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From The Color Purple to Corporate Code-Switching: Why We Need a Radical Rethink of Labor for Black Women


Taraji P. Henson poses in a black and white dress with vertical stripes and black boots in front of a backdrop with the words "The Color Purple"

Hollywood executives may be out of touch with the lived experiences of everyday people, but the actors and crew members who keep the industry afloat are not. Taraji P. Henson reminded me of this recently as she described her experience in filming The Color Purple – and that the math is not mathing for Black women across the board when it comes to Black women and their careers. 


While my field of work doesn’t exactly include catering and car service everyday, it was her tears and the heart of her message that moved me. Across all industries, Black women are devalued, underpaid, and overworked. No matter the line of work, Black women have the universal experience of entering work spaces where they are expected to be a top performer and simultaneously tolerate disrespect and racial aggressions.


And just like Taraji, I’m tired. 


Taraji P. Henson poses in a pink coat standing next to Oprah who is wearing a purple and green coat.

Tired of seeing nonprofit and philanthropic professionals be oppressed by the same systems their organizations claim to be dismantling. Tired of educators not being paid a living wage. Tired of service workers being unprotected by their employers. Tired of women of corporate having to code switch themselves to the point of mental breakdown. 


Late-stage capitalism has its grips on all of us, and Black women in particular are feeling the pressure. The culture of working in the U.S. demands that workers be squeezed for every bit of productivity they can deliver, and not reap any of the benefits. And now after the stories of Black women like Dr. Claudine Gay and Dr. Antoinette “Bonnie” Candia-Bailey, the urgency of shifting how labor is conducted and whose is valued is truly a full-blown crisis. 


When properly executed, DEI work is the tool we can use to shift this dynamic into one that sees, protects, and values Black women. Our well-being can’t wait. 


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