Can Black people quiet quit? One Howard University lecturer says no.

The secret to success is hard work, or so says the cottage industry made by a million self-help books. But for whom did going the extra mile in the workplace really work?

Among the leaders of Fortune 500 companies, there are six black CEOs in 2022. What’s sad is that it’s actually a remarkable jump, although baby steps might be more accurate, from last year , when there were only five black CEOs running the largest corporations. in the USA

How hard Roz Brewer (Walgreens Boots Alliance), David Rawlinson (Qurate Retail), Robert Reffkin (Compass), Frank Clyburn (IFF), Marvin Ellison (Lowe’s) and Thasunda Brown Duckett (TIAA) had to work to become in exceptions to the exception?

You have to work twice as hard to get halfway there. It’s an old adage, almost cemented as a black proverb at this point.

Personally, I’ve never wanted to be a CEO, and if my future self is reading and for whatever reason the opportunity presents itself, I’d say turn it down. The chapter on American exceptionalism that positions becoming a CEO as the ultimate crowning glory of success and hard work has never appealed to me. I skipped this chapter. I was too busy working twice as hard to make it halfway.

This is where the idea of ​​quietly quitting comes into the chat. Call me a fan of the idea that you should fulfill the role set out in your job description, get in at nine and leave the building not a minute past five. I am actively protesting against a rush culture where work is your life and professional success is the ultimate goal. But I’m also not naive about the fact that the world moves differently when you’re black.

Black parents preach the black proverb of achievement and success to their children so often and from such a young age that it becomes hard to separate it from the heartbeat when it drives you. It’s beyond second nature, it just is. But when I found out that I was working harder, more stressed than my white peers at every predominantly white institution I’ve been apart of (that’s almost every institution), I think I broke. The truth has happened to me more than once, and each time I say no more. But it’s hard to part with a heartbeat.

“My hard work and your hard work are not the same,” says Jo Von McCalester, a professor of political science and African American studies at Howard University, about how she sees the line between hard work and success for blacks and their white counterparts.

Initially, I connected with McCalester with the thesis: All black people should quit smoking quietly. It seems to me that after decades of individual work—and 403 years as a culture—working twice as hard, we had earned some right to set better boundaries at work and refuse to lean on a system designed to exclude blacks.

McCalester’s response, in so many words, was: There is no way black people can quit smoking.

“There’s a certain privilege to being able to be average,” says McCalester. “The movement around silent abandonment is not aligned with the lived realities of black people.”

It’s true that simply getting your foot in the door is a challenge that many black Americans still face. Black workers make up 12% of the 125 million US private sector workers. However, roughly 60% of the black workforce lives in just 10 states, most of which are concentrated in the South. These areas do not show promising job growth, according to McKinsey’s 2021 report on race in the workplace.

In addition, nearly half of the black workforce works in front-line industries and is generally underrepresented in high-growth, high-wage industries. The opportunities for upward mobility are simply not up to par.

Black workers historically earn less, receive fewer opportunities for advancement, and even when they have a seat at the table, they face a host of other stressors and obstacles rooted in prejudice and racism.

One more reason to lean into quitting, right?

“You have to fight just to get in the door,” McCalester says. “It’s quiet to quit vs. I have to scream out loud just to get a job.”

It is true that dissonance is difficult to deal with.

We still live in a world with the myth of the exceptional black man, the exceptional black woman; we’re just working twice as hard. And then when one of us makes it, as McCalester points out, there’s the pressure—it’s an obligation in some ways—to shoulder the weight of the expectations of a family and an entire culture while bringing them to your accomplishments. .

“There’s a debt you have to pay because you’ve arrived,” McCalester says. “There’s definitely a sense of guilt as well.”

Some would call it generational trauma, black mothers have been preaching to their children for many years that you have to work twice as hard because that is what you owe to those before you. Ancestors made sacrifices and died so you could sit at a desk in a Manhattan Financial District building writing for a legacy magazine.

Who can quit smoking with a culture and its expectations on their shoulders?

Who wouldn’t?

“Yes, there is a yearning for it,” McCalester admits. “And then there are the real realities that we face. It’s a big pill to swallow, but it’s just the reality. All these things, structural inequality and racism, they’re never going to leave us … that’s a lot heavier for our spirit that too much work”.

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