By Andrea Lawful Sanders
In 2007, after stepping up to support children and families and winning a seat on a local school board, I began to experience a phenomenon that I could hardly explain at the time. People were so afraid to speak publicly to me, that I endured some serious micro-aggressions, which I wrote about in a journal as they took place. Many stopped talking when I entered rooms where I belonged – on and on.
It only made me more determined to keep saying and doing what I knew would help large swaths of people beyond the usual pale. Then one day, I found myself catatonic for no reason – that I could see, at least.
I laid on my sofa for days, sleeping and removing myself from everyone. A friend found me and took me to her home, had her husband feed me, and her dogs became the therapists that made me snap back like a rubber band.
After that first incident, whenever I was about to trigger because of some level of ignorance being meted my way, I found safe spaces where I could speak up loudly, build even more courage and determination, and emerge from unscathed to the naked eye. Those wishing to cause harm could never fathom how I was still standing instead of buckling under the weight of their behaviors.
I wish I could say this was unique to me, and that I thought I was handling it well enough, until l landed in Los Angeles in 2018 for a conference and met Kim Foxx, the current district attorney of Chicago. She shared that being a woman in leadership was one thing, but being a woman of color lends to a whole new set of issues that are hardly discussed or glibly dismissed, and how she had a small group of women who supported her when death threats were made against her children – all while being called every vile and racist thing under the sun.
I stood up that day and spoke some truths that left a pall of discomfort and an opening for dialogue with the brave souls who were there.
So, in recent months, I have had the opportunity to spend untold hours with Black women who are leading anywhere from only two people to large organizations of 500 or more.
I watched in horror as some of their employees exhibited awful attitudes, like a Black woman in power was a thorn through their suppressed smiles, crossed arms and the pushback against any policy or hiring processes that they may put in place.
I did say these women were their bosses and that they are totally qualified for the position they hold, right?
They even clutched their “aggrieved pearls”, citing these Black women took jobs that belonged to them and treated them like they were unqualified for their positions in offices that were grossly underrepresented with said folks.
So newsflash…When people of color are hired for high level positions, they have to be super qualified with every detail in place for no other reason than they will be scrutinized down to smallest detail.
No Black woman worth her salt would sacrifice her career by choosing to bring mediocre candidates on board. She has struggled too hard as it is, getting up daily to face the taunts, jabs and yes, blows, for simply being intelligent, strong and bold enough to do what many fear: be a progressive leader with no apologies.
That “magic” often tears at our emotional well-being, our families, and relationships, which could lead to physical illnesses, if we are not surrounded by loving souls who will give us air for another day, to keep going despite the incredible odds we face.
Black women have had to move in silence, because too often we are overlooked in favor of someone who is half as qualified, while dealing — openly, mind you — with the fragile egos that would try to rip us apart for their own personal gain.
So while we continue to start movements, deconstruct the status quo where others would comfortably sit, create tangible changes, and so on, what is also not lost upon us is the existence of those who will gladly take our ideas to make them their own.
We have been in too many rooms where we suggest ideas that are summarily ignored, only to hear that same idea receive accolades from someone else with no decency, who fails to give credit to the Black woman who originated it.
Look all around you – we are OVER it. When we sit in leadership roles and you attack us, we will not shrink like violets and go away. You will look up and find yourselves without a platform, because while you whine and try to build negative narratives, “Black girl magic” is creating programs and policies that change lives for the better.
While you demand their silence, excellence becomes their standard, which speaks beyond words.
While you try to sabotage every move they make, they are being groomed to step into places many can only dare dream of.
You will keep trying to shake us, but we are not stirred, because we have learned to safeguard our mental health in the process.
To the fragile male egos that abound: Leadership does not mean stroking your every word and hanging on to you for dear life, when we walked in the door with at least 10 well thought out ideas to make what you thought you were doing well, better. These roles you sit in go beyond your insatiable egos and grip on power, because when whole cities and towns and large corporations fail, the buck stops with your unwillingness to embrace what works for the collective beyond yourselves.
We see you, too; we have had your backs for decades. When will it be our turn to be able to depend upon you? When will you publicly stand in a room and support the good work you see, without worrying about losing your own power? Humility is a great leadership trait that is too often missing. But the men that get this will have women with visions and goals leading their companies. After all, they usually end up laughing all the way to the bank.
So when you hear the term “Black girl magic,” know that it comes at a price many would or could not pay.
We do not take it lightly, and neither should you.
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