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12/29/2017 08:58 EST | Updated 12/29/2017 09:25 EST

This Canadian MP Has A Message For Fellow Black Women

After Celina Caesar-Chavannes was cautioned by a white woman to refrain from stealing her wallet, she had some thoughts she needed to let go.

Canadian Member of Parliament Celina Caesar-Chavannes arrives at the Education In The Spotlight at Global Citizen and Global Partnership for Education Event at the Chateau Laurier on Feb. 8, 2017 in Ottawa.
Getty Images for Global Citizen
Canadian Member of Parliament Celina Caesar-Chavannes arrives at the Education In The Spotlight at Global Citizen and Global Partnership for Education Event at the Chateau Laurier on Feb. 8, 2017 in Ottawa.

After Canada's Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Development, Celina Caesar-Chavannes, was cautioned by a white woman to refrain from stealing her wallet, she had some thoughts she needed to let go. Chavannes was doing her makeup in a washroom when two white women walked in; one of them placed her wallet on the counter beside Chavannes and said, "Don't steal my wallet, ok?"

The story was picked up by several mainstream media outlets after she published a Facebook post detailing the incident and several other instances of micro-aggressions she regularly faces at work, such as constantly being questioned about her identity by Parliament Hill security.

She went a step further when speaking to ByBlacks writer Andray Domise, sending a strong message of solidarity to other black women who may be having similar experiences in the workplace. Here is part of what she told Domise.

"I've said to many before: I never fully felt like a black woman - I mean a black. Woman. Until I entered into politics. I am speaking to my sisters in the community;​​​ I see you.

Through this position, I see you clearer than ever before. And the pain that you go through. And the comments that you accept. And then you still gotta rise to every occasion. I see you.That you don't get the promotion that you deserve. I see that you get looked through and past. I see that.

I will put my mental health issues out there for those of you who can't, because you may lose your job, or may lose your kid.

And because I see that, I will put it out there for those who say 'I can't, because if I do, I'll lose my job tomorrow.'

I will put my mental health issues out there for those of you who can't, because you may lose your job, or may lose your kid. I will put it out there, because I see you. That's all I can do. Try to change the conversation and try to change mindsets.

I want black women to know that somebody sees them. And acknowledges them. And acknowledges their pain. And acknowledges their hurt. And acknowledges their strength, and their brilliance, and their vulnerability, and their resilience.

I see you. That's all."

In response to critics who say she should push back more on these micro-aggressions, such as constantly being asked by security for her ID while her white colleagues are not, Chavannes says she is exhausted and has to choose her battles.

Toronto Star via Getty Images
Celina Caesar-Chavannes in Whitby, Ontario on Nov. 12, 2014.

"I advocate for the recognition of the UN's Decade for People of African Descent. I push for justice reform. I push to ensure that there are more women of colour in particular, black women in federal appointments. I push for procurement to change so that minority business owners can do business with the federal government.

I don't have any energy left to be fighting for all of these other issues that we need to fix. I have to choose. Because I don't have the mental health capabilities to fight for everything.

So I choose. Micro-aggressions in the workplace are like any other assault. Where you don't know what to do, and you think, 'Oh, it's not that bad. It's okay. I'm not going to fight it, it's fine.'

Or, if I do fight it, people are going to say that I'm a Mad Black Woman.

I've had people in my own party tell me I need to get thicker skin.

Or, if I do fight it it's like 'Oh, you're pulling out the race card.'

Or, if I do fight it, it's like 'Oh well, why don't you just get thicker skin.'

In fact, I've had people in my own party tell me I need to get thicker skin.

I've had a target on my back from day one. I've been called a No-name Lamb to the Slaughter.

'Who do you think you are? Running in Whitby? Thinking that you could inherit the riding from Jim Flaherty?'

'Who do you think you are? Never been in politics before? I've been here for years, and you get picked as Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister?'

It's not like this is coming from one political side or the other. It's everybody.

There's two options in politics. One, you get complacent. The other, you fight until you get exhausted. And then you leave.

I wish I had something brilliant to say. I don't want to tell people to swallow it. But I also recognize that not everybody can stand up. Not everybody can say, 'That's not f—king funny.' Because they'll get fired.

I am speaking to the woman who said 'Don't steal my wallet, OK?' I see you. You think you're being cute. But you're not cute. It's ugly. And it's not funny.

And I know what you're going to do next. You're going to say, 'Oh, I was just joking.' But you weren't just joking. Because some part of your subconscious thought that it was okay to assume that the person you were looking at would steal your wallet. So don't tell me you were just joking.

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And then you're going to start crying. Don't start crying because someone challenges you. That's the natural progression of how this plays out.

I confront you on your BS. You say, 'I was just joking. I was just having some fun.' And then you start to cry, and complain to all your other colleagues about how she's taking things so seriously. And you were just joking. But you weren't just joking. You weren't.

Because if you were joking, you would have told the girl that came into the bathroom ahead of you, 'Don't steal my wallet.' But you didn't. You told me."

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