Working While Black: Surviving Workplace Racism & Microaggressions

woman at work stressed

The struggles of being a Black professional are multi-layered. We’re often underrepresented in a lot of the places we’re employed. Finding allies that look like us is often crucial to corporate survival and day-to-day sanity. Even when we find that group of co-workers who are “down” we still have to deal with the effects of racism. Diversity and Inclusion initiatives are popping up in many organizations worldwide, but the power of racism still leaves our people stressed out, on and off the clock.

It could be the White co-worker coming up to you saying, “I’m not racist but ummm…” or that one guy who uses the term “ghetto” to describe everything that’s negative or having to deal with minorities. Despite recent efforts to address this issue, there are still reports of unequal staffing and promotional opportunities out there.

Inappropriate behavior shows up in all forms when it comes to workplace racism. Many Black professionals stay mum and in silence in fear of undue retribution and some might “go off” due to the impact of racism on one’s morale. We live in a society where Black people resort to “resume whitening” in order to even get the job.

Psychotherapist and life coach, Asha Tarry, works with a lot patients looking to transition careers because of workplace racism. Tarry spoke with BlackDoctor.org about her personal and professional experiences as a therapist and Black woman in society, an issue that she says leaves many feeling ‘insecure about what you know’.

She says despite feeling supremely confident prior to getting a job, over time she felt the need to “explain her intelligence” in the workspace because her White counterparts didn’t give her the immediate just due she deserved because of her race. As the owner of Behavioral Health Consulting Services she encounters a lot of patients with the exact same issue. Tarry says this is a common occurrence in professional spaces where Black people are constantly put in positions to over-explain , overcompensate or put up with rude behavior such as co-workers touching your hair to feel the texture.  Check out Tarry’s “Angry Black Woman Syndrome”  series with Jacque Reid. Their conversations point out some key issues and solutions to workplace racism.

So how do you re-train your brain to look the other way when you know for a fact that you had the best idea in the staff meeting? When you’re overlooked and you know it had everything to do with race?

Are you supposed to look the other way when something racially egregious happens?

These questions asked everyday by Black people worldwide are contributing to the mental cache of stress built by racism in the workplace.

Zondra Wilson, owner of Blu Skin Care, LLC, was a news reporter prior to becoming a business owner. Oftentimes she was the only Black person in a predominantly White office and saw a lot of up close and personal racism. Zondra provides us with some strategies to deal with workplace racism: