I left the floor around 8:40 pm, shirt and face smeared with grease. My arms, legs, back hurting. Skirt twisted. My shoes didn't have enough arch support. They were intern shoes: SAP, excel, charts, logistics. Mr. Waspy had left me hours ago to haul (heavy) materials to the line by myself, "Ok, you can finish the rest of this girl." I'm not lazy, so I finished. I had done hard labor.
In manufacturing, everybody pulls their weight. So I decided to suck it up, until my 2nd shift fork-lifting friends questioned me "What you doing still here shortie?". My direct manager heard though the grape vine. The next day he questioned me in a low voice, "(Mr. Wasp) didn't have you out on the floor, did he? What time did you leave here last night?" I didn't say anything. "I'll talk to him- this won't happen again. I'm sorry this happened to you"
At lunch, I saw my old Que friend, but I didn't tell him what happened. I didn't want to let him down. He thought I was the future. Perhaps he thought I had the courage to say "No" to injustice. Perhaps he thought I wouldn't be faced with same methods from the 70's. Do not throw away lessons of the past.
That night I realized, I was a girl who thought injustice died in the 70's. When in fact, Injustice was alive and I was the future. #LeanInKeisha
My first industry mentor was an old Que (ΩΨΦ) that had been with the company for.... ever, retired military. He referred to me as "little sister" and took me out to lunch. He was so happy to see the company hiring black girls for logistics. Mentor-Que told me stories filled with invaluable information that I won't be able to decipher for years.
On this particular day, over lunch, his story described the special on-boarding process just for the new African-American hires in the 70's. The newly hired college graduates, even with STEM degrees, first had to prove their work ethic by doing hard labor (well below their pay grade). A black engineer would work along side the associates (without HS diplomas) for nearly a year before he saw an office. Many gave up and left. Oppose to their white counterparts, who were able to prove themselves in the capacity in which they were hired. Some may suggest that this practice crippled the careers of many black STEM professionals in the manufacturing industry for decades; but those days were long gone. I was the future.
About 2 weeks later, a waspy logistics manager on the team took me out to the manufacturing floor around 4:30 pm. I had always avoided him and his contempt, but my need to please betrayed me. "You ready to do some hard labor?", he asked. I responded yes, since I usually left at 5 pm anyway and I was already accustom to rolling around large metrics charts. Best case scenario, I'd make a new friend and get to brag tomorrow to the other interns about my special assignment.