The Inclusion Rider and Black Women

Last night, I cried proud tears when Frances McDormand stood up with pride amongst women in Hollywood and told the seated men to think of and include these women when they negotiate their contracts. I was so happy. I knew that she included me. Then I saw black women on twitter say, “Well how does Inclusion Riders help other black women?” I felt a punch in the gut. 

We saw firsthand what inclusion rider was when Jessica Chastain did it for Octavia Spencer. They were negotiating with the studio to make their own movie. Because Jessica stood with Octavia, Octavia got 5 times more than she would have gotten. That was with Jessica just to just have equal pay. Yes, Equal Pay.

On one hand, I see what the women on Twitter meant, because in our experience, it has been proven that black women shattering the glass ceiling is even harder than it is for a white woman, let alone any man of any color. 

It’s been our experience that the world still doesn’t know a women’s worth. Unspoken (or spoken) actions had us question our own worth to the point that we didn’t know what ask for. We would come to the table and hope that our accolades and awards would speak for us instead of having to spout about our accomplishments, even be accused of “bragging”.

For black women, we’d be criticized for not “knowing our place”, because when we’ve demanded fair treatment, our attitude and approach is called hostile and confrontational. We’d all be left to ask, “Why can’t others see our worth? And if that’s the case, how can we see our own in this day and age?” When no one will hire you, because your price is too high, we are then left to second-guess ourselves.

I lived this on many occasions. When my last boss told me flat out that he didn’t see my value, I left my job. It hurt because I loved my job but he did me a favor. I saw my own value, so I left to do what made me happy and valued. That’s because I know what I bring to the table. I knew that I was supposed to be the one to provide the jobs and opportunities.

Sometimes, coming into any industry is like being a kid and others don’t want to play with you on the playground so you make your own game, with your own rules. You can’t cry about it, you keep moving forward, maybe the others will join you, maybe they won’t.

Now, it may seem naive to some, but I personally don’t see color as I move in industries. I’m in film, books and in the music industries, all male dominated but I never thought about color when it came to women. I see a sisterhood. Because when it came time for others to include me, I included myself. No one asked me why I was there. I showed up. I taught myself that if the powers that be won’t include you at the table, sit down anyway and shine. That includes my fellow black women. Problem is, that us black people have grown up in scarcity and lack for so long that we really feel like other successful black people should include us. It’s not fair to reason that way for them and we are doing ourselves a great disservice with that thinking. While no one “owes us anything”, it would be nice  to have inclusion for other women like me that are making things happen.

So I make this clear: I am a black woman that refuses to stay seated when it’s time for women to stand up. All women are included. So take your space at the table. Or we can make a table and include others. Either way, let’s pull together and bring each other in so we can all go up together as sisters. There’s strength in numbers. Thanks Frances.