Emotional Equity: Creating Space for Black People to Express Their Feelings
White supremacy creates a world where Black feelings and particularly Black pain, are erased and ignored.
As an Equity Consultant, I consistently speak with historically underrepresented employees who are navigating complex issues of bias and discrimination in the workplace.
Without fail, many employees express fear that in raising a grievance at work they will be construed as “the problem.” Black women, in particular, highlight that their pain is often misperceived as anger. As such, when Black women speak up concerning their experiences of hostility and bias in the workplace they are met with defensiveness and accusation in lieu of support and advocacy.
In organizational psychology, the right to express one’s feelings at work is called the “right to comfort.”
When we pull back the layers of who has the “right to comfort” at work, we can see the ways in which Black pain in the workplace is understood as secondary and oppositional to White comfort.
Both Black and Brown employees must deploy emotional gymnastics in order to have their grievances heard without engendering a negative response from their place of work.
These emotional gymnastics highlight the ways in which historically marginalized employees must always prioritize how others (namely White colleagues) are emotionally experiencing them.
In my work, I refer to the ways in which Black pain is erased both in workplaces and in the broader world as “emotional equity.” Emotional equity is the term I use to describe the ways in which everyone should have the right to safely express how an environment makes them feel.
Research shows that Black pain in particular is not taken seriously. For example, in medical settings, Black pain is often dismissed. In fact, many medical students and physicians continue to believe the dangerous and egregious lie that Black people have thicker skin and higher pain tolerance. In the…