An Open Letter to Alexis Johnson | Opinion | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

An Open Letter to Alexis Johnson

click to enlarge An Open Letter to Alexis Johnson
Shantale Davis
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter Alexis Johnson
We are sisters, although until a couple of weeks ago, we'd exchanged no more than a hello, a social media like, or retweet.

We are not sisters because we are both Black women journalists in an overwhelmingly white media space. We are not sisters because we both like long braids and long eyelashes. We are sisters because we are Black women. We are sisters because we are Black women from, of, and in the City of Pittsburgh. So my dear sister Alexis, I wanted to write you a letter (I am making it very public and I hope that's alright with you).

Like many Black women, we have walked into these toxic, violent workspaces alone — one of one, or of a few — sometimes imperceptibly enraged. We have had to walk out of many of these offices, sometimes with the threat of “one day I will sue you.” Or we just walk away in silence, since there is no one to help with our fight and we cannot do it alone.

I have been bullied by white women co-workers who didn't understand how I could be in the same room with them. I have been bullied by white male co-workers who didn’t think I should be in the same building with them unless I was coming in to clean it at night. In meetings, I have offered suggestions that went ignored, then were repeated verbatim by white men moments later to a warm reception. And in all of this, still doing all the work. In all of this, still performing the job. Excelling at the job.

What I know is that as we are tweeting and talking and texting about all of this, you still have to walk into work on North Shore Drive. You walk in that space, through that door, alone. You still have to walk down the hall, grab coffee or your lunch from the fridge. Maybe it seems from this vantage point that everyone except a couple bad guys are on your side. But we know that’s not true, we know you have multiple battle lines, enemies, people with questions: Why now? Why here? And you have to be graceful and calm, even when you are surrounded by those who are showing their slips, gnashing their teeth, and displaying their fragile egos, biases, privilege, and racism.

And you still shine with grace and grit, knowing that it shouldn’t even be this way. We in the public are out here trying to apply some logic to all of this, a drama being played out in real-time. What’s next? Who is next? But, of course, there is no logic. How can white men who care more about flying on a plane with a racist president care about serving the multicultural reality of Pittsburgh? How can a white woman committed to serving this idea be a helpful manager?

Every day there is joy at the number of letters signed, emails sent, tweets retweeted, and media appearances in support of you. But I still think about you walking through the office door alone. I want you to be OK, I want you to be protected, celebrated, happy, and thriving. More than imagining the community with you walking through that door, I want to hug you, hold you as you go — not because you need it, but because I am your sister.

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