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Hatin’ in the Sistahood: When a Co-Worker Looks Like You but Ain’t for You
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    “Do not fret because of evildoers, nor be envious of the workers of iniquity.” Psalm 37:1

    Sitting among fellow sisters in media for a panel at the UMKC Legacy Summit, I marveled at the young, bright and energetic female students. As we shared our perspective of being a WOC –Woman of Color – in our respective industries, one journalism major shared this:

    “I am finding other women – fellow black women – don’t want to help me! I was shocked because I just knew they would embrace me.”

    Sweet, young sister.

    Welcome to the reality that everyone who looks like you may not be for you.

    As we spoke this truth to her, I reflected on the earlier days in my career when a number of my harshest critics were other black women. I was floored because I also assumed the sistas would be my teachers. Yes, some were and I am grateful for even the smallest gestures of kindness. Still, there were experiences where I learned just because we shared the same skin color didn’t mean they would be my cheerleaders, mentors or provide constructive help. One incident in particular reminds me of the visceral hatred that can occur among our presumed sisterhood.

    As I was coming in the back door for a shift, the person working at the time looked at me over her shoulder and put the phone on speaker. I didn’t think anything of it until the person on the line with her began to crucify me with their words.

    Yes. To her. A co-worker I actually admired.

    I walked in the studio and she glanced at me before telling the other person she had to go. I was still a bit immature and ready to fight any battle — with my words and dem hands! I knew she set me up to hear the conversation. While I was angry enough to pop her in the esophagus, I paused.

    I realized I was more sad than angry.

    But then it all came to me: she was always out to discourage me. Despite her smiles and hugs, I recalled little comments here and there.

    “You’re only doing this part time. If something (bad) happens here, you’ll be okay.”

    “You need to hear your critics; your friends probably talk about you, too.”

    “You’re not planning to do this full time, are you?”

    No, she was never for me. However, down the line we parted ways and never saw each other again.

    (Sidebar: not even on social media.)

    The struggle was real in my early radio days! My confidence was broken for many years but I finally grew up; maturing and being humbled by my trials.

    I honed my craft.

    I developed thick skin.

    I found my “niche” in this arena.

    And put my trust in God – not people.

    “Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.” Psalm 37:3

    Back to the UMKC student, though.

    When she expressed her disappointment, we gave her a few points to remember. Here’s a few of my own I want to share:

    Accept whoever wants to help you – whether they look like you or not. It’s possible that several of our biggest influencers, advocates and confidants can come from unexpected places and ethnicities. Don’t be bound by the belief that only a woman of the same race can help you. It’s great when we can connect with other women of color but it’s not the only way to achieve success or find support in the workplace. Whether a woman is black, white, Latina, Asian or another nationality, if you gel with them and they’re supportive, build a bridge — not a wall.

    Acquire outside support. Look, everyone in the office does not have to be your friend. Yes, it’s good to develop positive relationships in the workplace but don’t miss out on people who enjoy you outside of your 9 to 5. Spend time with family and friends who pour into you. All of us need personal allies – and they do not have to work with us! In fact, it’s healthy to enjoy life outside of how we get our coins. We spend so much time trying to climb the ladder of success we can miss out on creating extraordinary memories with those we love – even in the ordinariness of everyday living. If you’re a Christian- although you know this place is not our final home- it’s a blessing if we can relish the time we do have here. Don’t have close family or friends? Find activities you like and meet people you have commonalities with. Enjoy life outside of work but also take pleasure in the fruit of your labor. It’s about balance.

    “Here is what I have seen: It is good and fitting for one to eat and drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labor in which he toils under the sun all the days of his life which God gives him; for it is his heritage.” Ecclesiastes 5:18

    Assess character instead of making assumptions. The Bible tells us that we shall know a tree by their fruit (Matthew 7:16). Many times – particularly younger ladies – immediately look at a woman of influence and know they want to be mentored by them. That’s fine – but watch them for a while. Peep their interaction with others and note how they treat you. If a woman you admire comes across as competitive, cutting and conniving, do yourself a favor: don’t try to win them over. Oftentimes when another woman sees you as a threat it is in their nature to be cold; ostracizing or belittling you. Shoot, one or two may decide out the gate they “just don’t like you”! If someone doesn’t respond to you positively, you know where you stand. Relationships should be organic; don’t force yourself on anyone. On the other hand, if someone appears open, get to know them beyond their appearance or title.

    Pray for God to bless the work of your hands but never forget this faith-fact:

    God’s got you…no matter who is against you.


    (Photo by Clarke Sanders on Unsplash)