April 14, 2012

You Know You're Black in Corporate America When...

  1. A coworker sees you and several Black colleagues at a casual lunch. Back at the office he/she later asks, "What was that meeting all about?"
  2. You arrive at work on time as usual. Your boss, making her rounds, peeks in and remarks with surprise, "Oh, you're here!"
  3. A colleague says with a broad smile, "You know, I really like you. When I see you, I don't see color. I don't think of you as Black."
  4. After a staff meeting, your boss suggests, "you need to work at making others more comfortable with you...why don't you smile more often?"
  5. You tell your manager about a problem you are having and the response you get is "You've got to be exaggerating! I find that hard to believe."
  6. You are told you are "rough around the edges" despite your completion of many professional development programs and it is suggested you emulate the behavior of a non-person of color colleague.
  7. You continually get more responsibility, but no authority.
  8. You are being recognized at a company banquet. As you approach the stage to receive your company's highest achievement award, your corporations' top executive exclaims, "Yo homeboy, congratulations".
  9. You arrive at an offsite business retreat dressed in business casual attire. Your non-persons of color peers approach and ask why you are always so dressed up?
  10. You are told you are decreasing your effectiveness with your aggressive style.
  11. You are frequently asked why you change your hairstyle so often.
  12. Your first name is arbitrarily shortened to one or two syllables without your permission.
  13. You are asked every summer if Black people tan.
  14. After a coworker returns from a weekend in the sun, they run to you on Monday morning and extend their arms to touch yours and say, "Hey I'm darker than you".
  15. Walking through the hall with colleagues, you exchange greetings with two other Blacks you pass along the way. Your colleague says in amazement, "My you know so many people."
  16. You are told your attitude is affecting others. You are asked to..."lighten up, not be so serious about the work. Smile and laugh more often, to make others more comfortable working with you".
  17. You realize that at times you must "dumb down" appearing to be dependent and unaware, so that your manager and peers feel they are helping you...
  18. You have to perform at 250% just to stay even.
  19. You have to document everything. You've learned the hard way.
  20. You assumed that all that was required of you was to work hard and get the job done.
I left Corporate America in 2002 to start my own consultancy. However this list brings back so many memories. Do any of the items on this list resonate with you? Do you have any other suggestions to add to this list?

42 comments:

Lori said...

Wow,
I'm loving your blog and this post in particular. Does your list resonate? Please. . . It resonates, reverberates and all that *LOL*. Your list contains so much truth, it could very well be a sermon. Let the church say, Amen(smile)!

Villager said...

Lori - Asante sana! I just visited your ol' school blog. First, congrats on your book deal. I look forward to promoting your book here in da Village when you're ready. We recently had a visit from the sister who wrote, African American History for Dummies and of course, my blood sister, Kyra, has written two books, so I love the idea of other nubian authors floating though the Village.

peace, Villager

Keith said...

Villager,

THEY ALL RESONATE. I'M HAVING A NIGHTMARE FLASHBACK. WHY DID YOU DO THIS TO ME, VILLAGER? WHY? I THOUGHT WE WAS COOL...

Francis L. Holland Blog said...

I still remember an Irish-American lawyer who greeted me with a "Afro" handshake. I thought of him as a friend, yet I felt so insulted by what he did. And it would have been impossible to explain why it annoyed me so much.

Jean-Luc Picard said...

I think anyone who might be different from the norm is treated in a similar way.

Shai said...

I was thinking about my time working at a university I attended. I got commments from coworkers and fellow students. SMH.

James said...

I did this same post a while back, it is a fun look and true look at the coroporate world. have a great weekend

Villager said...

Keith - It wasn't personal. Just blog-business! (smile)

Francis - hmmmm.... did you wear green on St. Patrick's Day so that he wouldn't pinch you? (smile)

Jean-Luc - yes, you could probably come up with similiar lists for other folks that are 'different' based on gender, national origin, color, sexual preference and so forth. let's see, if we were all from The Federation we would have a similiar list if we were posted on a Ferenghi planet! Hmmm, I'm reminded of the Ferenghi laws or rules on profit. Don't know why .. .but, that is what came to mind!

Shai & James - Dankie! I hope you'll visit with us here in da Villager on a regular basis!

Latimer Williams said...

Dang, I'm shivering having to go back to that place on Monday! This post is sending chills up my spine

credo said...

Dreads, is not a professional look.

Villager said...

Latimer - Just take a deep breath! You'll be fine (smile)

credo - Black hairstyles in the workplace is always an issue that ends of being decided in the eyes of the beholder. I've grown into an understanding that the hairstyle has nothing to do with the inner soul or inner talents of a colleague or employee.

Would the character, talents and ability of Barack Obama be less if he wore dreadlocks?

peace, Villager

I am not Star Jones said...

wow...have you been filming me? Seriously because I've heard all of the above.

It used to annoy me but now, it makes me sad (not empathetic) because it reveals the deep wells of insecurity that lives within certain people. I take the money with that knowledge and keep on moving.

thanks for stopping by the Cafe.

Britgirl said...

I work in a very large corporate company (in Canada, not in America it's true) and none of these resonate with me.

My boss is always singing my praises - and telling her boss. She knows that if she needs a complex project completed she can give it to me. She tells me (and shows me) that she appreciates what I do - and that being able to give me projects and not get moans and complaints back (like she does from certain others) just a result - is such a relief and a help to her. She thanks me regularly for my efforts and contributions to the team.

She's nominated me for an individual award - which I won. She helps me navigate some of the very real intricacies of working in a very corporate world...including encouraging and facilitating me working on enterprise wide projects - the kind that get you noticed. I said I wanted them, she picked up the phone to her colleagues. I made up my mind early on that I would never turn down an assignment.

And I'm encouraged to build my personal internal network (an absolute must), so that I know even more people and can "find out what's going on in the organization", and let people know I'm here so if there's something I'm interested in I'll have no hesitation in calling them up.

I have a boss in a million, it's true. But she isn't the only one like that. She is a great role model for me. And I still have a lot to learn.

But I made a distinct effort to choose a company that both promotes and lives by the values I live by... one of which is diversity and fair treatment of others that is actively sought after, not just by words. My company, though not perfect, is one I am proud to work for. The moment I'm not, I know it's time to go.

I change my hairstyle quite a bit... no one comments :)
Sometimes I wish they would...

Paula Neal Mooney said...

Funny.

Don't forget:

"People call you by the name of another black coworker that you look nothing like..."

Villager said...

Britgirl - First, thank you for taking time to visit with us here in the Electronic Village. Second, you have a blessed corporate experience and I encourage you to enjoy it!

I Am Not Star Jones & Paula - Thanx for your insights!

GC (God's Child) said...

actually no. I've never experienced any of those things. Maybe my job isn't really corporate. Or maybe somebody's hard work at educating the masses is beginning to pay off.

Villager said...

GC - You're living a blessed life ... which is a good thing! I experienced most all of 'em during my 23 years in corporate America!

peace, Villager

Dame said...

Great article, funny too. I work at a large corporation, Metlife and I find myself dumping down to my non black co-workers. That's because they think they have to dump down to me because I'm black. But I'm standing there using words that they are soooo surprise that I know or ones that they don't know themselves.

Anonymous said...

I think certain types of black people will relate to the list while others will not (check out my latest post) I am one of those who relate to the list!

http://www.racialrealist.wordpress.com/

Bronzetrinity said...

A lot of it sounds familliar. For instance I was talking to a white coworker once about some girls at another job (who happened to be black but I didn't say). I was talking about their colourful hair extensions, how they had so much attitude, how two of them go into a fight, and how they were so loud (he figured out they were black). Later on he said that I was so unlike them and it was as if I wasn't black!

I also get people paying a lot of attention to my hair, but maybe that happens to anyone who changes their hair. But this one time I was in a seminar and I felt someone touching my hair from behind. Some lady just touched my hair and said she was curious about what it felt like!!!

Another time the boss's wife said to me "I wish my skin was the same colour as yours because its so beautiful", she was white.
I also got guys trying to pick me up by saying they had never been with a Black girl before.Its all just annoying as hell. Thats why after work I'm out and I don't like to hang out with coworkers outside of work. They just irritate me too much!

Villager said...

Dame & Bronze Trinity - Thank you for sharing your stories .. and for visiting with us here in the Electronic Village. I hope you find reason to come back often!

peace, Villager

Ms.Martin said...

Wow, so having a degree, post-graduate degree and a title, office and management position doesn't change anything?

This list resonates with me and I've only worked as a Legal Assistant in corporate law firms.

I was once told by a boss thank he is used to things being "simple".

Villager said...

Ms. Martin - The sad thing is that the list resonates with too many of us. It amazes me that it was over a year ago that I originally posted this list. I hope you find reason to come back often...

teendoc said...

This list totally resonates with me. I'm ready to steal it and post it on Open Salon for the benefit of people like this GUYWHODOESN'TGETIT that I gave up trying to explain it to: America Zebra Nation

Villager said...

TeenDoc - Feel free to use it. Just share some link-love back to our village if you can...

Monica Roberts said...

And sadly, some of those comments on that list get repeated on an almost daily basis somewhere in Corporate America

wisdomteachesme said...

hello villager!
hope you are doing well!

lol--this brings back memories of times in my past. i have to add to this that these types of comments also are said to blacks in the school setting/academia!

i could click off many of them as they have been said to me many times. and i developed a few combacks also--lol!

and the beat goes on....
meaning, 'they' are still doing these things...(sigh)

~on feet of faith & peace,
WTm

Villager said...

WTM - I originally posted this in April 2007, however, it seemed to still resonated in 2009 ... so I brought it back to the front. I would love to hear one or two of your 'comebacks'!

Martin Lindsey. said...

Yep. I can definitely relate to #4, #5 and #10. Number 16 is a typical setup for performance failure during review time, I know all about #17 and didn't do enough of #19 because it could have developed into a job all its own.

It's a major reason I left my original profession a few years ago and am changing careers now. If I'm going to deal with any of that the rest of my work life the work is darn sure going to be something I enjoy and surely get paid better for it.

Villager said...

Marty - You hit on the best advice ... find something you love AND get paid to do it! Feel free to share this list with your blog readers...

lebeasley said...

Completely. So for the last 25 years, it wasn't just me...

Villager said...

Bro. Beasley - We are never alone!

Karen Swim, Words For Hire said...

Oh Villager, I laughed and cringed and then rejoiced that I have enjoyed nearly a decade of freedom with my own company. So many of the items on the list resonated and lawd am I thankful I no longer have to regularly answer questions about my hair, tanning or why I'm so dressed up. But for my brothers and sisters still dealing, we stand with you!

Villager said...

All - We originally posted this in April 2007. It still resonates today!

Karen - Is there anything we 'villagers' can do to help your business grow?

Henry Ford said...

What did you do, follow me around in my career? The list is so on point that I just relived my entire career in Corporate America in a matter of minutes. GOT TO SHARE THIS over every platform I can. THANKS for "seeing" and helping to reveal the Forest AND the Trees.

Villager said...

Henry - You bring a smile to my face with your comment. I appreciate you for visiting this blog.

Is there anything that 'villagers' reading your comment can do to support your entrepreneurial endeavors?

Henry Ford said...

If there is any "gold lining" in the experiences that are described, it is becoming stronger while enduring the pressures. Number 19 (Documenting Everything) has served me well. Reflecting upon my being called upon to "explain" O.J. Simpson, not withstanding the fact that my only connection to him was color, I responded with a letter entitled "Letter to a White Associate" which became a booklet for sale, which opened up several speaking opportunities. That "Letter" is on-line at http://www.henryfordswebsite.com/zlwa01.html - Hope it provokes some thought and helps someone.

Henry Ford said...

Wayne,
THANKS for your response, and the answer to how others might assist me, is simply to stay connected to both of us. My blog is at http://www.successisyou.blogspot.com/ - From that page, one has access to our entire network, in addition to a feed back to Electronic Village.

Villager said...

Henry - WOW! I had to read your op-ed piece written back in 1995 twice. I've shared it on my Electronic Village facebook page as well.

Thank you very much for sharing the link to that article with us.

If you ever want to be a guest blogger either here on the Electronic Village or on my BETF-Blog ... just say the word!

Henry Ford said...

THANKS for that posting Wayne. It is a true compliment to be considered as a guest writer. I re-read it myself, and ironically if I needed to do it again . . . I wouldn't change a thing.

Mitzi said...

Don't forget, "You're so well spoken." As if you are unfamiliar with the English language or undereducated because of your race. I really hate that one.

Villager said...

Mitzi - Yeah, that one bites! I remember that Joe Biden got in trouble for referring to (then) Senator Obama as a "articulate and bright and clean..." African American. I wonder if President Obama ever gives him a hard time about that comment nowadays?