Women of color in power still trigger stress for white men. Sorry, not sorry.
Democrats questioned the secretary of treasury for three hours about when he will respond to requests for access to President Donald Trump’s tax returns. But Steve Mnuchin had a date with a foreign dignitary. In his haste to leave, he went after Chairwoman Maxine Waters, threatening not to testify again if she didn’t end the meeting so he could keep his appointment.
Waters responded: “The secretary has agreed to stay to hear all the rest of the members. Please cancel your meeting and respect our time.”
When he asked her to use her gavel, she quipped, “Please do not instruct me as to how I am to conduct this committee.”
Maxine Waters teaches Steve Mnuchin the art of the deal pic.twitter.com/VORvF5iRwk
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) April 9, 2019
Why is it he felt the need to instruct a Black chairwoman on how to do her job?
This is consistent with how white politicians, who are uncomfortable with vocal women of color insist on claiming inadequacy.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez faces it as Republican men obsess over her, including critiques of her Green New Deal; Rep. Ilhan Omar faces it in light of her position on the US relationship with Israel; Rashida Tlaib was critiqued on “decorum in Congress.” Women in power face it, period.
“[Commanding respect] doesn’t allow Black women to be in leadership roles where they have power over others, especially white men. We can be assertive, but we can’t be the boss,” said Katherine W. Phillips, a professor of organizational management at Columbia University.
Dr. Robin DiAngelo, author of White Fragility, says that examples of the kinds of challenges that trigger racial stress for white people include being presented with a person of color in a position of leadership (challenge to white authority).
With a Congress that is now the most diverse in history, people of color in the committee hearings and chairing them is a challenge to the hundreds of years of white men in power in those meetings.
“Not often encountering these challenges,” says DiAngelo, “we withdraw, defend, cry, argue, minimize, ignore, and in other ways push back to regain our racial position and equilibrium.”
A white man must tell a black lady how to properly do her job and conduct herself in all situations. It is an excellent tool for psychological warfare.
— Jury Pool (@POTENTIALJUROR) April 10, 2019
Steve Mnuchin Tried To Mansplain To @RepMaxineWaters. It Didn’t Go Well. #BlackWomenLead #BlackWomenAtWork #SheHasTheGavelAndIsNotAfraidToUseIt #ReclaimingMyTime #MaxineWaters #ChairmanMaxineWaters #RESPECT https://t.co/D5hu458QNq
— Dana Vickers Shelley (@DVStrategies) April 10, 2019
Waters said after the meeting: “When he said that he had somebody important (to meet), I don’t think that there’s anything or anybody more important than the Congress of the United States of America trying to find out what exactly this secretary is doing.”
Waters still did her job, despite Mnuchin’s tantrum and desire to be placated.
The Impact on Black Women’s Opportunity
The fragility around Black women being in charge also dictates how little the doors are opened for them.
“That’s clear from the underrepresentation of women of color in executive positions, and research also shows that black women who do become leaders are punished more harshly than men when they make mistakes,” says Phillips.
As a black woman, if you make a mistake at work…expect it to be amplified by a 1009% You just don’t make a mistake…your intelligence and abilities are questioned as well. #blackwomenatwork #blackprofessionals
— JassyJeanette (@JassyPrinciple) April 8, 2019
They’re also punished when they don’t make any errors. But we keep on trucking…