget happened when I still took the commuter train. It was the end of the workday and I was getting settled when I sneezed into my arm. The man next to me responded by loudly calling me a n_gger. I felt like I’d been stabbed in the gut. I felt instant humiliation, fear and confusion. My head spun as I looked around at the other passengers, people who absolutely heard what this man had said to me. Not a single person met my eye. Not a single person called him out, tried to comfort me or stepped up in any way. I was gutted by this sudden and unprovoked attack. With stomach churning and eyes burning I got up in search of help, leaving behind this hateful man and a car full of passengers silently justifying their inaction.

Now that I’m older and raising a son of my own I realize I’m tired of the status quo. I refuse to accept indifference and intolerance. I’ve strengthened my walls with an inner circle of supportive family and friends, and having launched my own business can now do the same with colleagues and partners. My aim is to support like-minded businesses that want to raise up minorities. I am driven to make a change in an industry where there are few people like me in positions of power. On good days I feel like I can take on the world. On those hard days though, I hope for an ally or two who understands how it feels to live while Black.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these <abbr title="HyperText Markup Language">HTML</abbr> tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>