As a co-founder of #CiteASista and one of five founding members of #SisterPhD I am no stranger to spending a lot of my time working towards (and on) supporting Black women.
My research is about Black women.
My life’s work is on centering and supporting Black women.
I work, every day, so fewer Black women have to suffer the ways that I have…
It’s in everything that I say about myself. And while so many of us have no idea who we are outside of work (and that’s another post entirely) for those of us who love the grind, need the hustle, and appreciate everything that comes with it, work is an integral part of who we are… But In watching last week’s Grey’s Anatomy episode and looking at just how much the Dr. Miranda Bailey’s and Maggie Pierce’s work, I realized I and many of my girlfriends do the same… Sometimes to a fault… And I’ve found it difficult to have real conversations about what it means when we take advantage of each other. Afterall, it’s easy to tell a classmate or coworker you dislike to stop messing around or that you’re #ReclaimingYourTime, it may not be the same for a friend, though and especially another Black woman as we try to coalesce and support each other in the name of sisterhood.
But what about times we need to?
The other day, a friend and I vented to one another about our frustrations with co-writing, working, and doing projects with other Black women because it was starting to feel like people were taking advantage of our labor and work. I was crushed when a friend and sister of mine thought it okay to “let me work my magic” on a joint project as if the skills I’d be employing at that moment weren’t things I had to learn. I texted her back, “additional labor, sis” as a means of pointing this out. And while this particular friend was receptive and I was able to push her to see she could do more of the heavy lifting WITH me, some friends simply are not as amenable.
So what do we do when we feel like fellow Black women are asking us to join forces on school and work projects only for them to slack off every time? What does it mean to trade being bamboozled and used for your knowledge by non-Black women, for Black women who do the same and offer little in return?
eh… QTNA, amirite? Let me admit right now that I don’t have all the answers to these questions and certainly not any definitive ones. When I tweeted to ask about how you tell friends you feel you’re being taken advantaged of, most people said something along the lines of address it directly. But not everyone, friend or not, can take this kind of feedback.
I will spend my last breath, dollar, and give the clothing off my back for my fellow Black women. Period. Full stop. End of story.
But I also want us to be able to hold each other accountable and to have difficult conversations so that we can become better, stronger, and more prosperous friends for having done so. And while I won’t pretend to have all the answers, I want to be a part of the solutions. I want my friends to call me in, love on me hard, and help me be better even if I am initially combative or resistive to it because while my brain may not want to hear it, my heart will know I need to feel it.
So, here are three ways we can start to protect our Black Girl Magic together:
1. Name It/ Point it Out
Although we often have a sixth sense and can say pretty much anything without talking to each other in meetings when ridiculousness is at play, this is not always the case within our own friendships. Sometimes we have to name and make plain the fact that we are feeling taken advantage of to our sisters– this means creating space for one another to talk it out in meaningful ways. Taking a moment to name it can prevent any issues with holding one another accountable for things we do not realize we’re doing and enable us to move forward in manners productive for everyone involved.
2. Set Boundaries
Sometimes, sistas need to know what you can and can’t do. I despise group work because I always end up doing most of the work. These days, I simply do not have the time to control every single detail imaginable for a smaller project. By setting boundaries, we can make clear our expectations for engagement before we get to a point of having to have the difficult conversation, and be sure the collaboration we’re envisioning is one that can take place, to begin with.
3. Set a plan for Reevaluation
If you’ve done one and two but still find yourself struggling, you may need to reevaluate what you have in place. Letting those close to us/ we work closest with know that there have been shifts in our priorities and that we need to adjust can help lessen the tension and ultimately the load. By reevaluating our priorities, we can choose to move forward or stop the things we are doing. Not every project has to have us (control freaks/ overachievers) at the helm. Sometimes we have to let go of control and trust that others will see things through. Besides, if it all falls apart because of someone else, that’s on THEM– not you.
Protect your energies, time, and space at all cost– even if this means having to sit another sister down. It’s okay to say no and hold one another accountable– it’s not okay to make someone feel as though people are taking advantage of them.
What do you all think? What ideas and plans do you have for holding yourself and your sista friends accountable? What strategies might you suggest I employ? Sound off in the comments and let us know what you think!