Not Your BLM Mascot

by VernaLee James about a month ago in advice

Finding ways through “Oppression Voyeurism” in the workplace.

Not Your BLM Mascot

The moment it hit me that I was still on display came when I thought I was safe. Working in a corporation has always been a struggle for the melanated queen however in 2020 it has leveled up.

Working in a World not made for me, and by that I mean a melanated woman at a corporation, continues to feel volatile. There are moments I truly think, “hey maybe things are starting to change”, but then I am quickly reminded that not every smile is truly for you.

Oppressive voyeurism is an act and desire in putting the oppressions of others on display in order to gain equity in the workplace. For example, creating training that is meant to support and grow allyship among employees but not protecting the psychological safety of employees from marginalized groups and/or backgrounds.

These acts are violent and create a hostile work environment for marginalized employees. Often times these acts can be masked as “privilege walk” exercises. A privilege walk exercise consists of having a group of people who answer questions with a yes or a no. At the end of the exercise, the participants count up their yes answers, and the more you have the more privileged you are. This is a great technique for the privileged but can be damaging to the underprivileged.

If these acts are not well thought out you can end up letting an employee who is underprivileged, feeling exposed. For instance, if you are the only sista in a group of whites people chances are queen you may be the most marginalized and underprivileged human in the room. So where is the protection for our melanated brothers and sisters?

These types of acts committed within the workplace are usually unseen or masked as necessary measures for the greater good. But the good of who?

These experiences can be avoided. These violent acts can be avoided. You can start avoiding them by elevating black voices. Listen to your melanated employees. Start by understanding what they need to prosper.

We do not want to be your Black Lives Matter mascot. We want to see change. However, Queen until that time you have to be able to empower yourself and protect your peace.

Here are a few ways to navigate through Oppressive Voyeurism in the workplace:

Turn Them Down

It is completely within your right to not participate. Working at a corporation has made me feel obligated to be included in every training. My thought was since there aren't many black employees here someone has to speak up. I have come to understand that it is not my job and it is not my duty to allow a corporation to use my experience for their gain. This does not me I do not support join any pieces of training, that is just silly. But never feel that you are required to be the black voice in the room.

Speak Up & Spill the Tea

If you are being invited to offer your input and your experiences to help improve the business then do not be shy when you find something that needs to be improved. Typically training to build equity within a corporation is hosted by the Diversity and Inclusion department if the company has one. The employees hired for these roles got this job for a reason, right? So challenge them, sis! If you feel you were wronged or exposed inform them. This information should be used to prevent this from happening to another employee in the future. And if your feedback is not well received then maybe that company does not deserve YOU.

Ask for the Receipts

If you experience Oppressive Voyeurism through a "new-age" training usually pertaining to cultivating more allyship within the company, ask for the receipts sis. As for the facilitator to provide evidence and support to back up their methods. All training that is done correctly includes an extensive amount of research in order to create impactful training. Throwing a bunch of items found through Googling is not good enough for you Queen, make sure they can back up what they are saying.

Alongside that, inquire whether or not the company's training and development team had eyes on this project. Many times a D&I department wants to own every aspect of the programs, services, and content they are producing. However, this does not always mean that every D&I Business Partner has skills in regard to creating and facilitating instruction. If your company is not being inclusive with working together through departments to produce top tier material before they present it to you sis, then they have more work to do.

Your psychological safety should be the most important part to protect in the workplace. Anything that risks your safety is not okay and you do not have to accept it.

VernaLee James
VernaLee James
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VernaLee James

A melanated Corporate Queen trying to find a place to express myself, share my stories and find my tribe. I like to discuss social topics and find ways to heal from our emotional burdens in life.

See all posts by VernaLee James