Game of Chairs

Yesterday was my colleague’s birthday. By colleague I mean a Director at the company – I hate that I have to state this but it’s crucial for understanding the politics in this story.

Anyways, we were all invited for “casual” cake and drinks at the conference room 30mins before the end of the work day – perfect.

I’m going to try to tell this story in the most chilled way I can but there are so many deep issues that should be addressed. But I digress.

I arrive at the conference room on time. The conference room has one massive table with about 10 seats and some extra seats at the end of the room. On one side of the table was the Director, at the other side of the table were two expats, leaving about 7 empty seats at the table. The extra seats at the end of the room were filled with other staff. I was confused for a second, why are people sitting at the back when there are free seats at the table? Aren’t we just here to eat cake? So naturally I pulled myself a seat at the side of the table with the expats – mainly cus we work in the same department and I didn’t want to be caught in all the pictures with the celebrant. I make a work appropriate joke about cake, everyone laughs – the room needed it.

The room starts filling up more and the big Nigerian men were quite comfortable taking their places at the table. Finally one other Nigerian woman pulls a seat at the table – yay – not alone. The “casual” event starts with opening prayers and before I knew it people were making speeches – honestly this was expected.

Halfway through the event the “biggest” Nigerian man enters and I see people shuffling and whispering. I’m thinking oooh what’s going on? Drama? Beef? Should he not be here? None of that. They were basically panicking about him not having a seat. But he’s late? And we’re about to cut cake? Can everyone relax? They didn’t. Someone whispered into the ear of the other woman on the table and asked her to get off the seat so he could sit at the table 😦 This actually broke my heart.

The event goes on with more random speeches from the men in the room. Finally the coordinator announces that he needs a female representative. Oh ok. Nice of them to acknowledge us. Then he quickly adds “to play the role of the Director’s wife and coordinate the cutting of the cake”. My heart sank some more. They picked a lady and decided to embarrass her a little further by saying she was picked because she’s a virtuous woman. *facepalm*

Cake cutting time. The coordinator calls some men to join in the cake cutting. Respectfully calling each one out. After he’s done, one of the men shouted “but there are no women here”. He agrees and calls some women out with sounds and nods towards their direction. Yes, myself included.

After the cake is cut my young female colleague (one of the brightest brains in the company) starts running towards the back of the room. I ask her what’s wrong. She says, “I don’t want them to ask me to share cake”. Wow. I thought she was being ridiculous until they in fact asked her to share cake. There was really no point staying after this. I said congratulations and left.

People are so quick to label us angry black women, but can you really blame us?


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