Opinion: Black women aren’t allowed to be introverted in the workplace

Columnist Phylicia Wright. Photo courtesy Wright

If a Black woman talks too loud she is deemed “ghetto”, if she challenges an opinion she is deemed “aggressive,” but if she is an introvert she’s not a “team player”.

The stereotype of Black women in the workplace is often criticized but is frequently expected by their co-workers of different races. However, when a Black woman presents herself with introverted personality traits there is all of a sudden a problem. The idea that a Black woman is expected to be entertainment in the workplace is quite disgusting revealing the ugly truth of the slave vs. master mentality that still lives on.

Sequoia Holmes wrote an article for BESE about her personal life as an introverted Black woman working in corporate America. In her article, she expresses how she does not live up to her white co-workers expectations of being a Black woman and has been frowned upon and reprimanded for not talking “enough.”

“… I often find that my peers and coworkers have preconceived assumptions about who I am, based on my Black-womanhood. When I fail to live up to the funny, entertaining, sassy, Black woman stereotype, they’re quick to assume my failure to entertain is because I don’t like them. This isn’t a huge problem until it’s time for peer reviews, promotions, or layoffs,” said Holmes.

After being terminated from a previous job because she was reserved, Holmes was hired somewhere else and is now drained after work days from trying to be extroverted. It seems that instead of code switching inside the workplace Black women have to go the extra mile to switch their entire personality just to make their white counterparts comfortable and make a living.

These stereotypical allegations do not go unnoticed and are often seen on social media networks like Twitter.Twitter user @naouma_  started a thread about being an introverted Black woman in the workplace with five points to back her statement.

“We don’t get to be genuine to our personality traits without consequence. It’s so frustrating,” said @naouma_.

Under her thread on Twitter, Black women commented expressing how they felt in the workplace and that often in their peer reviews they are not seen as a “team player.” However, it seems that people of different races make the judgement of what characteristics each team player should have based on their race.

It would be an issue if a blonde good-looking white woman was perceived as a sex symbol or stupid in the workplace, but it’s acceptable for a Black woman to be perceived as the over the top class clown side kick. These stereotypical characters have been seen on movies like the “Other Woman,” starring Cameron Diaz and co-starring Nicki Minaj.

Daily people of different races choose to overlook how comfortable a Black woman is if they don’t meet the guidelines of the stereotypes they are usually attached to. This mentality starts at a young age and is groomed into adults who keep the same mentality.

FAMU Resident Director Pamela Grissett has seen it first hand when she was a student in graduate school. Some of her classes discussed topics on power, privilege, and oppression which would sometimes leave her emotionally drained.

“I shied away from conversations because I knew this was more so a time for my peers to learn and discuss. My professors took my silence and introversion as being disengaged or not being properly prepared for class,” said Grissett.

Will Black women ever be able to be comfortable in their own skin and truly be themselves? Black women just want to be accepted for who they are in the workplace, they have changed their hair, wardrobe, vernacular, and now they must change their personality. What will Black women have to change next?