She went to work, like any other morning. Grabbed her coffee, meticulously applied her makeup, and started her day. She was strong, capable, ready to take over the world. And then, it happened.
When Maxine Waters and Alicia Ryan started their morning, they had no idea that a regular workday would soon turn into a powerful hashtag. Last night, #BlackWomenAtWork went viral.
During a segment on the morning’s episode of Fox & Friends, a clip of Waters giving a passionate speech was shown to Bill O’Reilly–who made ugly remarks about the congresswoman’s hair. “I didn’t hear a word she said. I was looking at the James Brown wig,” he said.
Later in the day, reporter April Ryan of American Urban Radio Networks posed a question about Russia to White House press secretary Sean Spicer, who responded by asking her not to shake her head at him.
“April, hold on, it seems like you’re hell-bent on trying to make that whatever image you want to tell about this White House stays,” he said. “I’m sorry, please stop shaking your head again,” he added.
Ms. Ryan is the same reporter, who when asking Donald Trump if he planned to speak with the Congressional Black Caucus was asked, “Do you want to set up a meeting? Are they friends of yours?”
“Today, we were told a Black woman’s hair matters more than her voice, and our choices are under the control of others, tweeted activist Brittany Packnett. “This happens to Black women everyday at work. Share your Maxine and April moments, so people don’t think this is rare.”
Today, we were told a Black woman’s hair matters more than her voice, and our choices are under the control of others.
— Brittany Packnett (@MsPackyetti) March 28, 2017
Twitter exploded as black women shared their experiences in the workplace.
#BlackWomenAtWork my boss: your hair is making too much statment
Me: Susan’s has 4 different colors
My boss: yes but it’s not an afro
— Lisa Craddock (@LisaCraddock1) March 29, 2017
Stories about being seen as “intimidating,” not taken seriously, and comments about hair were shared as #BlackWomenAtWork became the number one trending topic.
— Ms. M (@ToriJoi) March 28, 2017
Packett acknowledged that both incidents were unacceptable–but that they happen almost every day. “I’m surrounded everyday by brilliant, confident, incredible black professional women who get demeaned despite their prowess. Today, I was over it,” she told The Huffington Post. “I have deep and abiding respect for Congresswoman Waters and Ms. Ryan who are both trailblazers in their fields. They are to be respected, just like every other black woman who rises each day to contribute to this society in ways that are all-too-often taken for granted.”
Thousands of women told their stories, spurred on by Congresswoman Waters’ tweet that reminded us all of the strength and tenacity of Black women even in the face of adversity. “I am a strong Black woman. I cannot be intimidated, and I’m not going anywhere. #BlackWomenAtWork.”
I am a strong black woman. I cannot be intimidated, and I’m not going anywhere. #BlackWomenAtWork
— Maxine Waters (@MaxineWaters) March 29, 2017