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Essay on What’s It Like Walking in a Black Woman’s Shoes

Updated August 9, 2022

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Essay on What’s It Like Walking in a Black Woman’s Shoes essay

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Monica Hamilton is a 46-year-old, African American female who was born in Flint, Michigan. She is like a mother to me, because her daughter and I are best friends. Based on Monica’s experiences encountered in life and overall engagements in certain situations has shaped the woman she is today. Since Monica is a black woman, her life is much harder than the average female, because not only is she a woman, she’s also black. Monica says, “Its different being a black woman than being a black male or a white woman, there’s a double target on my back”. Life as a black woman can be one of the most difficult things in today’s society, as it was thein the past. There have been some changes but being a black woman is still a challenge.

Monica went to a public school called Northwestern High School in Flint Michigan. Monica grew up in a home where she was taught that she had to work for things in life, and if there was something she really wanted she needed to put in the effort to get what she wanted. In here household she wasn’t given everything, her parents taught her, as a young black woman, it’s not going to be easy growing up in this world, nothing will be handed to you and you’ll only get what you put in. Some of Monica’s interest include reading, volunteer work, and watching the news. Monica has always been a very kind, loving person who was willing to share some of her blessing with others who may have been less fortunate. She has also never hesitated to speak her mind when she felt something isn’t fair or morally right, because that’s the way she was raised.

Monica was originally Monica Grover until she got married to Carlos Hamilton in 1998. Monica has two biological children, and two stepchildren, and also took in multiple children and help give them a home and place to stay. Monica graduated college from Wayne State University to where she earned her bachelor’s degree in arts. Monica then got a job at Ford Motor Company in in the greater Detroit Area, where she now works as an Automotive Professional. She started out as a supervisor in 1994, became a buyer in 2002, and worked her way up to a purchasing program manager in 2010. She has worked here for 8 years. She has multiple skills which include automotive, purchasing, sourcing, manufacturing, management, SAP, powertrain, negotiation, problem solving, cost analysis and reduction, and team building.

The interview I did with Monica, uncovered the personal experience that connect with some of the topics we discussed in class like oppression in the workplace based on race, oppression in the workplace based on gender, historically, socially, and culturally constructed family systems that shape family roles, and privilege/inequality. It was enlightening to be able to listen to Monica’s experiences and challenges she encountered as a black woman in this world.

Race Oppression as Black Woman

Monica said she was in a situation where she was discriminated against because of her race. “I have always been a person who has had a strong opinion about things and would never hold my tongue when I felt someone was being discriminative towards someone, says Monica.

Monica Hamilton always wanted to live in her dream home in the suburbs and somewhere by the water. She found this nice neighborhood where there were big houses and all the neighbors seemed like nice people. Monica was very interested in a certain home, and she was denied of going to look at the house for the open house. “Monica said the real-estate person who was selling the house was white, and it was a majority white neighborhood”. It started with the way she looked at me, as if she didn’t even think I could afford to live in such a beautiful home.” The first thing she said to Monica, was ‘Oh, this house is about $250,000, not a cheap one.’ and she didn’t even ask her how much the house was. If your trying to sell a house to someone you wouldn’t normally try to make it seem very expensive, you would make it seem affordable.

“I asked her if this was an open house, and she said sorry, but she has an appointment for a family to come see the home at the moment, so I just left and waited in my car for like 15 minutes, to see if I can see the house after the other family. As I was waiting in my car, I seen another couple who were also black who walked up to see the house and they weren’t even there for 3 minutes because they probably were also rejected.” Monica explained.

The demonstration of white privilege being a privileged that you may notice you could be seen when there were people who were white who were able to view the house while Monica wasn’t able to. “I have come to see white privilege as an invisible package of unearned assets that I can count on cashing in each day, but about which I was ‘meant’ to remain oblivious” (McIntosh, 1988, p. 1). Being privileged may go unnoticed if you’re not thinking of yourself as what would it be like if I was in someone else shoes.

There was a stereotype that the real estate lady assumed upon Monica, when she figured she couldn’t afford to buy the house. Monica didn’t even ask her how much the house was, but she made a statement that the house is probably too expensive. “While about half of all poor people are white, wealthy people are disproportionately white. Poor people are disproportionately black, Latino/a and Native American” (Yeskel, 2007, p. 130). Although this statistic may be viable, you should not be prejudice and make an assumption upon someone you don’t know because they fit into a certain category.

Oppression in Workplace (Gender/Race)

Monica has experienced a time where she was denied a job because of the color of her skin. When she was in high school she wanted to work at the goodwill, because it was right down the street from where she lived. Monica needed some money for her class trip at the end of the year, so she wanted to earn it, and plus this was going to be her first job so she was very

excited. Also, she was too young to get her license, so she did not have a car, and her parents was always busy working so she had to find somewhere close where she could walk to work. Where she lived she didn’t have a lot of close stores or restaurants where she could work that was hiring at age 16 and were close enough for walking distance. The goodwill had a hiring sign in the window, that said must be 16 and up. “When I walked into the goodwill, and asked for an application, she said sorry they’ll all full for spots, and are no longer hiring, so I just left. Then I came back the next day because I wanted to buy something, and they still had the sign in the window, so I didn’t understand if they were hiring or not.

One of my friends was also looking for a job because we both needed money for our trip, so I told her the goodwill was hiring, and when she went on their they gave her an application, and next thing she knew she had an interview the next day. My friend was the same age of as me, ad was also a girl, but what set her aside was she was white. My friend didn’t really understand why she was privileged and was given the job and how I was being discriminated against until she witness it herself. I had to explain to her and tell her about the discrimination I’ve had to deal with and she was all ears and supportive of me.”

Monica also experienced discrimination in her current job, where a guy who has the same position, and she even worked there longer than he has, but he’s been promoted up to her position. They actually became great friends and we hang out sometimes on their lunch break and he’s also black but he’s a male. “One day we were chatting on our break and he was talking about how such he gets paid. He gets paid about three hundred dollars more than I do, and he just got this position and I’ve been here for almost 8 years. He was even shocked about this disparity and thought it wasn’t right” Monica explained.

When Monica experienced the discrimination and was denied the job at the goodwill there was a building relationship between her and her white friend. There was a development of empathy between Monica and her friend, when her friend showed interest in her experience with racism. “One essential component of this accountability involves developing empathy for the experiences of individuals and groups different” (Hill-Collins, 1993, p. 42). Monica has explained that in today’s society the individuals who are privileged show a lot more empathy because they are now being educating on what it means to not have to show sympathy, but you must show empathy. It can be difficult to be able to show empathy because sometimes it may involve you underlying which ways you are privileged to understand why someone who is at a disadvantage because they don’t receive the same king of opportunities as you do inhabit. This could bring about a shame or a guilty feeling and make you feel like your apart of the problem. “Building empathy from the dominant side of privilege is difficult, simply because individuals from privileged backgrounds are not encourage to do so” (Hill-Collins, 1993, p. 43).

It’s important to just talk about it with that person because that way they know you care and someone is taking a step towards a change. The key to changing things is first acknowledging that there is a problem and communicating with each other before there can be any understanding or change. “I think whites are carefully taught not to recognize white privilege, as males are taught not to recognize male privilege” (McIntosh, 1988, p. 6).

Monica’s experience of discrimination in the workplace demonstrates gender oppression in the workplace, which is a form of institutional oppression. Institutional oppression is “the idea that one group is better than another group and has the right to control the other” (“The Four I’s of Oppression,” 2010, p.1). Institutional oppression was manifested when she was denied work at certain job because she was black while one of her peers who was white received the job. Monica also experienced institutional oppression because of her gender when a male coworker obtained a promotion and a greater pay than she did even though he was on the same skill level but isn’t as experienced as she was. “When a woman makes two thirds of what a man makes in the same job, it is institutionalized sexism” (“The Four I’s of Oppression,” 2010, p.1).

Women’s expected Roles, Gender & Family

“When I got married to my husband Carlos Hamilton, not only did he work a full-time job I also worked a full-time job when our kids were old enough, one was in her senior year of high school and the other already graduated college and started a family and bought her own house” Monica stated. In the household she was still the caretaker, the person who was expected to cook and clean, on top of her wanting to pursue her career. Monica still helped pay the bills and put food on the table along with her husband. Monica says, “I was always more involved with my children’s life, like going to concerts, dance competitions, volleyball tournaments, and I overall spent more time with them, whether it was going to the mall or the movies etc”. It wasn’t as much expected for her husband Carlos to participate in such activities, it was just expected of him to work and pay the bills, nothing really more. “Although I enjoyed playing this role, because I loved spending time with my children and being a part of their lives as much as I did, I just wish it wasn’t just me having to do everything, because I also worked, at home on Mondays, and Tuesday through Friday I worked in my office” Monica explains. So, it would have been a lot easier if her husband was just as involved as she was.

“Also, in today’s society not only are women learning how to cook, men are also. I teach my sons how to cook and clean for them self because when they grow up they would know how to do it themselves and not have to depend on a woman to do it for them” Monica stated. Like Monica, you also see more and more women becoming independent and being able to bring the money home themselves. In today’s society it has gotten better, where you see a lot of more female doctors, nurses, lawyers, teachers, etc. as opposed to what it was like in the past. In the past it was a lot more common for women to be susceptible to the stay at home mom. “Gendered roles change – today fathers are taking care of little children, girls and boys are wearing unisex clothing and getting the same education, women and men are working at the same jobs” (Lorber, 1994, p. 2).

Women’s caretaking roles and what is expected of women based on the social construction of gender can be demonstrated through Monica’s role as a female in her household. “Women perform more than two-thirds of household labor, that is constructed as family work and often not seen as work” (Shaw, 2015, p. 440).

Monica’s mother has always told her that she should be a strong independent black woman, who was able to make her own money and not have to dependent on a man to take care of her. “Black women have been expected to work while taking care of their families” (Settles 2008, p. 456). We live in a society where men control everything. Women don’t get treated equally with men because we live in a patriarchal system. “It’s about the primary importance of a husband’s career and the secondary status of a wife’s, about childcare as a priority in women’s lives and a secondary importance of men” (Johnson, 2001, p. 85). There has been a little change in the women’s roles of today’s society.

Woman of the 21st century is more independent, women are becoming more than willing to fight for what they want in today’s constantly changing societies. Which could be demonstrated in all our different forms of feminists. As a feminist you just believe in the equality of all humans no matter that gender or race you are, women and men should have equal rights and opportunities. The self- determination and confidence of women today have women landing themselves in positions in our career world that gives women just as much of a power status as any man.

Privilege & Inequality

Monica describes a time she witnesses discrimination; “There was a time when I was going out with my friends, and we wanted to go into this night club, it was about 4 of us, we were probably the only black girls approaching the club, but they had good music and were having buy one and get one free drinks at the bar. The bouncer wouldn’t let us in, and he said the club as full, we were all over the age of 21 and eve showed him our ID’S, but he said he was sorry he couldn’t let us in, so we left it alone and started to walk away. We saw a group of white girls about at least 8-10 of them, and he let them into the club without hesitation, they were definitely not V.I.P.s but they were white so because of that i guess they were allowed to go in.

We didn’t once see them have to ask to go in, or they didn’t even have to show an ID, that’s when we knew we were being discriminated against and they that some people are privileged. To some people it’s not obvious that they are being privileged or have a better opportunity than someone else”. “So ‘underprivileged’ people of color who are the world’s majority have survived their oppression and lived survivors’ lives from which the white global minority can and must learn” (McIntosh, 1988, p. 6).

In Monica’s situation the privilege did go unnoticed to the person being privileged but it’s important to acknowledge it or do something about it. “Once you are aware of privilege, however, it is important to learn more, question, seek to erase it, and above all to not use privilege to your advantage” (“A brief discussion of privilege,” 2011, para. 3).

It was eye opening to hear Monica’s story of her enouncements with oppression based on her race and gender. It revealed so much about the struggles that women, specifically women of color ma face in the world. Black women face discrimination not only in the workplace but a lot of scenarios of everyday life. Women has this expectation of playing a certain role in the household because of this historical, social, cultural, and economical construction of the family systems. It was also interesting to hear about the certain privileges that some people may not notice they have because they aren’t taught to notice them.

Intersectionality helps you understand where these systems of oppression are shaped and it’s important to be aware of these different realities that we all have. Some of us are oppressed in one area but we may also be privileged in another area. Understanding these experiences that someone like Monica may face like, being a woman but also being black cannot be fully understood independently, in terms of just being a woman or just being black. It’s important to consider these intersections rather they be in other areas based on things such as disabilities, sexuality, gender, race, class, religion, etc. In one of the readings it was stated that “although Black and White women are both devalued on the basis of their gender, double jeopardy theory (Beal, 1970; King, 1988) suggests that Black women may face additional challenges because their race is also devalued” (Settles 2008, p. 455).

There is a double marginalization that makes black females subject to both sexism and racism, so it’s important that if you are privileged that you show empathy to someone else who may be less fortunate when it comes to certain opportunities. This is a start to changing the way the world views the social construction of the way we think it should be rather it be race, gender, class etc.

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