I read the AdWeek article about Havas Chicago creating an obstacle course to show what it’s like to be black at work and chuckled. At first, I thought “man, I wish I had something specific to share for today’s BHM post” and then I remembered there are just so many things that I didn’t know where to start.

This video is so accurate for how people of color continuously think about race.

The woman who is thinking about Kale — I’ve had a conversation with black friends about what to do if there’s fried chicken and/or watermelon at a company function. Do you pass it over? Do you eat it with a fork and knife to class it up?

The guy thinking about his “basic name” — I’ve had countless conversations regarding “dealing with the name your parents gave you” and what pre-work you feel you need to do to smooth the experience for others. Oh and yes coming up with a different version of your name? Yes.

The guy realizing he’s the only white person in the room — In my last job, I was usually the only black person, person of color and/or male in many of my meetings. And yes, I thought about it every time. If there was another black person, I definitely made sure not to sit next to them or we’d fear being accused to sharing secrets or have a “meeting with the meeting.”

The guy who likes Frasier — cheese, skiing, weddings.

Is my music too white? Yes, I keep my trap and r&b at a volume so low no one will ever hear.

On the “too real” side of the spectrum is this AJ+ video that is the brutally honest truth of work: SILENCE. I was never taught S.I.L.E.N.C.E., but I had to learn it after being too vocal or honest at work. Video:


Here are a few that come to mind of my working experience…

  • ”You know, I really like you. When I see you, I don’t see color. I don’t think of you as black.”
  • “You need to work at making others more comfortable with you…why don’t you smile more often?”
  • 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?
  • Your first name is arbitrarily shortened to one or two syllables without your permission”
  • You are asked every summer if black people tan or come back from a vacation and say “Hey I’m darker than you / we’re the same color / twinsies”
  • Acknowledge another black person with more than a head nod “How do you know so many people?”
  • Being told I was both too sensitive (I told someone I felt they were condescending to me) and too harsh (I made that person cry for saying they were condescending)

Part of a 28-day series of reflections, stories and feelings for Black History Month 2017. Read all parts (here).

My first words: but why though? | Biting my tongue requires daily reminders | Unapologetically me https://linktr.ee/alterrellmfmills