Twice as good. Before I knew this was the standard at which I always had to be on a given job, I was long being conditioned. My father had a great work ethic. Didn’t matter if it was a crap job or a prestigious position, he worked it. He was a charismatic, well-dressed, and philosophical man. As a kid, I automatically assumed he was a collegial scholar. It wouldn’t be until I was a bit older, and through his actions, that it was true, but it just hadn’t happened yet. He did graduate college; a way in which to boost his profile in a position he’d already attained in spite of. Cart before the horse…
Despite such (and in part, attributed to some personal life choices) he wasn’t nearly as successful as he should’ve been. I always wondered why. Especially when I would see or hear comeback stories of those that were worse off than my dad. Or, even worse, those that were given second (third and fourth) chances.
It wouldn’t be until I got much older— and in some dimensions, mirroring my dad— with a few jobs under my belt when it would definitely be evident; on the heels of what happened during this life event, it would be where my eyes were opened wide. In that nice package-handling job I had for a time, there was this one instance where I observed a big, brooding figure taking one of the managers to task. I envied him; because I knew I couldn’t ever do such a thing. All I could do, is maybe, hopefully ask for someone to explore the possibility of looking into a problem I may’ve had with an injustice that was all but egregious. Ensuring that I did so with the least about of “bass in my voice” as possible.
At my current workplace, there is a hodgepodge of demographics: black, white, hispanic, asian… I made it a point to “acknowledge” all that were “in the tribe.” There’s this one woman I work around who makes me smile inside, because I can hear in all the judicious, effectively enunciated answers she gives, that she knows the game. This is certainly apparent when it comes to the person who sits at the desk across from her. An older, sometimes cantankerous, undoubtedly straightforward in her opinion… white woman. To hear them sometimes discussing an issue, and to hear where its edging toward a difference of opinion— my “sister” linguistically dances like a ballerina. And while in some respects this is something that I sit and celebrate, on the other hand I think to myself, why is it her cohort can shoot from the hip with wanton abandon…?
Very recently, I pulled her to the side and said to her, very enigmatically (because that’s how I roll), “Sis, I see you. Bravo for playing this game the way that you have to, and no there is no tap-dancing to your moves. As if my opinion even matters.”
I was telling her that I recognize and encourage her efforts, and that it isn’t for nothing. What she is is a reference for a wayward little brown girl who has so far been conditioned to talk with her neck and as loud as possible. You can absolutely win an argument without going up an octave, win a war without so much as deploying an offense. As Jimmy the Greek so eloquently tried to state in a long-forgotten time, “Blacks were bred to be better than the whites, and that’s just the simple truth.”
While that statement, in some strange way, is flattering, I don’t claim any kind of superiority (because I can’t levitate… yet). However, as previously mentioned, even before I knew what was happening, I— as was many of us— was being bred to go twice as hard. Good, bad, or otherwise, this will be something that I, indeed, instill in my kids.