Black Women, It's the Attitude

BY: - 15 Jul '10 | Home

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by Tiya Cunningham-Sumter

My day time job consists of working with an underserved population; young, single moms and individuals with criminal backgrounds.   The responsibilities of my job include coaching, job readiness training, resume writing and interviewing techniques. What I’ve learned in preparing people to re-enter or initially enter the workforce is that, it’s not so much the lack of experience but more so the attitude they possess. A large part of what I do also includes discussing career opportunities with employers. In those discussions, I uncovered the secret thought employers have about black women in particular. I was told by an HR professional that some black women aren’t considered for positions because of their attitude during interviews. This professional shared that hiring managers often complain about the lack of enthusiasm, the “I can-take-it-or-leave-it” approach that many black women bring through the door. This, of course results in their not being offered a job. While I was not entirely shocked by this revelation, I did take that information to heart and I share it with every black woman that comes through our program. I push those that I work with in putting their best attitude forward. It is challenging for those who feel they’ve been knocked down and are struggling with life’s challenges. They know what they want, but their thoughts and actions of the past keep them from moving forward.  I encourage them to put whatever is going on at the moment aside and focus on the big picture, the job, the career, the family, or even the business they may want to start. Whatever it is, we as women have to stop sabotaging our own futures and making excuses as to why we can’t.

This journey isn’t easy, but we have to keep moving forward and know that it begins with the attitude. Be positive, trust God and send out positive energy and we will get it in return. Remember, attitude is everything.

By Tiya Cunningham-Sumter, a Certified Life & Relationship Coach, Founder of Life Editing, creator of The Black Wives’ Club and an Administrator of Still Dating My Spouse. Tiya resides in Chicago with her husband and two children.

About the author

Lamar Tyler wrote 2220 articles on this blog.

Lamar Tyler is co-creator BlackandMarriedWithKids.com. He also is the co-producer of the films Happily Ever After: A Positive Image of Black Marriage, You Saved Me, Men Ain't Boys and Still Standing.

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17 WordPress comments on “Black Women, It's the Attitude

  1. AJ Bell

    This is an interesting topic. I don't think this discrimination is limited to getting hired, but also recieving promotions and raises. Those of us with some experience and an education have entitlement issues we think are due to us, simply because we are better off than many other black women.

    Many of us can obtain entry level positions, but rising above that (without affirmative action) is a problem because we stop going the extra mile, and we begin thinking that someone (our employer) owes us something…

  2. K Poitier

    I've struggled with the “entitlement” thing, mostly when my employers were black. Now, that I work for the other race, I've paid more attention to what my co-workers do. They don't show their anger & frustration the way we sometimes do. They'll go in the bathroom & cry, or vent on their lunch breaks, and come back to their desks like nothing happened. They're humble, ever striving to get ahead. I have an entry-level position and I've made an effort to be more humble and focused.
    I had to admit that my attitude caused friction on my previous jobs and I came off as not a team player. I had to dig deep and force myself to “look at the bigger picture,” as you said. I want to be successful. I want to be promoted, no matter who I work for. And, I want to be looked at as the positive, team player, motivational co-worker that I know I can be. It's not even that hard; it's just a matter of being pleasant–the real me.
    Thanks for this article.:-)

  3. Oneand Only

    I've seen this alot. There was a young lady that wanted to get promoted to the department I was working in and just couldn't make it. She didn't realize that her demeanor around the office (excess phone usage and attitude toward her current boss) X'd her out automatically.

  4. Her Side

    Forgive me, but I need to play devil's advocate here. I rarely accept generalizations at face value. Once you start getting feedback about an entire demographic, you have to wonder if a stereotype isn't involved.

    You see, when young white men “take it or leave it,” they're considered cool, calm, in charge, and having lots of options. Stereotypes can also lead to ambitious blacks being called “aggressive” and “overbearing.” Sometimes the bearer of the opinion is at fault.

    My mother taught me that “as a young black woman, I would always have to be twice as good to get the same consideration.” I feel that was a much more honest offering than the position of “black women's attitudes.”

    1. Tiya

      @Her Side, oh I totally agree, there is a stereotype involved. But if this is part of the game we have to play, I let the women I work with know that upfront. Of course it's not fair, but I still want them to at least be given an opportunity, so I use all the feedback I receive for their good.

  5. The_A

    My issue with this whole conversation is the persistent assumption that not only does one bad apple spoil the whole bunch, but the entire bunch is responsible for the behavior of one bad apple.

    This leaves black women in a position of 1. defending themselves against other people's accepted truths by working extra hard to separate themselves as an exception or 2. accepting ownership and responsibility for an employer's xenophobic ignorance or 3. checking out completely or 4. challenging the validity of the assumptions being accepted as truth.

    If a white woman is acting a fool, no one assumes this reflects poorly on the general population of white women. She's just one crazy white woman.

    Black women must demand and defend our individuality and humanity even within conversations among ourselves. I also work in HR with very similar responsibilities. I've been in meetings with executive teams discussing racial differences in coded language about the “friendliness of the company secretaries.” I always ask them for specific examples of what is not enthusiastic about the person's behavior. What does that “bad attitude” look like and what impact is it having on the company that would justify hiring or not hiring that person?

    Harriet, in addition to schooling these women about the biases that exist, I would also encourage you to challenge the employer's negative judgments at every given opportunity. People are naturally drawn to the familiar and shun the unfamiliar. It is our responsibility to consult with the employer on the real cultural differences i.e. displaying enthusiasm, and separate these differences from performance/attitude problems.

    1. Tiya

      The_A,
      I think it is that we constantly feel like we have to defend ourselves that we may across as having an attitude. I think we can also go into situations with certain expectations of how we will be perceived or treated just as the employer will. I am also curious as to the responses you've received in the meetings when you've asked the questions “for specific examples of what is not enthusiastic about the person's behavior. What does that “bad attitude” look like and what impact is it having on the company that would justify hiring or not hiring that person?” The terminology I usually hear is that it's “the culture” of the company. I do like your suggestion of challenging the employers too. Thanks.

  6. ThawtProvoKING

    @The_A” If a white woman is acting a fool, no one assumes this reflects poorly on the general population of white women. She's just one crazy white woman. Black women must demand and defend our individuality and humanity even within conversations among ourselves”.

    This is the case for Black men as well. We are often overgeneralized…

  7. Anna

    Tiya, tough job you have. Some people just have attitudes like you owe them something. Some want to be the CEO of the company and forget that you have to crawl before you walk. Keep doing what you do and encourage them. Many black women have been battered, used, abused and left to be the head of the household.. Yes they have an attitude, they just need to be de/reprogramed that they are worth it.

  8. Tiya

    Anna, I agree. I know they don't come from a good place, but if they consider their futures, sometimes you have to do what you have to do to get where you want to be.

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On In-Laws: Chew the Meat, Spit the Bones Out

BY: - 19 Jul '10 | Home

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by Harriet Hairston

My marriage hasn’t been a crystal stair, y’all.   It’s been full of heartache, stress, poor decisions and frustration.   Yet through it all, the love Mr. Incredible and I share still overcomes all those challenges and evaporates the manure we get ourselves into.   We manage to always come out smelling like roses (thank God for His grace!).

However, if you have encountered these types of challenges, it can be easy to run to in laws and parents to glean some wisdom.   That’s totally understandable because there is safety in wise counsel.   What I’ve learned through that is that everyone has an opinion.   It’s important for my husband and I, in the midst of all the seemingly great advice and sage opinions to come back together to get on the same page.   We have to sift through the advice, opinions and perceptions of our in laws (and most of it is good, solid information) to make our own decision and go in our own direction.

I was talking to a friend, and we discussed some “Don’ts” when respectfully listening to our parents and in-laws.   Don’t:

  • Allow parents to step on your spouse’s toes.   The decisions you and your spouse make are difficult enough without Moms and Pops trying to step in and be controlling, manipulative, or even just well meaning and concerned.
  • Share too much information about the difficulties you’re having with biased relatives.   They will take sides, and when all the dust has settled and you and your spouse are on good terms, they will still have that bad taste in their mouths from what you shared.
  • Incorporate traditions that you don’t find relevant or necessary from your years growing up just to appease your in laws/family.   I’m not talking about staples like prayer and communication, but what does it matter that you decorate your house blue and silver for Christmas vs. red and green?   I don’t like black eyed peas, so just because we ate them every new year growing up, I don’t have to make my family miserable like that.   LOL
  • Share information with relatives that like to put 1000 on 10 (make mountains out of molehills).
  • Subject your marriage to nosy family members or manipulative relatives that want to see things go their way.   Nine times out of ten, you will find yourselves miserable and giving your relatives more fodder to talk about around their dining room tables.

These pointers are along the typical complaints we see from in-laws. Nevertheless, there are in laws and relatives that not only mean well, but have learned valuable lessons they have walked through so we don’t have to!   I would definitely suggest you DO the following:

  • Solicit prayer from relatives that have relationships with Christ.   Obviously this is relegated to the Christian marriages, but remember that RELIGION does not equate to relationship.   Know the difference and tread carefully.
  • Communicate the resolving of conflict with relatives you may have mistakenly told your issues to.   It puts out the fire on their tongues when they want to talk about your past difficulties in your marriage.
  • Realize that more often than not, your family and in laws love you.   That fact alone obligates you to treat them with the same love and respect in return.
  • Listen to their wisdom when it’s irrefutable.   In many ways, they have walked where we’re trying to tread, and they have seen the stumbling blocks that we may be ignorant of.   Be teachable and coachable in that aspect.
  • Allow them to speak into your lives with proper boundaries.

Like it or not, in laws are a part of marriage.   When we married our spouses, we married their families as well.   It’s important for us to love them and give them as much grace as we can.   Yet it’s also important to be wise and use boundaries when we feel the need to share private parts of our marriage with them.   Chew the meat, spit the bones out and live in peace!

BMWK, are there any other ways you chew the meat and spit the bones out with your in laws?   Speak your piece!

God bless!

~ Harriet

Harriet Hairston is a woman who slips and slides in and out of labels (military officer, human resource manager, minister, mentor, spoken word artist and teacher).   The only ones that have stuck so far are “wife” and “mother” (the most important in her estimation). The rest have taught her well that only what she does for Christ will last. There is one more permanent label she holds:   “author.”   You can purchase her first book, “Who Are You?”   simply by clicking on the link.   You can also contact her at harriet_hairston@yahoo.com
.

About the author

Lamar Tyler wrote 2220 articles on this blog.

Lamar Tyler is co-creator BlackandMarriedWithKids.com. He also is the co-producer of the films Happily Ever After: A Positive Image of Black Marriage, You Saved Me, Men Ain't Boys and Still Standing.

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