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I haven't said this out loud but being a black man in corporate America stinks. I've had the distinct honor of working in offices surrounded by white people for the better part of 15 years. It hasn't been all bad, but if anyone thinks there isn't still a racial divide, try being one of eight minorities that work in a predominantly white company. The funny thing is it isn't always the big things that make it tough. Sometimes it's the little things that truly make it unbearable. What little things you ask? Well...
My hair shouldn't be a conversation piece. Leave me alone.
You would think some of these folks have never seen dreads before. The ones who have, make statements like "I always wanted to get my hair like that!" Or "is that really your hair?"
Yes, Kimmy, that's my hair and no you can't touch it and for the love of all things culturally appropriated, do not ever, ever, EVER mention that you wanted to get your hair like that.
First, you can't and second just don't. You took my land (I'm one- eighth Cherokee, damn it!) and now you want my hair? Be gone, devil!
Not every black person watches Empire, so stop asking me about it.
Never mind the fact that Empire is one of the worst shows on television, I don't watch it. Stop making assumptions. Ask me about Power and I won't get so offended. That reminds me...
Just because I am your only access to a black person that doesn't mean I am an authority in everything "black."
I don't speak for all black folks. My opinions are my own... for the most part. If you want the black perspective, go get some black friends. Spend quality time with them. Ask them questions about their personal experiences and their struggles. Did I mention you can't touch my hair? Seriously, stop asking.
Since we are on the topic of assumptions...
Yes, I'm black with dreads and tattoos but that doesn't mean I can help you "score" weed or pills. Okay, I totally could, but it's not ok for you to assume. Plus, I don't know you... you look like a damn narc. See, doesn't feel good when people assume things about you, now does it?
If we are friendly in and out of work, that doesn't mean it's ok for you to make thinly veiled racist jokes.
Listen, no matter how many laughs we share or beers we may drink it will never be ok for you to put on your best step in fetch it voice when imitating Michael Smith and Jemelle Hill on ESPN. I get it. They can be a bit much at times, but that doesn’t make it ok to “yesa masa” as you make fun of them. As I told my boss as he danced around like an idiot in front of me (he thought this was hilarious) that’s never ever going to be ok.
And last (not really, I could go all day) but not least (I think this just became a series!)...
Shake my hand like a grown-up, you are NOT my homeboy, home slice, home skillet, or whatever the kids call it these days.
Seriously, this is one of the most patronizing things you can do. You’re not making me feel more comfortable or whatever madness you tell yourself when you think this is appropriate behavior. You are just showing me and everyone watching that you don’t respect me as an equal and I am not to be taken seriously.
You may be thinking, "That’s preposterous!" as you straighten your monocle and eat your boiled goose (sorry, my only frame of reference for what white people do when they relax is Lonely Island songs and Downton Abby), but think of it this way: would you walk up to your boss and try to go into a choreographed dance routine as if you had just been introduced as a player in the starting lineup at an Oklahoma City Thunder game to greet them? Yeah, I didn't think so.
I could go on but I won't. Besides, this can't be a series of pieces if I give it all away the first time now, can it? In the end, I hope that you walk away from this and realize that you really aren't as hip as you think you are. If you take five seconds to think before you interact it will go a long way towards making you look a bit less like a jackass.