Welcome to the #BlackBlogsMatter challenge! For the next 28 days, my posts will not (necessarily) be about HR, Leadership or Management topics.
I was 23 years old. I’d recently been promoted to being manager of our largest account.
Each week, the facility had a meeting with the senior staff. The goal was to look over the orders for the next 12-weeks and determine what inventory and personnel was needed to meet the need.
I was nervous and excited to attend my first meeting. I remember dressing in my favorite skirt suit and making sure my hair was perfectly styled. I remember arriving early with my notebook and two pens (in case one ran out of ink or someone else needed a spare) and sitting at a corner seat so I wouldn’t bump anyone because I’m left-handed.
The others arrived and sat down a few minutes later. I looked around at the group that had assembled. And I realized something.
I was the youngest. I was the only woman. There was one other person of color in the room. But I was the only Black person.
I learned later from one of the Black men in the production department that I was the first and only young Black woman to ever attend that meeting.
First. And only.
I felt lots of emotions about this:
- Pressure. Much like the pressure of Blogging While Black, I felt responsible to represent well for my age, gender and race. I felt like my performance was going to make or break how quickly opportunities would come for others after me. I didn’t want to be the one to mess it up for others.
- Prejudice. Not everyone was happy for me. There were people — old, young, women, men, white, black, other minorities — who felt I shouldn’t be in the role for a variety of reasons. I was the subject of hurtful gossip and rumors.Having friendships at work felt nearly impossible because I really didn’t have any peers. I was misunderstood and lonely.
- Pride. I didn’t end up in this spot by accident. I didn’t end up there by accident or some 3rd party demand to diversify. I’d worked hard and commanded a spot with my ambition, effort and success … And yet, I also knew there were others before me who’d worked just as hard and had just as much ambition and put forth just as much effort — but didn’t have the same success. Whether that was due to discrimination or some other factor, I didn’t know. Usually, it was some combination of the two. I owed those people both an honor and a debt. The honor and debt I owed them was my excellence.
That wasn’t the last time I would find myself in the position of being the first and/or the only. And each time I felt those same feelings. Not as intense or for as long. But I felt the feelings nonetheless. I don’t know if this is what everyone felt or feels in that position, but I’ve accepted that as my reality and I navigate accordingly.
Pressure. Prejudice. Pride. Being First and Only.
Tune in tomorrow for Day 5 – Cultural Appropriation