On Tuesday, March 28, 2017, Fox News Commentator Bill O’Reilly said that he couldn’t listen to Congresswoman Maxine Waters, a leader in the opposition of the Trump Administration and its policies, during her latest address on the House floor because he was distracted by her “James Brown wig.
“I didn’t hear a word she said,” he told the anchors of Fox and Friends Tuesday morning after the program aired a clip of former Congressional Black Caucus chair Waters on the House floor. “I was looking at the James Brown wig. If we have a picture of James Brown — it’s the same wig”
Later that afternoon, U.S. Press Secretary Sean Spicer offered similarly snide remark to veteran Washington Post journalist April Ryan to “stop shaking her head” in response to an answer he gave.
These instances, along with a rebuttal given by Congresswoman Waters during her Chris Hayes interview, have inspired fellow professional women of color to share their similar experiences with the viral hashtag #BlackWomenAtWork. The hashtag was started by Vice President of Teach for America and Creator of Build Love, Brittany Packnatt, “so people don’t think it’s rare.”
This happens to black women everyday at work.
Share your Maxine and April moments, so people don’t think this is rare. Use #BlackWomenAtWork
— Brittany Packnett (@MsPackyetti) March 28, 2017
I am a strong black woman. I cannot be intimidated, and I’m not going anywhere. #BlackWomenAtWork
— Maxine Waters (@MaxineWaters) March 29, 2017
While shocking to many, these instances are far too familiar for Black women. Discussions of style of hair, mannerisms, and other aspects of outward appearances often overshadow the contributions, hard work, and thoughts provided by Black women in the workplace and beyond.
“I’m surrounded every day by brilliant, confident, incredible black professional women who get demeaned despite their prowess. Today, I was over it,” Packnett told The Huffington Post. “I have deep an abiding respect for Congresswoman Waters and Ms. Ryan who are both trailblazers in their fields.
They are to be respected, just like every other black woman who rises each day to contribute to this society in ways that are all-too-often taken for granted.”
In wake of the now-viral comments made by O’Reilly and Spicer, the hashtag garnered thousands of that chronicle the daily challenges of racism, sexism, and pay inequity Black women experience in their daily professional experiences
While company culture differs from office to office, #BlackWomenAtWork recognizes not just the disadvantages these prejudices present but also highlights the opportunities companies and leaders have to address this long-lasting issue in corporate America.