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An Uncomfortable Revelation

Black History Month panelists Shauna Moore/DEI Lead, Roxanne Cain/CSSO Manager, Hyacinth Hudgson/Hairdresser and Allana Sullivan/Research and Academics
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February is Black History Month. A Grand Rounds session on February 1st discussed the implications of being Black in the workplace.

When I left the Black History Month discussion in our lecture theatre this morning, I have to be honest...I felt sad. Sad, and more than a little uncomfortable.

One of the panelists, CSSO Manager Roxanne Cain, told it like it is, and IT isn't all, in her words "flowers and roses."

Let me pause for a moment to acknowledge all of the excellent diversity and equity programs we have here at Ontario Shores. Let me also recognize that most of us who work here do our part to be inclusive and equitable. However, talking the talk doesn't mean actually walking the right walk.

If you know her, it may surprise you to learn that the Roxanne you interact with every day is not presenting us with her true self.

Uncomfortable?

"I feel safe in this space (the lecture theatre) to share my story, but, it is not that way in my day-to-day work life." Roxanne told us. "I have no choice but to code-switch."

Code-switch? Until today, I have to admit, I had never heard that term.

The Harvard Business Review best defines code-switching as a 'strategy for Black people to successfully navigate interracial interactions and has large implications for their well-being, economic advancement, and even physical survival.' In other words, code-switching is feeling the need to hide your true self as a survival coping mechanism. (click on the above article to find out how much code-switching impacts the economy)

"For instance, when I get angry about something, I feel forced to just grin and bear it." reveals Roxanne. "If not, I would be simply looked at as 'an angry Black woman' and I fear that I would be 'spoken-to' if I showed my true self."

She went on to divulge that her code-switching happens sometimes even when speaking with peers and colleagues. She has learned, sadly, that code-switching is not just necessary but expected.

This is not unique to Roxanne or confined to Ontario Shores. It's an everyday occurrence  happening everywhere.

"No matter my troubles, however, I am proud to be a Black woman." Roxanne concludes with us.

I am left wondering if I, myself, would expect Roxanne to be herself with me or be the person she thinks I would be more comfortable with.

The lesson here is an uncomfortable one indeed.

 

A personal thank you to Shauna, Roxanne, Hyacinth and Allana for being so open and receptive to our questions.

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