Courtesy of: Lachi
After U.S. safe-in-place warrants sent millions of employees home, many black women found themselves navigating their workdays without the usual micro- and macro-assaults that followed them to their workplaces. predominantly white.
Last year, a study by Essence magazine found that 45% of black women believe the workplace is where they experience racism most often, which in turn leads to mental health issues.
Lachi is not surprised by these findings. She doubly understands the challenge of cultural discomfort at work as not only a black woman, but a person with a disability. Before entering full-time music, the talented artist, also blind, worked for the US Army Corps of Engineers in New York. She said the traumatic experience made her realize that she would never be able to work in a company again.
“I don’t speak publicly much about my pre-artist career, my days in the office, especially because of the trauma I left with,” she told Essence. “While I really liked the job itself, simple as it was, I had a hard time distinguishing between demanding respect and being seen as ‘aggressive’ or asking for accommodations and being seen as a “burden” on a weekly basis. ”
Among many other micro-attacks, she recalled one of the most hurtful incidents that left her shaken in the workplace due to poor communication with her boss.
“This one is the hardest one to relive,” Lachi said.
She shared that she was forced to write a letter of apology despite her white male manager using derogatory language towards her after she challenged how she handled a cross-departmental issue with another. disabled colleague.
“I sent him an email stating that while I understand he is older and older than me, I don’t think I deserved to be spoken to in this way and I hope we can resolve The problems.”
Two hours later, she was the one who asked to apologize through HR for perpetuating ageism.
“The head of the EEO let me know that the colleague complained that I had been an ageist calling him ‘older’ and that I should write him an apology and a cc to the EEO office. and to my direct bosses, ”Lachi said. “I explained the circumstances of the incident to him and the response was, ‘I can write the apology for you.’ So I, a beginner-level disabled black woman, wrote an official letter of apology to a high-level white man as directed by the EEO office because I dared to stand up politely.
She said her naturally confident personality was so often interpreted as aggressive by a few of her white colleagues that she began to question her own voice.
“After a while working in the role, I texted one of my girlfriends” how can I, as a black woman, defend myself against white executives without appearing aggressive “,” he said. said Lachi. Her friend replied, “Replace ‘white frames’ with ‘anyone’ and you have the perfect puzzle.
This text forever changed the trajectory of his career. It was then that she decided to demand better for herself.
“As most black women know, especially black women with disabilities, withholding our innate ambitious motivations, keeping silent about our self-esteem and skills, it can only last so long,” Lachi told Essence. “As I had toured with my music on weekends and PTO days, I was already fine with a host of music moguls. And I remember complaining about work to one of them and them saying, “you don’t make enough money over there to be miserable”. You might as well do something you love.
She said she handed in her resignation notice soon after and focused on building her music career as well as intersectional fairness, her two passions.
“I love being a recording artist, but it turns out that what I really love, my real path, is being an artist advocate for other people with disabilities, especially those at the intersection. race and gender, ”she said.
Now, in addition to serving on the Recording Academy’s advocacy committee, Lachi is also a proud advocate for all government agencies and regularly conducts training sessions on disability and intersectional disability etiquette. Since starting out on her own, she’s not only happier, but she’s earning the salary she deserves.
Along with her musical work, she deepens her defense of the rights of people with disabilities by partnering with RAMPD.org, a coalition for artists with disabilities. “As I explore the violence of disability through a YouTube series, I meet the most amazing peers and colleagues,” she shares.
She said she has come to realize that creative black women with disabilities are strong, critical thinkers and original solutions to problems with lofty goals. They just have to believe it.
“It takes time but has lasting effects, and the first step to real self defense is the self-confidence you need to stand up.”