How to be black at work

Let's face it: being black in 2017 is easy.
(Shutterstock / FabrikaSimf)

Let's face it: being black in 2017 is easy. We no longer live in the shadows of slavery, Jim Crow and segregation. Turn on your TV – there are a couple black faces sprinkled in. Did you know there was even a black president in the United States? So it can't be all that bad for us.

Unfortunately, there are still realms where being black can be tricky, such as the workplace. You'll need a little bit of finesse to progress and thrive. So I, your black friend Alan, have compiled these helpful DOs and DON'Ts to help you on your journey to the top of the corporate ladder.


- Remind yourself that you are NOT an affirmative-action hire. No matter how many jokes your coworkers make, you've earned this position. In no way are you a diversity hire. Even if it feels like it. Even if you are the only person of colour at work.

- Talk in a manner that would best fit a Eurocentric work environment. Leave the slang at home – you don't have the luxury of using "lit," "fleek," or "ratchet" at work, however fun these are. At the same time, make sure you know the definitions of these terms because people may ask you them randomly. Same goes for a working knowledge of hip hop. Remember: you're there to make them feel cooler at a moment's notice.

- Avoid scenarios that cast you as the Angry Black Person. Remember that your passion for debate may not be well received and could scare people. You are a brand ambassador for black people and you wouldn't want to perpetuate a negative stereotype.

- Remind yourself that words like "articulate" are compliments. The person who called you "articulate" has a vision of what black person sounds like and you have shattered their expectations. Take a bow!

- When asked about your skin and hair, play along. If a coworker returns from a vacation and decides to compare their tan with your skin, make sure to smile and make a joke, such as "We're twins!" They've just had a great time in a tropical climate and want to keep that joy train a-running.

- If you are working in retail, don't for a second think your boss is asking you to shadow black customers out of fear that they're potential thieves. Carol wouldn't dare ask you do to that. Rejoice in your responsibilities!

- Avoid gritty and honest conversations about your personal experiences with racism – these anecdotes might offend white sensibilities. You can only be as "down" for the cause as your white coworkers are.


- Complain. Like, ever. 

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About the Author

Alan Shane Lewis has been performing stand up comedy for the past 4 years, but has always had a knack for all things comedic. Whether it be writing and acting in his own sketches or with his sketch troupe "The Burning I's" or publishing comedic sports articles for BELOW THE HARDWOOD's basketball blog and DIME Magazine as a contributor.