This post could end up being very similar to ‘Do black people overplay the race card?’ but I just felt the need to vent plus the whole point of writing is to release your inner thoughts, right? Well at least that’s why I write.

So, let me get straight to it, a few days ago I went to a work-related conference and if the truth be told I made no effort whatsoever in terms of my ‘get up’ because I wanted to be comfortable. I wore jeans, a t-shirt, my Old Skool Vans and my natural hair was out because I’ve really been feeling my natural hair lately. Although a number of attendees were dressed professionally there were also some, like me, who opted for the more casual look. So, to put things into perspective I wasn’t out of place.

As is common at these types of events, there were exhibitors as well as talks and panels. After one particular talk I made it my mission to visit a specific exhibitor because I really liked the service they provided. Fortunately for me, (or so I thought) it was pretty empty in the exhibitor’s hall as most people had gone to lunch. Upon arriving at the stand one out of two salespeople were engaged in conversation with a man (let’s call him Mike). I’d like to point out this conversation was not related to business or the service they were providing, it was a very casual chit chat. The other salesperson was engrossed in his laptop and in all fairness was being blocked by Mike, so may not have seen me.

Being the awkward person I am at these events, I lingered pretty much next to Mike to make it clear I was waiting to talk to the sales person next. However, this didn’t halt the conversation or speed it along in the slightest. At one point, Mike started speaking with the second salesperson, at which point a normal salesperson would address the lingering person i.e. me, however the initial salesperson Mike was speaking to chose to go on his phone and scroll through the TL instead of speaking to me. Eventually, after quite some time and a nudge from his colleague the salesperson that was on his phone approached me to discuss their service. He did apologise for the wait as he thought I was “with Mike”.

Quite a lengthy story I know, but in the few minutes this whole scenario was happening I had an array of thoughts running through my mind. At one point I was just going to leave the stand, I’m sure many people would have done this but I did really like the service they were providing and I knew it would be beneficial for me. Hence why I stayed. But the most prominent thought that ran through my mind was is this happening because I’m black and a woman?

It may seem rather extreme to jump from being ignored to accusing an individual of being a sexist racist but that’s honestly what I was thinking. This thought was largely provoked by the bizarreness of the first salespersons behaviour. From my point of view, bizarre yet such familiar behaviour. I feel like the ignoring was intentional, 100%, because even if I was “with Mike” he didn’t really acknowledge me in anyway as one would do, especially a salesperson. However, the reason behind the ignoring may have been more subconscious… but even as I write that I find it hard to believe. I struggle to accept “subconscious” as a good enough reason for unacceptable behaviour.

If I’m being completely honest, this isn’t the first time I’ve felt disrespected, undervalued or that I’m not being taken seriously, particularly in a work-ish environment. These feelings often lead to thoughts of is this a black thing? Is it because I’m a woman? And although I may never fully know the true answers to these questions, I refuse to allow this behaviour of others, whether conscious or subconscious, to dim my shine or to stop me from knowing the value I add.

Imposter Syndrome is a big thing at the moment and these feelings of being an imposter can often be perpetuated when people treat you like one. As with many things the only way to overcome it is from within. You need to truly realise your worth and know that wherever you are, you deserve to be there and you’re more than capable of doing a fantastic job.

Paula M



2 Responses

  1. So. Firstly, no. It is NOT you! Secondly it IS because you are a beaitiful shade of brown. This story will resonate with many and I say this because the assertions made is a scenario that is played out time and time again. Well done for ‘not going away’ and standing your ground. It is time for us to stop allowing this behaviour to go unchallenged. I would go one step further and call them out on it. Eg., Them: “I do apolologise, I thought you were with Mike…’ Me: “oh, really? How so? As Mike was already engaged in conversation with you when I arrived, Mike did not acknowledge or signal that we were together when I arrived…I am curious to know what led you to believe that? mmmm….?’ It is called unconscious bias and it is rife. A hidden sub agenda and an attempt to subtle undermine a person they don’t want to acknowledge. By letting the behaviour go unchallenged we embolden, empower and give permission for it to continue.
    Another thing, when they start apologising for the behaviour never justify or qualify them by saying ‘that’s ok’ It is not. You can still be polite, ‘nice’ but still let them know – we all are on the same page so that they know that you know…

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