Discussing politics for Black women possess unique challenges. The first is the “angry Black woman” stigma. It is already easy to be labeled as a B*** when a woman is remotely assertive or direct. This label gets exaggerated for Black women and becomes the “angry Black woman” phenomena, especially, if they recognize the systematic oppressive barriers facing Black people. Moreover, if you are a Black woman, who not only recognizes the systematic oppressive barriers, but also want to change the system, some groups will label you as a radical.
With this in mind and my vast experience working in many diverse professional settings: private, government both federal and state level; small and large non-profits; with nothing else but all white males; in a very diverse environment with a mixture of cultures, ethnicities and religions; I had to learn how to handle political conversations as a Black woman without them effecting my work. Sometimes, I learned the easy way and other times the hard way.
The first trick I learned is not to engage in political based conversations at work. While I do not engage in the discussion, I do listen to them. Doing this allows me to gain insight into people’s behavior. I believe this is probably the easiest and best trick because most people cannot separate their politics from how they treat people.
My second trick is if you have to engage in political discussions or any heated debates, stay neutral; yet, also stay true to yourself. You do this by making a comment but not making a statement about the topic. Not agreeing to something that is not true, but also not going into details either. Keep your cards close. Again most people have a hard time separating their politics away from how they treat people.
Third stay professional, do not yell or scream. If you find that you cannot control yourself leave the conversation. More than likely you will not be able to persuade anyone to change his or her views, anyway. Also, it is important to remember that being emotionless and calm is held to high esteem in White America. Being too emotional or passionate about a subject could cause you to look weak and irrational. One has to know their audience and how to deliver their message. This is key because if the wrong delivery method is used the entire message can get lost in an abyss sea of miscommunication. So remember this tip when at work.
Overall, these are the best practices I have learned, which has allowed me to move in and out of diverse work atmospheres without hindering my career. Nevertheless, I prefer to keep my opinions to myself and I focus on my task. I save the controversy for my personal life. However, if you are a person who likes to talk politics then by all means do as you please; but remember for every action there is a consequence. While, I think there are unique challenges, which face people of color when engaging in political discussions at work, I do believe these tips could help anyone.
What tips or tricks do you use?
Or do you even think that people of color face unique challenges when discussing politics?
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