When I first sat down to pen this piece, I was at a loss.
There are so many themes to touch on when considering the experience of people of color in
white corporate culture.
The first question that came to mind was “Where the HELL do I even START!?!?”
My experiences of attempting to toe the line between white America and their respective values and those of my black/Asian parents spans decades (well, 2.4 decades at least) and could spur a couple of tomes about a variety of transgressions — some subtle, others so blatant and hurtful that it would take years (and therapy) for me to recover.
As a multiethnic woman in the work place, my dealings with racial turmoil are many. Whether it’s the plaguing knowledge of how few women of color there are in my profession (hiring figures never top 8%), the dilution of who I am to appear more delicate and docile to my white male superiors, or the surprised looks of all my coworkers when I do or say something not “characteristic” of my race.
In the most extreme moments, it feels like my job wasn’t earned based on merit, but handed to me as a necessity for a token of progressive thought — an emblem for our office to champion itself as one on the cutting edge of inclusivity and social liberality.
As I was sifting through personal experience for palpable and discernible content, a question hit my brain hard and weighed heavy, so heavy I had to immediately confront it before going any further.
“Should I do this anonymously?”
This question perhaps best reflects the struggle of conformity in an arena in which any perceived misstep taken as a threat to the biosphere of whiteness not only severely limits advancement, but begets labels of extremism and mass disapproval. Thus, I chose to write this anonymously for fear of retribution.
This fear is exactly why, when my white coworkers pander on about a post-race society, or I see some ignoramus on social media whining about how everything has to be about race, I roll my eyes and my soul gets a teensy bit defeated. If we were truly in some utopic race-egalitarian society, I wouldn’t need to rehearse or restate things over and over in my mind to make sure what I’m saying, and how I’m saying it, won’t be perceived as too “urban”, “ghetto”, or “abrasive.”
If everything isn’t about race, I wouldn’t feel the need to over-perform every day, while being dressed to the nines and minding my level of hair bigness (can’t frighten the white folk with too much natural).
Therefore, if corporate culture were as inclusive and liberal as Sally, Joe, and Jim Bob like to think, I would be using my full government name instead of shrouding myself in a cloak of anonymity. Instead, I’m doing what I do every day at the office; I’m putting on a face that makes me more digestible to my white counterparts, scaling back my genetic traits and toning down the beautiful culture that flows with and from it.
Don’t be fooled, this anonymity doesn’t come without a price—for every smile I fake, micro-aggression I shrug off, comment I pretend not to hear – there’s always SHAME. Not shame towards who I am, but rather shame towards the person which I’ve chosen to be.
*Featured Image Credit: www.blackenterprise.com