Working While Black: 10 Realities & Racial Microaggressions People Of Color Experience In The Workplace

Racism 1

  1. You are expected to speak for and on behalf of people of color everywhere.  You are sometimes expected to be the barometer of racism.  If there is a conscience in the workplace, you are it.  You carry the burden of calling out discrimination when you see/experience it with the risk of retaliation which can be anything from being overlooked for a promotion, to losing your job altogether for creating a “hostile” environment.  If/when you don’t call out racism, you emotional turmoil and guilt, feeling like a sell out for not standing up for yourself or others.
  2. You are routinely accused of being hostile, aggressive, difficult and/or angry.  You are told that your colleagues/students/co-workers/customers are intimidated by you and are afraid to approach you.    You are encouraged in evaluations to “smile more,” and “be more friendly.”  You practice a fake ass smile in the mirror on your way out the door and practice all the way to work.  You fear that your resting face pose makes people think you are mean.
  3. You are required to be the diversity on committees and in meetings because black is the only diversity that matters.  Your blackness makes it easy to “see” that a diversity quota has been met.
  4. You feel unappreciated, undercompensated and overworked.  You are afraid to ask for compensation, a promotion, praise or affirmation.  You have been socialized to be satisfied that you have a job.  You feel guilty for not feeling grateful.
  5. You are regularly nominated for or assigned extra tasks and responsibilities for things no one else wants to do (especially things involving other POC).  You are encouraged to work with other people of color, join people of color groups, attend people of color activities, etc.
  6. Your absence (at work, at meetings, at parties) stands out with no regard to how exhausting it is to be the only black person in the room.  You are encouraged to not think of yourself as black when you are the only black person in the room.
  7. You are often vilified and/or criticized for doing your work (too early or on time, well or not good enough).  You are labeled as either an overachiever or a slacker, as too ambitious or lazy.  You struggle to find the balance between these things.
  8. You feel that no matter what you do or how hard you work, you need to do more (or sometimes less).  Nothing is ever (good) enough.
  9. You feel the need to constantly prove yourself worthy of your job or opportunity.  You know that some people assume you got your job, promotion, award, or special recognition, not because you worked your ass off or deserve it, but because you are black (there goes that damn black privilege again, cause you know affirmative action causes folk to get jobs they are unqualified for and shit <insert sideye>).
  10. You feel isolated, misunderstood, misrecognized, misrepresented, and missing in action.  You wonder how you can feel invisible and hypervisible at the same time.

Anything I’m missing? Feel free to tell me about in the comments section below –

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*Article originally published on the Crunk Feminist Collective.

5 thoughts on “Working While Black: 10 Realities & Racial Microaggressions People Of Color Experience In The Workplace

  1. funny how being a white man in the military, I knew these things you listed – I mean – I felt them and the pressure my fellow black marines must have been feeling…..

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