Guest Blog~Alone at the Top?
**Editor’s Note** Our first guest blog was a hit, and we’re trying to keep it going (if interested hit us up firstname.lastname@example.org). As we continue to make progress on the site redesign and making it better for you, we still want to increase collaboration and our reach. Let us know of any good ideas for doing so. For the second installment in the guest blog series, my good friend @The3rdOpinion writes about something we haven’t given much thought to: how openly expressing your race and culture in workplaces can be advantageous. Essentially, if stereotypes and such are going to be just about inevitable, why not find a way to make them work in our favor?**
Like many of you I am an avid reader of this blog. I often find myself reading each post and laughing as well as shaking my head in agreement with many of the stories of racially awkward situations that arise in the common workplace. However, recently my perspective of being black in the office was challenged and possibly changed forever. This past week I sat down with another black man who worked at my job in a different department (for the record, my company is very diverse and definitely has more minority men and women than the usual workplace, or so I have heard). As I listened to him and shared work stories he advised me to be wary of something that I had never considered to be a potential issue; that trying to downplay my ethnicity could be a hindrance to me in the workplace. Now before you get this picture in your mind of a black man shucking and jiving, sticking a hat out and expecting his supervisors to throw a paycheck into, it let me explain his perspective further.
He told me that what happens to many people at our job is that instead of expanding their horizons and networks by reaching out to the many different people in the office they try to keep to themselves and social circles they are used to (racially, sexual orientation, etc.) and keep interactions with their coworkers in other groups to a minimum. He finished our talk with a line I hope I never forget: “The boardroom is going to need that one guy that’s different that they feel comfortable with. Why not be that guy yourself?”
Like many of you that read this blog I have always been told about the importance of having to keep a double consciousness of our actions in areas where we are the minority, especially in the workplace. What I took from this convo though was a challenge to that very old way of thinking. While I am not endorsing you to show up to work tomorrow dapping up all your co-workers, starting every phrase with “Yo son…”, or starting up a discussion with your supervisor about whether or not Ray-J really did hit Fabulous I am saying that acknowledging the fact that you are black and you like some things associated with the black community will probably not hurt you. It may even spark some new and real bonds with your majority co-workers. I often have conversations about music and movies with my majority co-workers and am often surprised to find out how knowledgeable they are on the subjects that I believed to be only popular in the black community.
In summation, you are black and nothing is going to change that. Not the way you talk, not the way you walk, or the way you act. Embrace it; even if you wear American Eagle and Birkenstocks, speak with no slang, and proclaim your love for all things country, you’ll just be that black guy who wears American Eagle and Birkenstocks, speaks with no slang, and loves country music. So relax and if someone assumes you’ve already seen Friday, or heard a new hip hop song , just woosah in your head, smile and respond yes or no and ask if they usually listen to that artist or watch movies like that. You may be surprised at the answer.