The realities of Working While Black

As a young girl, all I knew was that one day I would work in an office, at some successful company, and I would be the best at whatever line of work I did. I knew that I would be the best because there are certain things I knew for sure:

• I’m smart as hell
• I have an impeccable work ethic
• I’m very conscientious and pay attention to details
• I pursue excellence and am always looking to learn new things/ways of doing things.
• I’m ethical

When I started working, I realised that there was one teeny, tiny flaw with my plan: It didn’t include a contingency plan to prepare me for the ruthlessness and “flexible ethics” in the organisations I worked for. There were grey areas everywhere. There were mountains of dirt swept under rugs. There was pain hidden behind brave smiles because human emotion is suddenly a weakness.

This presented a very heavy internal conflict for me because what I was seeing accepted as the norm at all the various companies I worked for went against everything I believed was good and fair and ethical and equal. The big question then became: Do I assimilate to these systemic cultures or do I buck the system and try to be an agent of change? I didn’t even know what being an agent of change meant or required. All I knew was that being a Black person in corporate South Africa was a sickening and exhausting experience, constantly dealing with;

• The exclusion from access to influential people and decision-makers
• The muting of our opinions, recommendations
• The theft of our ideas
• The underpayment
• Being overlooked for promotions
• Having the goal posts continually moved when it comes to our progression
• Being forced to fake smiles so that we aren’t labelled aggressive or angry or unapproachable
• Being burdened with daily code-switching
• Being convinced that other Black professionals are our competition, and so we must seek to be better Blacks than them
• Having our voices muted by our bosses, HR processes, organisational culture and held hostage by the desperation to remain in a position to be able to provide for our families.

And these are just some of the challenges. When you’re a Black woman in corporate, the list of challenges, barriers, hurdles and traps is far longer and far more treacherous.

So, where did it all go wrong? How did we get to the point where Black professionals have to fight battles alone? Where we don’t come together and amplify each other’s voices and experiences? Where we don’t prioritise each other’s wellbeing? Where we no longer believe that justice for every Black person is worth risking everything?

One of my favourite videos that pops up every now and then on social media is of mam Winnie Mandela, talking about oppressors not getting comfortable because, “Singayi susa, nanini.” We all snap our fingers and yasssssss on social media, but in real life? Where did we lose that spirit as Black people, where we just accept injustices and allow them to tear away at our peace, our joy, our strength, our confidence, our communities?

Our strength and our victories have always been owed to us fighting battles in our numbers. It’s both heart-breaking and infuriating that this is what we’ve come to. This is who we’ve become. Stuck in a culture of “every man for himself” because we refuse to sacrifice anything to achieve equality that will benefit our children and those who come after them.

Since having my book published, I have travelled to different places and had conversations with countless people and the cries are the same. We’re bullied, denied leave with no reasonable explanations, we’re paid half (sometimes a third) of what white counterparts earn, we’re punished for speaking out against injustices, we’re dismissed unfairly because employers bank on us not being able to afford legal representation, we’re dealing with constructive dismissal, our cries are not echoed or validated, so we feel alone and then there’s the isolation or exclusion so that we don’t taint other “well-behaved” Blacks.

There is a Benjamin Burombo quote that I recently came across that reads: “Each time I want to fight for African rights, I use only one hand because the other hand is busy trying to keep away Africans who are fighting me.”

We cannot have a conversation about transformation without discussing Black complicity in the face of injustices in the workplace. Black executives, Black leaders, Black line managers, Black organisations that are compromised because their funders are the very people who abuse Black professionals, and because the rules of engagement with sponsors don’t prioritise the protection and wellbeing of Black professionals, they grow inefficient and toothless over time.

We have hurdles in the form of legislative implementation. We have floods of complaints about HR departments and their complicity. We have trouble supporting each other and unifying for a common purpose. We’re not investing financially in organisations and platforms that will pursue our interests and fight for our rights collectively. And so, we’re stuck.

Fellow Black professionals reach out to us for support and we ignore their calls, don’t respond to their texts. When they bump into us, all we muster up is: “Oh wow, that’s hectic”. And in their isolation, they sink in their anxiety or depression, develop heart conditions or suffer strokes or, they take their own lives. And still, the cycle continues. But we can begin to create positive change by starting with the seemingly small things like regularly asking ourselves: What am I consistently doing to show up meaningfully for other Black professionals?

If you aren’t asking yourself that question or if you don’t have an answer to that question right now, you are part of the problem.


  • Normally I do not read article on blogs, but I wish to say that this write-up very forced me to try and do so! Your writing style has been surprised me. Thanks, quite nice post.

  • Hi there this is kinda of off topic but I was wanting
    to know if blogs use WYSIWYG editors or if you have to manually code with
    HTML. I’m starting a blog soon but have no coding know-how so
    I wanted to get advice from someone with experience.
    Any help would be greatly appreciated!

  • Hello there, You’ve done an excellent job.
    I’ll certainly digg it and personally recommend to my friends.
    I’m sure they’ll be benefited from this website.

  • Please let me know if you’re looking for a article writer for your weblog.

    You have some really great articles and I feel I would be a good asset.

    If you ever want to take some of the load off,
    I’d love to write some articles for your blog in exchange for
    a link back to mine. Please shoot me an email if interested.

  • An outstanding share! I have just forwarded this onto a
    co-worker who has been conducting a little homework
    on this. And he in fact bought me dinner simply because I
    stumbled upon it for him… lol. So allow me to reword
    this…. Thanks for the meal!! But yeah, thanx for spending
    the time to talk about this subject here on your

  • This design is spectacular! You obviously know
    how to keep a reader amused. Between your wit and your
    videos, I was almost moved to start my own blog (well, almost…HaHa!) Fantastic job.
    I really enjoyed what you had to say, and more than that, how you presented it.
    Too cool!

  • Hi, Neat post. There is a problem along with your site in web explorer,
    might check this? IE nonetheless is the marketplace chief and
    a huge section of other folks will omit your wonderful writing because of this

  • Hello, Neat post. There’s a problem along with your site in internet explorer,
    could test this? IE nonetheless is the market chief and a big section of people will leave out your fantastic writing due to this problem.

  • Have you ever considered creating an e-book or guest
    authoring on other blogs? I have a blog based upon on the same topics you
    discuss and would love to have you share some
    stories/information. I know my readers would enjoy your
    work. If you’re even remotely interested, feel free to shoot me
    an email.

  • Nice post. I learn something totally new and challenging on websites I
    stumbleupon on a daily basis. It’s always interesting to read
    articles from other authors and practice something from
    their websites.

  • Excellent blog you have got here.. It’s hard to find high quality writing like yours nowadays.
    I really appreciate individuals like you! Take care!!

  • What i don’t realize is in reality how you are now not really a lot
    more neatly-liked than you may be right now.
    You’re so intelligent. You recognize therefore significantly relating to this matter, made me individually believe it from
    so many various angles. Its like women and men aren’t involved until it is something to accomplish with Girl gaga!
    Your own stuffs outstanding. Always deal with it up!

  • I seriously love your website.. Very nice colors & theme.
    Did you build this web site yourself? Please reply back as I’m attempting to create my own site
    and want to find out where you got this from or just what the theme is named.

  • Remarkable issues here. I’m very satisfied to see your article.
    Thank you a lot and I’m taking a look forward to
    contact you. Will you please drop me a mail?

  • Having read this I thought it was rather informative.
    I appreciate you taking the time and energy to put this content together.
    I once again find myself personally spending way too much time both reading and leaving
    comments. But so what, it was still worth it!

  • We are a gaggle of volunteers and opening a brand new
    scheme in our community. Your web site offered us with helpful info
    to work on. You’ve performed a formidable process and our entire group can be thankful to you.

  • It’s nearly impossible to find well-informed people in this particular subject, however, you sound like you know what you’re talking about! Thanks

    [url=http:///]manu manumanu[/url]

  • Hello would you mind sharing which blog platform you’re working
    with? I’m looking to start my own blog soon but I’m having
    a tough time deciding between BlogEngine/Wordpress/B2evolution and Drupal.
    The reason I ask is because your design seems different then most
    blogs and I’m looking for something unique.
    P.S Apologies for getting off-topic but I had to ask!

  • We are a group of volunteers and starting a new
    scheme in our community. Your site offered us with valuable info
    to work on. You’ve done a formidable job and our whole community will
    be thankful to you.

  • It’s the best time to make a few plans for the future and it is time to be
    happy. I’ve read this post and if I may I desire to recommend you some interesting
    things or suggestions. Perhaps you could write next articles referring to this article.
    I want to read more issues approximately it!

  • Wow, superb blog layout! How long have you been blogging for?
    you make blogging look easy. The overall look of
    your web site is fantastic, let alone the content!

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

    You can check my site also here:

    [url=]magazin pescuit arad[/url]

Leave a Reply

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