Stop calling black women ‘intimidating’
The “intimidation” incident that made me quit my last job
It is exhausting to be considered “intimidating” from the minute you walk in a room. That “angry black woman” stereotype follows sistas wherever we go. But one boss made me finally just wave a middle finger at the racism of it all and stop trying to appease everyone.
Why I quit my last corporate job
When I walked into my boss’ office for my annual employee evaluation, I already knew what was coming. We’d butted heads over deadlines and her habit of procrastination. (She regularly dawdled around, waiting until printer deadlines to edit content regardless of what was going on in my personal life. She once texted me during the three-day bereavement period of my grandfather’s death, simply because she couldn’t find an old magazine article. When I mentioned it a couple of weeks after the funeral, her response was, “We’re all on-call no matter what. My boss calls me from home too.”)
I know my flaws. None of them are as cutthroat as calling someone about magazine articles less than 24 hours after a family member has died in front of her.
I know my flaws. None of them are as cutthroat as calling someone about magazine articles less than 24 hours after a family member has died in front of her. But I am not perfect. I can be pretty antisocial with co-workers I do not enjoy the company of. I sometimes struggle to transition from writing in a news tone to a feature story tone. And I tend to have a work at work, play at home motto. I was prepared for all of this to be on my evaluation.
But I was not prepared for the last critique. At the end of my evaluation, she told me that I “intimidated” a co-worker. She told me this person felt like she had to “walk on eggshells around you like I do.” This wasn’t the first time I’d heard her “walk on eggshells” comment. She used this idiom whenever my eyes would show my annoyance with her habits of procrastination. However, her eyes spoke of a different story: “the look.” Three other women of color had previously asked me about “the look” she’d given them. It was the same look I got during the job interview but ignored.
Nevertheless, I was quite uncomfortable to find out that someone on our team feared me. First, it’s never happened before and I’d worked at a plethora of places for two decades. Second, almost every work reference I have are white women bosses who I have nothing but fond things to say about. Third, nothing about me says “walk across the street when you see her.” Can I hold my own if somebody tries me? Sure. But I don’t randomly just start kickboxing because somebody disagreed with me. I’m 99.9% more likely to ice you out than to fight you.
As a 30-something white woman who grew up in Minneapolis, I did not think she understood the weight of telling a black woman she was “scary” and “intimidating” someone. She wouldn’t tell me who said it nor would she tell me the incident in question. She just told me to keep it in the back of my mind so I was “nicer to people on the team.”
That backfired completely.