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diaryofanegress

Observations of an Invisible Woman

Dear Diary… #2

Last night I cleaned out my junk drawer and found the business card that I should’ve thrown out years ago. It was from my very first professional job interview. I was a new grad and eager and desperate to land my first job. I drove to a little upstate New York hospital after having a dynamite phone interview. We hit it off straight way. I dazzled him with my personality and even though he knew I was a novice, he welcomed me to meet him face to face.

Nervous and wanting to make a good impression, I picked up a large box of doughnuts, bagels and coffee from the local coffee shack. When I entered the building, I swear, movement slowed down. All of a sudden, people just turned around to openly stare at me. It was then that I knew just how very black I was.

The receptionist looked…uneasy as I approached her. Remembering my Rules of Talking to White People Manual, I smiled at her. I told her I was here to see Mr. X, from the Nursing Department. She made no move or sound. I explained that he was expecting me. She stammered, ” Have a seat, uh, miss, and I’ll let him know you’re here.”

I sat down and scanned the room. I was the only black face there.

Again.

I began to notice how everyone that walked by me was trying ever so carefully not to look at me. It was then that Mr. X walked up to me, shuffled his feet and said tentatively, ” Miss Truthbetold?” I nodded and offered him my brightest smile and extended my hand to shake. He hesitated before accepting it. We walked down this narrow corridor and I noticed that not one person who passed by looked at me directly. You know that old Urban Legend: If you look directly at a Negress, you’ll turn to dust?

I sat down when prompted and pulled out my meager resume. I was shaking. I knew that this would not end well. I felt his “vibe” all over me. He looked at my resume and said he was sorry but the department needed an experienced person. They couldn’t train anyone new. I felt defeated And for a reason that I could not explain…ashamed. I wanted to cry but stubbornly I kept my eyes dry and voice even.

“OK. Well, thanks for your time.” I got up to leave and half expected him to say something reassuring. He said nothing. I got in my car and the dam burst. I cried for allowing myself to feel the exhilaration of hope. I cried for the hate stares I received that penetrated me. For the lies he told…he knew damn well I was a novice. I cried for wasting my gas to drive up to that damn racist place. I cried for the way my blackness made everyone uncomfortable. I cried for my weakness and my curse that will never be lifted. I cried in despair. I cried in rage. I cried in fear of never finding a job.

I cried because I am black.

I drove home with a deeper understanding of what it means to be black in AmeriKlan. No college course could ever teach me that. I would no longer doubt that I was imagining things when I felt that “vibe” coming from whites. I would no longer doubt that AmeriKlan hated me for no other reason than the colour of my skin. And perhaps, most importantly, I would never again allow anyone to diminish my Black Pride. With each toll booth that passed, my depression lifted and became defiant rage. I thought about this unknown, uneasy feeling I’ve had my whole life. It was called Blackness. And now, I knew its name.

What was your first job related racist experience?

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19 thoughts on “Dear Diary… #2

  1. I’m sorry you had to go through that, but as we know this is what it’s like to be Black in this place.

    This is the cold reality I want some Black people to feel when for the life of them they think they are not Black like me.

    I live for situations like this one. I really get a kick outta making white folk nervous and jump at the chance when every it arises.

  2. @ Truthbetold

    Beautiful post.

  3. SomeGuy on said:

    Thank you for sharing this. Powerful.

  4. leigh204 on said:

    Aww, DOAN. Reading your post about your first horrible job interview made me want to reach out from my computer screen and give you a big hug.

  5. You’re sweet Leigh.

    When I write, I purge. So now I can put this to bed.

  6. I don’t have a memory of an experience quite like this one, but my reaction would have been the same as yours when I was in my 20’s. But as I’ve gotten older when something similar happened to me, I simply apologized for being rude and walked out of the interview stating that I didn’t the job would be a “good fit”. Yep, I did that in 1995, and given how badly my interviewer/future supv. “went off” on me afterwards, I made the right decision.

    And yes, I “read” her crazy a$$ in a professional manner of course, as I was walking out the door.

  7. Edit: My first statement should have read early 20’s.

  8. Mickey on said:

    Why would she go off on you if you refused to work for her? Did she have some kind of ulterior motive?

  9. My first experience was also when I first graduated. I walked in a financial services/insurance company eager to get the job and live a great life. Of course, my hair was natural and my brown skin was oily because of the hot weather. Still, I was professionally dressed and did everything I could to convey a sense of professionalism and ability to do the job.

    The man behind the desk told me point blank that he was trying to run a successful business and that he had very little confidence that I was the right person. So, I just smiled and said thank you for your time. Before he even finished his sentence, I knew he didn’t want to hire me because I was a Black woman with natural hair.

    I wasn’t shocked or hurt, but that experience definitely pulled me back to reality on the fact that it didn’t matter how qualified I was for any position. As long as I was a Black woman, that’s all I’d ever be. Being a Black woman with natural hair was just icing on my mistreatment cake.

  10. Thank you for sharing that with us. Sorry for the bad treatment. I will be posting on Saturday a study of hair in the black culture and how it affects us.

  11. I thinking is by walking out of the interview she viewed me as an uppity ni@@er. You know some folks get very upset when you act like you don’t need them.

  12. The position I take on “natural hair” is probably going to upset a few people. But let me preface this by saying I have natural hair that I usually wear pressed out, in a fro’, or in twists as I have it now.

    I think if you wear natural hair in ANY type of interview, you’d be best to conform to what’s acceptable stylewise if you want to get the job. For example, I would NEVER wear a fro’ in ANY type of interview because it’s too militant a style for many white folks to accept. So for my current new gig, I wore twists and pulled it back into a nice bun for the interview. But I’ve been rocking a fro’ since then!!

  13. Mickey on said:

    I understand what you are saying, but it also goes to show you how superficial our society is. We eliminate talent based on looks and hair texture/type which, in many cases, have little to do with choice and everything to do with genetics.

  14. ynotme on said:

    Negress,

    A company’s employees are its greatest asset… I am sure you would have been one of its best employee. Please don’t be disappointed, instead, look at it as their lost.

  15. ynotme on said:

    @ Mickey

    I understand what you are saying, but it also goes to show you how superficial our society is. We eliminate talent based on looks and hair texture/type which, in many cases, have little to do with choice and everything to do with genetics.

    Agree 100%

  16. even today, I was around four “gays”; in fact, one of them declared that they had previously been employed in theatre for quite a few years… “in-drag”. needless to say, he was BLACK. I had to simply not flinch, and just act as if it was “nothing really.” (IT WAS, however) at least it gave me an insight into what its like for whites to pretend they are “fine” with us.

  17. mary burrell on said:

    It made me sad to read about your bad experience. I’ve had way too many to count myself. What does’nt kill us makes us stronger.

  18. What a wonderful blog. I stumbled upon it today for the first time and I like what I’ve been reading.
    I’ve been going through all the postings and I came across this one, and I want to comment for the first time, because I, too, went through a similar experience.

    Let me qualify all of this by stating that I never have, don’t, and never will play the “race card”, nor do I like when others do. In addition, I’ve had dozens of interviews, and dozens of times I wasn’t hired, but I never thought my race was the/a factor.

    A few years ago, I had a phone interview with an HR rep from an insurance company in PA. At the time, I was living in the midwest and was planning to move back to my home state of PA. My recent experience at that time was in insurance, so I looked up some [insurance] companies in the area via the internet and submitted my resume on their websites.
    The phone interview went exceptionally well; the woman was obviously impressed with both my credentials and my responses to her questions. There were chuckles and laughs toppled with compliments – all from her.
    She scheduled a face-to-face interview a couple weeks from the day that we spoke. She informed me that I would have to undergo a test first, as all candidates were, to measure typing skills and computer knowledge.
    Two weeks later I’m walking up to the front door of this corporation and immediately I began to feel uneasy. Couldn’t understand why at the time, but it was made plain shortly afterward.
    When I walked in, everyone I saw was white – the receptionist, the employees that I saw walking in the corridors. For God’s sakes even the two janitors that I saw were white. What successful corporation has the audacity not to have black maintenance workers? (Sarcasm.)
    I was told, in a friendly way, to have a seat as I was early. So as minutes go by, a few more candidates show up. All white.
    So the white test-giver comes out and asks us to follow him into the test-taking room. As we go, we travel through the customer service center.
    All of them were were white. I didn’t see one black face, not even a light-skinned person and what enterprise has the nerve to not even hire a a light-skinned sister/brother to pacify us? (More sarcasm.)
    What business has an all-white customer service center? Not to sound demeaning because Lord knows I’ve had several c/s jobs (and liked it to a degree), but customer service in many corporations is often seen as the starting point, the bottom of the rung so to speak. You usually find us in this area.
    But in that place, it was whiter than ________________ (insert your analogy here).
    And that’s when I instinctively knew.

    I passed the test easily (I was complimented on this also) and was told that someone would get in touch w/ me. No one did after a couple of weeks, so I made the initiative to do so by phone. No one responded to my inquisitive voice mail initially, but eventually someone called me back and told me that other candidates were chosen. I asked this woman that I spoke to what was it specifically that prevented me from being hired; was I over-qualified? Under-qualified? Did I stink?
    She couldn’t give me a reason. But I knew the reason.

    That experience has been the only experience I’ve had dealing with racial prejudice in the job hiring process. I have no proof of racial discrimination that would hold up in an investigation , but it’s one of those unmistakable proofs that stems from the gut.
    You know you were discriminated against.

    It took 32 years for my blackness to manifest itself like that.
    32 years.

    Thanks Negress, for sharing your story.

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