Sinclair: Share about a time you felt unwelcome when working while Black. What happened? What did you take away from the experience/incident/situation?
Barging in from the hallway, he said, “Shadae! Did you see Black Panther yet?”
“Of course I did; I went on Sunday,” I replied.
He proceeded to stand in front of my desk and delved into everything he loved about the movie.
He took a breath and said, “I went on opening night, though. I wish I would have known that watching movies with Black people was like going to an interactive theater performance.”
He laughed at his joke and said, “Why do Black people insist on talking to the movie?”
In the moment I didn’t know how to respond.
He continued, “I was very disappointed by the languages, too. I was hoping the Wakandans would speak more traditional African languages– you know, like with clicks and whistles.”
When I didn’t know what he meant, he proceeded to demonstrate. When I was still confused he said, “What language do your people speak? English?”
This moment made me feel so incredibly othered.
This supervisor also used me as a shield between himself and every student of color. He would send all of them to me, even if the issue was something he could handle. When I confronted him about it, he said, “You can just connect with them better.” I spent a year in this position where my identities were used as my selling points. He told me he hired me because I was Black, but did not support me.
Sinclair: What advice would you give to another Black professional who is feeling tired, defeated and/or hopeless?
Sinclair: In regard to your colleagues that don’t identify as Black: what is one way they continue to send the message of “You don’t belong here” to you – intentionally or unintentionally?
Shadae: Include us. My biggest concerns stem from being excluded in my office and masters program. When I post events in our cohort GroupMe all I want is for someone to engage. Come to the concert with me. Ask me how I’m doing, and don’t take it personally when I share I’m not well. March with me. Protest with me. Be visible with me.
Shadae: I love to be outside when the weather allows. During the spring and summer I spent a lot of time in the campus courtyard enjoying the sunshine. During inclement weather I like to sit at home and play video games with my squad from home.
Sinclair: What’s something you’re working to unlearn about what it means to be Black?
Shadae: Growing up as a biracial Black person, I have often felt that I am not “Black enough” and that I would never fit in. I am still trying to learn Black culture– or what that even means. For me, I want to understand what it feels like to be surrounded by Black people and to fully be immersed into what I have longed for my whole life.
Learn more about the Working While Black Series and share your story.