*ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED NOVEMBER 10, 2020 As with many major nation announcements, I can’t help but write my thoughts and share reactions, lessons, and commentary that hopefully will resonate with readers. Resonate in a way that impacts how they view similar situations in the future or provide a diverse perspective that they may never personally experience. This past week after a long, drawn-out vote-counting process, we learned the winners were Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. The democratic ticket surged its way to the lead in battleground states, which gave Biden an advantage that many did not see coming. The results mean many things, but to me, what stands out is there is a black woman Vice President-Elect. I cannot recount the many reasons why this is moving in one blog post, but I have to give you some insight:
Corporation Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
I didn’t know until VP Elect Kamala Harris took the stage to celebrate the historic win that I have been suffering from PTSD for years. It isn’t the type of PTSD you see in troops who return home from the war. It comes from corporations, managers, leaders, bosses, executives who have made passive-aggressive, microaggressive behaviors year after year that led me to behave in a way that is reluctant to engage, fearful of applying, unwilling to speak, feeling like an outsider, an imposter. It’s a realization imposter syndrome is not a result of me creating anxiety about my success or not believing in my capabilities. It is the shadow I created to protect myself from the traumatic career decisions others would force upon me or make on my behalf. This stress stays with me and has consequently pushed me out of corporate America into a landscape that requires me to re-learn everything, including trusting my skills blindly and with faith. Kamala stood before many black women and reminded us; it isn’t us. We are not a problem. We are capable, likable, and formidable, but we have to fight for what we want harder and support one another more. It is undoubtfully black women’s votes that put Kamala in the second-highest office in this nation. Undoubtedly, it shows our strength, hope, and ability to remove bricks out of the walls America has built blocking our futures. And Yes, they are bricks, not glass.
Brick Walls vs. Glass Ceilings
White women have a glass ceiling; black women have brick walls. White women can see to the other side; they can peek through the window and see the parties, money, dancing, and relationships; they can smell the life they want. In contrast, black women are working brick by brick to peek through holes, to see a little light shine through to hope for more hope. Rarely do they have promotion consideration, push, the benefit of the doubt, yet always they must play the pawn. Every brick is the weight of the world, which means you can’t move them without help. Even sadder is the wall is like Fort Knox; no one knows how many bricks there are, to begin with, or how long it would take to move them. Even more importantly, the group closest to us nearest the ranks to help often act as a direct oppressor. Fearful that someone else’s talent will outshine theirs or reduce their ability to move to new levels. Unfortunately, my conclusion here is white women also have corporate PTSD, which they pass their fears of being pushed back and losing their position to those who report to them, and for black women, this only heightens the brick wall. We are not the enemy; we aren’t backstabbing, stealing, or plotting someone’s demise. We are praying and hoping you see yourself in us; you help remove the next brick, you stand up for us, but we are all too often disappointed by our allies’ silence.
Allies of Silence
Over the years, I learned that there are allies, but they face the burden of losing their supporters if they speak up for me. Therefore, I call them ‘allies of silence.’ They can’t help openly, and I can’t engage them for help when needed. When it comes to black women, the peer pressure to choose right from wrong reminds me of the Milgram study in the early 60s. People will almost always choose to follow their leader’s queues even if that means delivering fatal shocks to someone they do not know. Black women are on their own against every battle, and that allows railroading to happen. In a previous interview, VP-elect Kamala brought up the fact that she often heard “no” in her career. That she eats “no” for breakfast, it never was the right time or place for her advancement, and this is not just true for her career but many black women, including myself. I can’t count how many opportunities I inquired about, qualified for, and was an easy frontrunner too, but still, the powers that be, felt it wasn’t the right time. As though others’ plans for me superseded my goals, the lack of control over my opportunities and flexibility to move my career dial left me right where I was, awaiting my chance. A chance that would never come unless I leaped to promote myself, which I did, and it’s working out just fine.
Three Final Thoughts
First, I applaud those of you standing up to fix your companies, move black women’s careers, help someone achieve their dreams. It is not easy. Secondly, black women, please celebrate this win like you would your sister’s engagement, promotion, new business. It is a win for us all. Last, to our silent allies – be the guy that spoke up in the Milgram study and refused to go with the status quo. He is the only person anyone remembers anyway.
About the Author:
Dr. Amera McCoy is an Industrial-Organizational Psychologist who is the Owner and Founder of McCoy Consulting LLC. This organization offers a suite of services for businesses, including content, coaching, classes, and consulting.