It is 8:30am and I have clocked in for another day of work. My Company is a subsidiary of an International conglomerate that is based out of Switzerland (still waiting on that Corporate invite). Before our morning meeting today, one of my colleagues decides to bring up the Super Bowl Halftime Show. My young Caucasian colleague states, and I quote, “I don’t understand why Beyoncé sang that song at the Super Bowl. It is about the Black Lives Matter movement, and I don’t believe that was the stage to make a political statement.” Immediately I feel one of my other co-workers look towards me for a response. Instead I chose to continue reading through my emails and wait for the manager to officially call the meeting.
As the only African-American in my office, that was just another day of maintaining my politically correct dialect and social abandonment. If the topic matter doesn’t involve sports or the weather; then I will choose very wisely on whether to be an active participant in the subject matter.
My father, whom is my role model, set the example in my eyes of what it means to be a Black Man in Corporate America. A veteran of the U.S. Army, he took a job as a Computer Specialist for one of our Nation’s Government Branches in Washington, D.C. Very rarely did he ever talk about work when he came home. Is it because 90% of his co-workers were not of African descent? Maybe he just chose to keep his personal and business life exclusive from one another. I don’t think I know ONE former co-worker of my dad. But outside of work, amongst his peers; he always had people over for social gatherings that included old school music, spades, bid whist, and a well-stocked bar. I used that example and modeled it to my career.
From the moment I exit my vehicle every morning I immediately morph into a politically correct gentleman that parents dream of for their daughters. I truly consider myself an artist with a briefcase. No different than Kendrick Lamar with a microphone or LeBron James with a basketball. No one can take me out my zone. I have perfected my craft for years and growing better at it daily.
I walk into work every day with a split personality. Let’s call one side Mr. Professional (or Mr. P). Mr. Professional shows up to work dressed to win. Suit and tie even when it is not called for. He feels the pressure to work that much harder to be recognized for his successes. He just doesn’t feel like he has as many chances as his colleagues. His career can be over at Strike 1 or 2. Mr. P cannot get away with extended lunch breaks or leaving work early. If anything, he must leave work later than others just to stand out. Mr. Professional has to play the part perfectly. There is no equal playing field. It is a daily act that warrants an Oscar Winning performance or else. And that else… is my livelihood as a breadwinner for my wife and child.
There are those in the African-American culture that don’t understand this transformation. I have been called a conformist, pawn, or even a sell-out. My rebuttal is that I am no different than you and your “Hustle.” Where you hustle on the streets, I do mine in board rooms. So don’t criticize me for choosing this game over yours. Trust me, it pays well.
But when I get in that car every evening, Mr. Professional takes a back seat. I crank my Spotify playlist and play it with the bass thumping and melodies flowing thru my veins. I am literally getting out of character and releasing 9 hours of Corporate Bull*%$#. It is my life, and I have accepted it as such. After years and years of mastering this transformation; you understand it is my game of choice. And I know that I am not the only African-American that feels this way. I see it from my Brother as we cross paths and give each other the #BlackMansGreeting outside the elevators. I see it from my Sister at the nearby Lunch deli as we exchange a subtle smile and nod. The Corporate Face of the African-American worker is not always what it seems. But you will never know the difference unless you have played the part.
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English (United States)
The BLACK ARISTROCAT
CULTURE AND THOUGHT
My Corporate Oscar
By Black Pro