Thought for the Day:
“Be a voice not an echo.”
Question for the Day:
Do you use your voice?
I don’t know how many of you had a chance to catch the Vice Presidential debate that aired a couple weeks back, but if you did, you probably know exactly where this post is headed. Most people who watched the debate between Senator Kamala Harris and Vice President Mike Pence felt that she came out victorious, and I tend to agree. Her arguments resonated more with me as a person most concerned about the handling (or mishandling) of the COVID-19 pandemic and escalating racial tensions in our country. Yet beyond that, it was Kamala’s assertive but professional chin checks that won the night for me. Though Pence tried to trample over Kamala’s responses and butt in on her allotted time, she consistently refused to be silenced and demanded to be heard in equal measure. The (you must not know ’bout me) faces, (the devil is a lie) squinting, and the (negro please) side eyes were familiar to all women, especially women of color. Those of us fluent in Black Womanese knew that Kamala skillfully handled Pence in a way that was the diplomatic equivalent to “who gone check me, boo?” and me and that photobombing fly, were here for it.
(Talk to the hand, Pence.)
Though, I’m sure the die hard Trump/Pence supporters were quick to label Kamala as disrespectful, rude or “angry,” the truth is, she was simply demonstrating to the world what it means to be a woman, especially a Black woman, in our White male dominated society. Most women know what it means to speak up at their own risk. Women have historically had to fight to be heard because our thoughts and opinions were generally dismissed or undermined. A woman with something to say is frequently written off as emotional or irrational where a man with a firm stance is seen as respectable and an example of unwavering strength. Women who voice strong opinions are stubborn and “bitchy” were men with strong opinions are steady and well-suited for leadership. It’s a double standard that the average woman must live with. Yet, Kamala’s refusal to be silenced during the debate, gave all women a little more motivation to keep fighting to be heard ourselves.
Speaking as a Black woman, navigating a White male dominated society is exhausting. We already feel that we have to be twice as good to get half the credit and recognition, but maintaining that recognition often comes at a cost. When a woman of color achieves a high level of success, there’s this unspoken expectation that she should just be happy that she’s gotten this far. We’re supposed to be eternally grateful to the powers that be for “giving us an opportunity” and “taking a chance on us” when the reality is, if a woman advances to the level of boss, you best believe she busted her behind to get there and earned every ounce of that success. However, understanding how fragile female power can be, women have traditionally adopted the false belief that we should just “go along to get along.” If men “let” us lead, we might see it as necessary to “not make waves” by challenging authority.
So many women have ignored offenses and overlooked sexist or racially insensitive comments in an effort to not rock the boat. We are much more likely to bite our tongues in meetings, stifle our beliefs, and withhold our feedback as to not be labeled “difficult” or “sassy.” If it’s true that women are more likely than men to hold back their authentic selves and honest thoughts once they’ve elevated professionally, then you can imagine what pressure a woman of color in a position of power must feel. Hence, the need to celebrate Senator Harris’ example of reclaiming our time and our voice. When Pence attempted to cut her off and intrude upon her response time, Kamala’s simple yet powerful words, “I’m speaking,” served as an important reminder to all women that we must continue the fight to be heard no matter who we’re up against.
Personally, I’ve always considered myself to be a free thinker who opts to reason independently and draw my own conclusions based on my faith and personal values. However, I haven’t always given myself permission to express those honest thoughts and feelings until I got ‘good and grown.’ As someone who’s struggled financially and hit more than a few road blocks in my quest for success, I used to be afraid to express any controversial opinions for fear that I might jeopardize my reputation or offend the people who signed my paycheck. However, age, maturity, and wisdom have since taught me that a reputation of inauthenticity is nothing to protect. I’d rather people NOT like me for who I really am than to like me for something I’m not.
I don’t expect that everyone should agree with me or even like what I have to say, but like Kamala, I do expect to be respected and heard. We as women and women of color, probably don’t have much business going along with the majority anyway when we naturally have a minority perspective. What good is being different or representing “diversity” if we choose to align all of our thoughts with dominant society? There is value in thinking independently and having enough courage to express those unique thoughts unapologetically. People can always choose to take or leave whatever you have to say, but you will ALWAYS have the right to say it. So, if it ever comes down to staying quiet and complacent versus speaking your truth, choose to honor your voice. And if you’re unsure of where to begin, follow Kamala’s lead and know that a simple but affirmative “I’m speaking,” is an excellent place to start.
“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.”