Sinclair: Share about a time you felt unwelcome when working while Black. What happened? What did you take away from the experience/incident/situation?

Shadae: As a first-year graduate student I worked with a living learning community for performing and visual arts students at a Midwestern 4-Year, public institution. In this role, I was one of three people in the office. My director, a White middle aged cis-man, often tokenized my blackness. In February of 2018, he came to my office in a bout of excitement.

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? 

Shadae: It’s okay to find your passion somewhere else. When school and work have you defeated, fill your cup from another circle. Play video games. Read a book. Write a book. Go to church. Find a new hobby. Don’t let your work consume your happiness. And if you are so tired that you simply cannot find a solution, it’s okay to redirect your energy to yourself. Watch that Netflix show. Go to your favorite restaurant. Find a new job if you are able to.
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“When school and work have you defeated, fill your cup from another circle.” – Shadae Mallory

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.

Sinclair: What do you do for self-care? 

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.

Shadae Mallory is a graduate student pursuing an MA in College Student Personnel. Completing undergraduate an undergraduate degree in English, Shadae works as a freelance editor and writer. Following graduation in May 2019, Shadae hopes to continue in student affairs in residence life, campus activities, or admissions. 
Learn more about Shadae and connect: Website | Facebook | Twitter

Published by Sinclair P Ceasar III

Sinclair Ceasar is a speaker, podcaster, and higher ed professional committed to helping people live a better story, and be more hopeful. He sends weekly inspirational emails to over 1K readers each Monday. Email him at or connect with him via Twitter @Sinclair_Ceasar

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