For far too long, Black women have been characterized as angry, loud and aggressive—especially in the workplace. The stereotype has plagued generations before me and, unfortunately, even my own. Even during a collective move to inclusivity within the BIPOC and LGBTQ+ groups, somehow the “angry Black woman” cliché lives on.
However, it’s a tale as old as time. The “angry Black woman” hasn’t only created a rift in their ability to reach success, it’s also making many Black women voiceless. The idea that being angry is related to their personality type. Black women are among the most educated demographic groups in the US, and they’re also the fastest-growing demographic in the process of starting their own businesses. And yet, and yet, we’re still disrespected and, ultimately, left behind when it comes to everything including work, promotions and opportunities.
Let’s contrast this with the rise of the so-called “soft girl” aesthetic, which is all about embracing one’s tender, gentle and emotionally intuitive nature. How can Black women truly live this well-deserved lifestyle—even in the workplace—without being taken advantage of? Just be nice, right? But somehow, even choosing kindness turned out to make everything worse and it’s something I know too well.
Just take everyone’s favorite rap superstar, for example. After years of mistreatment in the music industry, Megan Thee Stallion’s new album, Traumazine, reveals how her “too nice” behavior has led people to assume who she is and how she’s always going to react. “When you are nice for so long,” she told The Cut, “and you don’t really ever give too much back talk and nobody’s ever seen you step out of character, they assume what your character is. They assume you’re not going to stand up. That’s when people start to try you.” This is what the read about me because I embrace kindness.
Many jobs, even in your own niche, jobs are almost impossible to snag. You have to ignore blatant racism and microaggressions to be “too nice” & when you can’t then you become the “you’re too Black.” stereotype. You literally have to work twice as hard & be twice as nice, even when you don’t want to be. This means saying “yes” when you really mean “no,” withholding your feelings about things and invading your personal boundaries for the sake of not stepping on toes. Entering that too-nice territory has become a way to seek safety and respect, when it was never supposed to be anything more than a courtesy.
The incorrect belief that Black women could take (or even somehow deserved) more pain dates back to slavery. This is displayed in books, movies and politics, eventually forming an image we can’t unsee. This tend to characterize us all as this stereotype, leaving little-to-no room to see us as anything else—no matter how well-rounded or different we may be from one another. Now, why should Black women have to endure it?
As a rising group of business owners and educated leaders, Black women deserve to be treated like such. Being too nice shouldn’t be a default simply to feel seen as you are, and nobody should have to worry that speaking up for themselves might cost them anything. As a society, we need to say good-bye to microaggressions, gaslighting and inequality toward Black women in the — for good.