A Tale of Black Women in the Workplace
Sean Spicer tells April Ryan to "stop shaking" her head.
Press Secretary Ryan Spicer’s angry antics during press conferences are not new. We have witnessed them time and time again. In fact, Melissa McCarthy’s spoofs of Spicer on Saturday Night Live go viral almost instantaneously after they air. Surprisingly, however, on Tuesday, Spicer’s latest outburst shed light on an even more troubling issue than his inappropriate anger – the hostile treatment of black women in the workplace.
Tuesday’s press conference provided an in-your-face dose of the dismissive, belittling and demeaning response black professional women often face when they dare to excel in their professional arenas. During Tuesday’s press conference, the Press Secretary became irritated to the point of fuming when April Ryan, the Washington Bureau Chief for American Urban Radio Networks and a trailblazer in her field: (1) questioned the Trump Administration’s ongoing troubles after just two months and (2) began shaking her head in response to an answer Spicer provided.
April Ryan, a graduate of the historically black college Morgan State University, has been a journalist for nearly three decades and, in her words, has “covere[d] White Houses for a long time.” Her resume speaks for itself, so what stuck out most during the fiery exchange between Spicer and Ryan were the four identifiable forms of disrespect hurled her way.Ryan as well as black women like her face these forms of disrespect seasoned with sexist and racial undertones in one way or another all too often in the workplace.
In no particular order, the four forms are as follows:
1. Use of Degrading and Belittling Tone - Spicer quickly cut Ryan off before she could finish her question. He responded with a contentious and combative tone as if offended she would even dare ask her question. Spicer then commanded that Ryan stop shaking her head in response to his answers. Not once, twice. Black women have similar experiences too often in the workplace and Spicer's demeaning behavior further illuminated this issue.
2. Refusal to Hear Ideas - Spicer never answered Ryan’s questions because she never finished asking them. In truth, he wasn’t prepared to listen to her questions and he refused to let her finish them in their entirety. In a society where black women check two minority boxes, it often feels and is tough to be heard. Every day they suit up knowing that they stand the chance of speaking to brick walls.
3. Dismissal of Ideas - Spicer told Ryan, “if the President puts Russian salad dressing on his salad tonight, somehow that’s a Russian connection.” All Americans standing by have heard the very real and concerning connections that the President may have to Russia, but Spicer – like many superiors in the workplace – felt the need to dismiss this idea with a facetious comparison.
4. Discredit Earned Credentials – Spicer told Ryan that she had an agenda, needed to report the facts, and was “hell bent” on projecting a negative image of the current presidential administration. He never once gave her a chance to respond. All too often, black women find themselves backed into a corner, with their credentials questioned, and with no opportunity to refute the claims.
One thing is for sure, black women will continue to achieve despite the forms of disrespect that they may face in the workplace. For instance, even in the face of this treatment; black women are now the most educated group in America. They are also the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs in the country, which may very well be a response to workplace woes. But, that is another article for another day.
The point here is: we must highlight these issues in the workplace, so that we don't idly stand by when they occur. We all (emphasis on all) have a responsibility to challenge them any time they rear their ugly head. Those marginalized groups that black women have traditionally fought for throughout history must now stand up in this fight. Just remember that no matter how the Spicer’s of the world try to dim their brilliant light, the April Ryan’s of the world will wake up each morning to shine bright on another day.