Working While Black Series: “They have smiled in my face all of this time.” Words by DeAnne Perry.

Sinclair: Share about a time you felt unwelcome when working while Black. What happened? What did you take away from the experience/incident/situation? 

DeAnne: Recently received my annual evaluation from my supervisor. In the evaluation I received a needs improvement (1 out of 3) on assisting co-workers. In the past year I have had two co-workers leave the institution; the first co-worker left and her work load was divided among myself and one other advisor (they are not going to fill this position), which added at least 100 students onto my case load. Now that the second advisor has left, it’s our responsibility to meet with her students until they find her replacement. For the past month I have met with the majority of her students.

Also, over the past year, one of my co-workers went on maternity leave. While she was away for three months, it was the expectation that we pick up her load. I did this with no issue for three months: meeting with her students, taking on extra orientation responsibilities, and whatever else they needed for us to do. She came back and everything was okay.

Or, so I thought.

I was also given a needs improvement on my schedule flexibility – also a 1 out of 3. My office is responsible for taking on the brunt of the work for our Express Enrollment days. These are days when new and returning students are able to just drop into the office and meet with and advisor without setting an appointment. A number of these events are set on Saturdays, late nights, and most often on Thursdays. I informed my supervisor when I first started my position of my involvement in my church.

I told them that I have praise team and choir rehearsal on Thursday nights, to which they replied, “Okay”Typically we have to pick a time that we would like to work, and they will create a schedule. I have co-workers who have families and young children. When the Express Enrollment schedules are made, they accommodate for the workers who have to pick their children up from day care. Their spouses aren’t able to do so. This means they normally work 8-5.

I asked if an accommodation could be made for me on these days, and even asked if we could switch the days so that not all events are on Thursday. I was told they have no say in the dates, and would not be able to accommodate for my rehearsals, as it did not warrant accommodations because it was an option for me to be a part of the activities. During my evaluation, I was told that my coworkers don’t feel as if I am welcoming.

They feel that I don’t meet with as many students as they do during our Express Enrollment events. I was told that they feel that I just sit in my office, never socialize, and that I don’t walk around to their offices and speak to them. I am currently I PhD candidate, and for the past few months have been working on completing my dissertation. They all knew when I was traveling to complete my research and were even told in a staff meeting that I would be a little withdrawn so that I could finish. I was told that it appears that I am combative because I speak up when I believe things should be done differently. I was also told that my confidence intimidates those around me who are in higher positions. When I heard this from my supervisor, I was furious. I informed her that I disagreed with her subjective evaluation and backed my statements with facts.

I feel that the people in my office have the expectation that I have to make them feel comfortable with who I am, without them putting forth the effort to do so. I have worked off my behind to make them feel comfortable, and to keep them in the loop of my process, and all they can see is that they aren’t comfortable with me while I am finishing my dissertation.

I was offended because I spent over a year working with a group of people who didn’t think that it was important to tell me that they falsely perceived that I was not pulling my weight with seeing students – which is grossly inaccurate. And, no one – not even my supervisor – had the professional courtesy to talk to me about. I’m upset because these people have sat around for over a year having conversations about me behind my back, and no one felt it important enough to have this conversation with me.

They have smiled in my face all of this time and have had secret feelings and thoughts without even telling me. I never had a chance to give the entire story. I’m upset because they are often surprised at the positive feedback I get from my students about my advising.

Sinclair: What advice would you give to another Black professional who is feeling tired, defeated and/or hopeless? 

DeAnne: Don’t give up. Although it may seem like it will never end, it will end. There is a lesson in everything we go through. Take from it what you can and do not allow the ignorance of others to hold hold you back. They want you to prove them right, prove them wrong.

Sinclair: In regard to your colleagues that don’t identify as Black: what is one way they continue to send the message of “You don’t belong here” to you – intentionally or unintentionally?  

 

DeAnne: Requiring more of me than they require of others. Expecting me to continue to extend the olive branch when they have consistently turned their back. Perceiving my lack of “socializing” as a threat and a belief that I don’t pull my weight.
Sinclair: What do you do for self-care? 
I pray. I take time out to do things I love. I vent to my confidants.
Sinclair: What’s something you’re working to unlearn about what it means to be Black?
DeAnne: It’s okay not to be friends with your co-workers. You don’t have to tell them your whole life story.

Learn more about the Working While Black Series and share your story.

 
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DeAnne Perry, originally from Louisville, Kentucky, graduated from Clarion University of Pennsylvania (Clarion, PA) in 2007 and 2010 where she received a B.S. in Secondary Education Social Studies with a minor in Black Studies and a Master of Education degree in Curriculum and Instruction.  She is currently a doctoral candidate in the Higher Education Administration program at Morgan State University (Baltimore, MD), with a dissertation topic focused on first-generation college students who have previously taken part in a living-learning community. DeAnne currently serves as an Academic Advisor at Ivy Tech Community College in Sellersburg, Indiana.  A strong advocate for retention of at-risk students, she served as the graduate assistant for the Dean of the College of Education and Human Services at Clarion University where she assisted in researching the retention rates of minority students in predominantly white institutions. Her professional interests and research focuses on the retention of underrepresented and underserved students with a concentration on first-generation college students.  
 
Learn more about DeAnne and connect: Instagram | Facebook | Email 
 

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