When I see a job description that says, “must have a positive attitude,” I just know the workplace environment is unhealthy. To me, it implies that everything must function in a nice, tidy way that leaves little to no room for chaos. The environment does not account for inevitable stresses and frustrations. Triggers are also not accounted for. There cannot be a glitch in the matrix.
A tweet that spoke to my soul is from @blackandimbetta: “I HATE that black woman can’t express emotions without “having an attitude”. Everyone else gets to be exhausted, disappointed, and frustrated, but we just have an attitude ….” The tweet reminds us how Black women cannot present themselves in the workplace. Black women are immediately deemed as having an attitude when expressing how they feel in its varied emotions. Why can’t they just be nice? Instead, Black women are the glitch in the matrix.
At the time I am writing this, I am on Season 6 of “Gilmore Girls,” which is a pivotal time for Rory, one of the titular characters. From Season 5, she is learning that being good, doing everything right, and above and beyond does not always equate to success, even as her reality comes from a white man of built-in generational wealth. Rory always did what she was told with a soft-spoken demeanor. It was when she strayed from her norm was when she learned to be human.
In any place, there is no reason to be disrespectful. Rage, anger, frustration, among other fiery emotions, can be channeled in a way that is soothing and productive. Having grace has been a battle cry with the barrage of changes and regression that weighs heavy on people.
I encourage you to recognize and present yourself as it is needed to shift perspectives on nice as the definitive approach to progress and sustainability as humans. I encourage you to give your Black and brown co-workers, friends, acquaintances, once in a moment people who they need to be at the moment and not just nice for comfort; to recognize their generational responsibility, traumas, and how who they are is often under-considered.
Below are book suggestions that show the breath of people in their being:
- You Don’t Have to Be Everything edited by Diana Whitney. Created and compiled just for young women this anthology is filled with works by a wide range of poets who are honest, unafraid, and skilled at addressing the complex feelings of coming-of-age, from loneliness to joy, longing to solace, attitude to humor. These unintimidating poems offer girls a message of self-acceptance and strength, giving them permission to let go of shame and perfectionism.
- For Brown Girls with Sharp Edges and Tender Hearts by Prisca Dorcas Mojica Rodriguez. For generations, Brown girls have had to push against powerful forces of sexism, racism, and classism, often feeling alone in the struggle. By founding Latina Rebels, Prisca has created a community to help women fight together. She offers wisdom and a liberating path forward for all women of color and crafts powerful ways to address the challenges Brown girls face, from imposter syndrome to colorism. She empowers women to decolonize their worldview, and defy “universal” white narratives, by telling their own stories. Her book guides women of color toward a sense of pride and sisterhood and offers essential tools to energize a movement.
- More than Enough by Elaine Welteroth. In this riveting and timely memoir, Elaine unpacks lessons on race, identity, and success through her own journey, from navigating her way as the unstoppable child of an unlikely interracial marriage in small-town California to finding herself on the frontlines of a modern movement for the next generation of change makers.
- Bad Fat Black Girl: Notes from a Trap Feminist by Sesali Bowen. Sesali offers a new, inclusive feminism for the modern world based on her love of trap music and how it led to hip-hop journalism career. But despite all the beauty, complexity, and general badassery she saw, Sesali found none of that nuance represented in mainstream feminism. Thus, she coined Trap Feminism, a contemporary framework that interrogates where feminism meets today’s hip-hop. Offering a new, inclusive feminism for the modern world and weaving together searing personal essay and cultural commentary, Sesali interrogates sexism, fatphobia, and capitalism all within the context of race and hip-hop. In the process, she continues a Black feminist legacy of unmatched sheer determination and creative resilience.
- Wild Tongues Can’t Be Tamed edited by Saraciea J. Fennell. This anthology rounds up authors to interrogate the different myths and stereotypes about the Latinx diaspora. These fifteen original pieces delve into everything from ghost stories and superheroes, to memories in the kitchen and travels around the world, to addiction and grief, to identity and anti-Blackness, to finding love and speaking your truth.
What books would you add to this list? How do you express yourself in the workplace? How do you show others grace to be who they need to be?