By: Shea Harris
I. Am. A. Black. Woman. I’ve never tried to hide it or deny it. From elementary to high school, I didn’t necessarily have to worry about the color of my skin. I never thought my skin color intimidated people or threatened them. I knew my history as a black person and I knew what my people went through. For some reason as a child, I gave people the benefit of the doubt that times had changed. I was so disappointed to find out at a young age we had not made much progress as a country.
I joined the Clinical Research industry at the end of April 2014. As a new young professional I made sure I was polite to my coworkers and avoided office gossip and drama. I truly believe my outlook changed once I was more aware of the injustice occurring. The more I looked at headlines, read articles and skimmed through twitter, I saw an increase of black faces being treated unfairly. I couldn’t help but think what the hell is going on?
I started uttering the words I’m scared to have a black son. As time went on it turned into I’m scared to have a black child. I think about Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland and the list goes on of the unnecessary killings. I think about how I always have to be on guard when walking around. I think about how others are so unhappy with themselves and choose to hate us. What makes these events even more unfortunate is that I would normally find out about the occurrences while on my way to work or as I’m sitting in my cubicle.
Dealing with the injustices in the black community as a young professional is a touchy subject for me. It’s not touchy because I don’t want to talk about it, it’s touchy because I have to keep my composure in the office. One particular situation comes to mind as I reflect on my young professional journey. The news stations continuously highlighted the riots in Baltimore after the death of Freddie Gray. As a black person, the knowledge of another dead black man hurt my soul. When I was informed it was in the custody of police officers, it made my blood boil. I understand everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but there is a time and a place to express your thoughts and the work place isn’t one of them.
The morning the governor declared a State of Emergency on Baltimore, MD because of the riots, I began to hear a lot of whispering in the office. I can remember it like yesterday when a coworker said: I don’t understand why they are tearing up the city. Why would you riot? I hope they can gain back control of that community. If they want to gain back control and not hurt anyone, why don’t they just use rubber bullets?
RUBBER BULLETS YALL. RUBBER. BULLETS. When I tell you I was pissed off for the entire day and couldn’t even get any work done! How can you be so stupid? You didn’t say oh I hope everyone is okay. You suggested rubber bullets like an idiot. To put the icing on the cake, the fellow who suggested this brilliant idea was a white man.
I, being a black woman, knew the work place wasn’t the best place to discuss these unfortunate events. In that moment I realized, common sense isn’t common at all. When the gentleman suggested rubber bullets, my mind went straight to the use of rubber bullets in Ferguson, MO. I remember clicking through pictures of those injured in Ferguson by rubber bullets. I remember the hurt and pain displayed upon the faces of those in Ferguson and that same look was on the faces of those in Baltimore.
Just reflecting on the past year alone in the black community is hard to cope with. It’s even more difficult going to work and making sure my attitude doesn’t reflect my thoughts and feelings. There have been numerous times I have had a terrible attitude and shown disgust on my face because of the reporting of injustice. If I’ve learned anything over this past year and a half in the industry, I’ve learned to make sure I always have headphones.
I don’t need to hear your justification of the death of black people. I don’t need you to hear you say what they should have done. I don’t have the time or energy to explain and beat into your head over and over why what’s happening to my people is dead wrong. I don’t have the time and energy to explain to you why songs by J Cole, Kendrick Lamar and Beyoncé (to name a few) are necessary. I am exhausted. I need YOU to do your research. I need YOU to stop being the victim. I need YOU to see that MY people are suffering and have been suffering for years.