You’re Not Special; Just White

Yesterday on Facebook, I came across an article from The Wall Street Journal (I didn’t add the link cause it’s not free to read the whole article and I know how y’all are) about a woman who sat out of the workforce for two years and came back to end up CEO.

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Apparently, her story is supposed to inspire the rest of us. Similar to Sheryl Sandberg with her book, “Lean In” and all these other people who have pulled off career feats, these people allegedly show us the power of focus, tenacity, and intention.

Unfortunately for The Wall Street Journal, that lady they reported on (Deanna Mulligan off Guardian Life Insurance), Sheryl Sandberg and the rest of them, there is actually no magic here.

They aren’t special. They’re just white.

At one time, I had a friend who is an attorney. I remember her telling our friend group (confidentially, of course), that she was conducting a deposition at a hospital. One of the people she had to depose was the VP of the hospital. They opened with a line of questioning on this VP’s credentials.

Two years of college at a community college, no degree, no work history in the medical field nor hospital administration.

No, she didn’t start as the janitor at the hospital and work her way up. She came in as the VP making more than the fucking president.

She was also a white woman.

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*sits back and folds arms and re-reads that shit and gets mad all over again thinking about the highly qualified Black people that applied and interviewed for that job but they didn’t get it cause….*

Black women are the most educated demographic in the country, yet we can’t seem to pull off these dynamic feats in the workplace where we are allowed to take time off to raise kids, recover from divorce, go through an extended illness, etc. and come back and slide into 6-figure positions as if we never missed a day even though our education and previous experience suggests that we are a fit.

Nobody “takes a chance” on the high-achieving Black woman with potential. Instead, we get bombarded with questions about what we’ve been doing the last two years and statements that express doubt about whether or not we are capable of performing the job tasks adequately. If we’re offered a position, it’s usually some administrative support role with a shitty salary under the supervision of someone who shouldn’t be left alone with a goldfish.

Almost a year ago, I sat being interviewed by two non-Black women. In that interview, the following statements were made:

“You’re really confident.”

“I believe you could do well at this job.”

“That was a great idea!” (followed by her writing down my idea that I’m sure she used}

“You seem really competent.”

After an hour of that, one of the same interviewers said, “I’m sure you can do the job well, but I don’t know…”

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Mmmkay.

About four months later, I saw that the job was back up on the company’s website so apparently, the less qualified candidate they hired (I already know) didn’t meet their expectations.

For all the kvetching that white women do about how unfairly they are treated in the workplace, they still do better than non-white women and even when they “make it,” forget that 1) white privilege was likely a huge part of their rise and 2) there are women of color who should be where they are but aren’t and never will be because white men have convinced themselves that hiring a white woman in upper management is what Affirmative Action is all about.

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This is from an article the NY Times wrote about the fact that this partner class was so…white.

Deanna Mulligan noted that her time off taught her focus and made her realize that life is not a straight line. No shit, Sherlock! Black people could have told you that because no matter how hard we work, no matter how educated we are, we are faced with the prospect that people like yourself can and will shoot past us simply because of systemic racism.

Let me back up one minute. Click here and scroll down to where it says “Leadership” and see all the white faces that run the show over there.

Am I saying she’s not qualified for her position? Not necessarily. But what I know is that a Black person can’t be out of a job for 6 months without interviewers behaving as if all the knowledge they previously acquired has leaked from their ear and evaporated, thus disqualifying them from the position. What I know is that for all the articles I’ve seen on LinkedIn about not staying in a position for too long because you risk becoming stale and unattractive to future employers, every Black person I know who has tried this is believed to be a “job-hopper” by white interviewers and passed over.

So I guess these employment hacks, like “leaning in” and bouncing every 10 months only work for white people; the men first, and then the women.

I watched this video where Deanna Mulligan talks about her “unorthodox” rise. It’s only two minutes but you’ll hear the delusion I’m mentioning in this blog post. “Find your passion,” “be yourself” (since when has being yourself EVER worked for Black women outside of rap?), “hard work” (Black women are and have always been the hardest working people on the planet – we have no choice).

In that video, the claim is made that she mentors women. I wonder how many of her mentees are Black.

To the people who’ll say she probably had good connections, I’ll offer this: because Black people are often boxed out of the positions that qualify someone to be a “good connection,” we’re back at square one. The fact is that white people are in a position to close ranks at whim and if they want to hire the mediocre son of a golfing buddy over the brilliant Black MBA, that’s what they do (which is why I don’t listen to white people who claim Black people want a handout when they are the original makers and takers of handouts).

 

By the way, by the time I post this, I would have written an e-mail to corporate headquarters asking why every single person listed under the “Leadership” heading on Guardian Life Insurance’s website is white. Deanna Mulligan is the CEO and the other woman is head of Human Resources and well, we all know about white women being in charge of Human Resources.

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