The Only Black Employee

As we as a society collectively returned to work this morning, I couldn't help but wondering - what the hell is that supposed to even be like with what's going on in this country right now?

Especially for black employees.

I run my own business now but I worked in corporate America for 13 years, recently leaving last December.

So, I couldn't help thinking what it would be like if I would have had to jump on a Zoom call this morning and answer blithe questions about "how my weekend was".

How was my weekend?!

I have felt every emotion under the sun over the past few days.

Outrage. Anger. Exhaustion. A sadness that seeps into my bones to the core of my very being. Fear for every black man in my family, and those who aren't even men yet. I tried to resist feelings of hopelessness but it's hard to given the endless list of names.

George Floyd. Ahmaud Arbery. Breonna Taylor. Tony McDade. Sean Reed.

And the countless others that the media doesn't even bother to report on.

Yet, you're going to jump on a Zoom call with me, cheerfully say "Happy Monday!" then move right on to the agenda items without even acknowledging what is going on in this country right now?

Yeah, let me pull my google sheet right up for you so I can give you status on my requisitions.

Let's not talk about an unarmed black man who was lynched in broad daylight for being accused of forgery (a fake $20 bill).

Let's get right back into how many in-person interviews I have set up for you this week.

Out of 98 employees, I was the only black person in my entire department until the Chief Diversity Officer was brought on - I wonder why that is.

So, I couldn't help but think this morning, what my recruiting status meetings would have been like with my (all white) executive stakeholders had I still been at the company.

I am a stoic, reserved individual by nature at work anyway so I can't imagine how this would have been compounded by everything that's happened.

By meaningless small talk, ignorant questions asking if I "had a good weekend".

By no recognition of the pain and utter fear and exhaustion that every black person in America is feeling right now.

By the demands that all of the work still get done like yesterday, Patricia (that was always a favorite of mine) with no acknowledgement of the fact that I am suffering as a black woman.

That I could be Breonna Taylor, shot eight times in my sleep, by a cop serving a "no-knock warrant" - when the suspect wasn't even in her apartment.

That I could be Sandra Bland, murdered by a cop for a minor traffic violation, with my death later ruled as a suicide.

But yes, I'll get right on those 46 phone screens for you, right away!

Instead of all that, there needs to be empathy. There needs to be compassion.

You need to actually give a shit.

You need to understand.

You need to ask us - really ask us - how we are feeling.

You need to give us space.

You need to allow us space not to give you all 10,000 deliverables by the end of the day.

You need to realize that black people are going through immeasurable suffering right now that no one else, even other minorities, are.

You need to realize that this isn't "business as usual" and act accordingly.

You need to stop acting like we're robots that can hop on a meaningless Zoom call with you for a meeting that could have been handled in an email while our brothers and sisters are protesting in the streets for our lives while risking theirs.

Be better. Check your privilege. Be an actual ally. Be anti-racist.

That goes beyond reading a damn book by a black author.

Actually speak to us!

Speak to us about our feelings, our rage, our emotions, our sadness from the depths of our soul.

Ask us about our experiences with racism - it may shock you to hear that we have experienced racism at the very company that we are currently working at right now with you.

Have the difficult conversations.

Speak up for black colleagues who are spoken over at meetings. Speak up if you notice black employees that are passed over for promotions for their less talented, less experienced, non-melanated colleagues.

Actually give a damn. Actually make yourself uncomfortable. Actually risk pissing someone off. Actually risk upsetting someone. Actually do something that you're afraid to do.

That report that you want status on asap? It can actually wait.

You being a human being and checking your privilege can't.

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