Diluting your Blackness for corporate (dis)comfort

I’ve lost count of the amount of times my dress code decisions, hairstyle choices and general demeanour in the workplace have been questioned and/or escalated. Colleagues and friends have shared their own stories about how aspects of their identity or culture – and the expression thereof – have been questioned or deemed “inappropriate” in the workplace.

How, in an African country, did we get to a point where being a Black African is considered a hindrance to your professional aspirations? The mighty works of colonialism that still run rampant in our careers and our access to healthcare, the economy and justice.

What is accepted as “professional” in corporate is largely European. White and privileged. From dress code to accents to hairstyles to “values”. At some point, as a Black professional, you begin to realise that what is deemed acceptable and professional in the workplace moves you further and further away from embracing and boldly “wearing” your Blackness. And I say “wearing” because Blackness in corporate South Africa is really only openly acceptable on Africa Day and Heritage Day when communications are sent out to remind us that we’re different and that we should, in theory, be respecting and learning from those cultural differences.

Nuances tell us that behaving like a Black person is threatening because it’s unpredictable. It’s unpredictable for two main reasons; Blackness is not monolithic, despite pop culture caricatures that make it more palatable. It is also unpredictable because corporate South Africa hasn’t actually done any work to educate themselves about Black people and their cultures or transform their organisations meaningfully.

Because in corporate South Africa, white people seemingly only feel comfortable around Black people who act like white people, many Black professionals assimilate by shunning their Blackness during office hours because they seek job security and career advancement.

The fact that Black professionals know and feel that they cannot show up as they are when they enter corporate South Africa is one of the greatest injustices that is often glossed over in HR policies and inclusion programmes, if covered at all.

Aside from the internal conflict that is a result of this code switching and the peer conflict that arises when Black professionals feel betrayed by other Black professionals who “act white”, the reality is that this assimilation to whiteness doesn’t even guarantee career advancement. What it does do, unfailingly, is continue to perpetuate faux transformation when in actual fact, corporate South Africa has a very low tolerance for Blackness, Black faces and Black voices.

Just think about it. When businesses began strategizing about entering Asian markets via China, what happened? Corporates rushed to make sure their teams learned Mandarin and Chinese culture and treat Chinese people with unfaltering respect. In South Africa, white people won’t even make the effort to learn how to pronounce or spell Black people’s names correctly.

This is a major reason why Diversity and Inclusion programmes in organisations cannot work where there is an absence of transformation. It is grossly irresponsible for organisations to recruit diverse individuals/marginalised groups without doing the work of ensuring that their organisations will be safe, rewarding and advancing spaces for marginalised professionals, spaces that offer equality in remuneration, representation and policy development.


  • I read this piece of writing completely concerning the difference of most up-to-date and previous
    technologies, it’s remarkable article.

  • I like the valuable information you provide for your
    articles. I’ll bookmark your weblog and take a look at
    once more right here regularly. I’m relatively certain I will be told many new
    stuff right here! Best of luck for the following!

  • Someone essentially assist to make seriously posts I would state.
    That is the very first time I frequented your web page and so far?
    I amazed with the analysis you made to create this particular post incredible.

    Great process!

  • I have been exploring for a bit for any high quality articles
    or weblog posts on this sort of area . Exploring
    in Yahoo I eventually stumbled upon this website. Reading this info So i
    am happy to exhibit that I have a very just right uncanny feeling I discovered exactly what I needed.
    I most without a doubt will make certain to do not disregard
    this web site and give it a look on a relentless basis.

  • Somebody essentially lend a hand to make seriously posts I’d state.
    This is the first time I frequented your website page and up to now?
    I surprised with the research you made to make this particular publish extraordinary.
    Excellent process!

  • Howdy would you mind stating which blog platform you’re working with?
    I’m going to start my own blog soon but I’m having a hard time selecting
    between BlogEngine/Wordpress/B2evolution and Drupal. The reason I ask is because your design and style seems
    different then most blogs and I’m looking for something completely unique.

    P.S My apologies for getting off-topic but I had to ask!

  • Do you mind if I quote a few of your articles as long as I provide credit and sources back to your blog?
    My website is in the very same area of interest as yours
    and my users would definitely benefit from some of the information you present here.
    Please let me know if this okay with you. Regards!

  • Thanks for your marvelous posting! I really enjoyed reading it, you can be a
    great author.I will make sure to bookmark your blog and will often come back in the foreseeable future.
    I want to encourage yourself to continue your great writing, have a nice day!

  • It’s a pity you don’t have a donate button! I’d most certainly donate to this outstanding blog!
    I guess for now i’ll settle for bookmarking and adding your RSS feed
    to my Google account. I look forward to new updates and will share this website with my Facebook group.

    Talk soon!

  • An outstanding share! I’ve just forwarded this onto a co-worker who was conducting a little homework on this.
    And he actually bought me lunch because I discovered it
    for him… lol. So allow me to reword this…. Thanks for the
    meal!! But yeah, thanks for spending some time to talk about this topic here on your website.

  • Hey I am so excited I found your blog page, I really found you by error,
    while I was looking on Aol for something else, Regardless I am here now
    and would just like to say thank you for a tremendous post and a all round thrilling blog
    (I also love the theme/design), I don’t have time
    to read it all at the moment but I have book-marked it and also included your RSS feeds, so when I have time I will be back to read a great deal more, Please do keep up the
    superb work.

  • Wonderful beat ! I would like to apprentice while
    you amend your website, how can i subscribe for a blog site?

    The account aided me a acceptable deal. I had been a
    little bit acquainted of this your broadcast provided bright clear concept

  • When I initially commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added” checkbox and now each time a comment is added I get three emails with the same comment.
    Is there any way you can remove me from that service?
    Bless you!

  • I know this if off topic but I’m looking into starting my own blog and was wondering what all is required to get setup?
    I’m assuming having a blog like yours would cost a pretty penny?
    I’m not very web savvy so I’m not 100% positive. Any recommendations or advice would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you

  • This is really interesting, You’re a very skilled blogger.
    I’ve joined your feed and look forward to seeking more of your fantastic post.
    Also, I have shared your web site in my social

  • It’s actually a great and useful piece of info. I’m happy that you simply shared this useful information with
    us. Please stay us up to date like this.
    Thanks for sharing.

  • Can I simply say what a comfort to discover a person that actually knows what they’re discussing over the internet.
    You actually understand how to bring a problem to
    light and make it important. A lot more people ought to look at this
    and understand this side of your story. It’s surprising you’re not more popular given that
    you surely possess the gift.

  • Wonderful beat ! I wish to apprentice while you amend your site, how can i subscribe for
    a blog site? The account aided me a acceptable deal.
    I had been a little bit acquainted of this your broadcast provided bright
    clear idea

  • Thank you for every other informative web site.
    Where else could I get that type of information written in such an ideal approach?

    I’ve a challenge that I’m simply now running on, and I have been on the glance out for such

  • Howdy, i read your blog occasionally and i own a similar one and i was just wondering if
    you get a lot of spam feedback? If so how do
    you prevent it, any plugin or anything you can advise?
    I get so much lately it’s driving me crazy
    so any support is very much appreciated.

  • No matter if soke one searches for his essential thing, thus he/she
    wants to be available that inn detail, thus that thing is maintained over here.

  • Hi there! I could have sworn I’ve been tto this website
    before but after reading through some of the post I realized it’s new to me.
    Anyways, I’m definitely delighted I found it and I’ll be bookmarking annd checking back frequently!

  • Hello! I could have sworn I’ve visited this website before but after looking at many
    of the artices I realized it’s new to me. Regardless, I’m certainly delighted
    I came across it and I’ll be book-marking it and checking back regularly!

  • With havin so much content and articles do you
    ever run into any issues of plagorism or copyright infringement?
    My blog has a lot of exclusive content I’ve either authored myself or outsourced
    but it seems a lot of it is popping it up all over the web without my permission. Do you know any methods to help prevent content from being stolen? I’d definitely appreciate it.

  • I was looking for this information for quite some time now. Thankyou

    You can check my site also here:

    [url=https://articolepescuitmagazindepescuit.blogspot.com]la pescuit[/url]

  • Hello there! Would you mind if I share your blog with my zynga group?
    There’s a lot of folks that I think would really appreciate
    your content. Please let me know. Cheers

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *