Awkward Black Girl At Work
I remember the first time I watched “The Mis-adventures of Awkward Black Girl” and thinking to myself: “this is my life.”
I am black, I am awkward, and my life is an ever-growing compilation of misadventures.
The hit web series was written and produced by the fabulous and talented creative, Issa Rae, who also stars in the show. You may be more familiar with her HBO original comedy series, Insecure, but before HBO, she was on Youtube, playing “J”, a realistic black character, that many of us young black professionals can identify with. I found the show refreshing in a world where the portrayal of black women in media is usually inaccurate and overly stereotyped.
Okay Angela, so how was the show relatable, and why is it on your professional page?
Oh, I’m so glad you asked! The Mis-adventures of Awkward Black Girl follows J’s life, specifically her work life and love life. I personally found her work life to be the more relatable of the two, because being black in the office is quite the experience, and I related to some of the problems/mild annoyances J faced all of the time.
Awkward Black Girl Probs
People ask too many “black” questions: I get it. Many people have not had the “privilege” of growing up in integrated spaces. Black people are almost alien to some, and it’s unbelievable the questions people ask simply because they only see black people on TV, but do not know any in real life. Get ready to be “the black friend.” I also acknowledge that that some people are curious, and want to learn. However, I don’t like feeling that I’m the representative of what black culture is. Black people are a diverse set, and I’m not here to teach you that. I’m here to get this check, then hurry to the comfort of my home where I can speak my colloquial language that you’d probably refer to as “ghetto.”
White men fetishize me: This is a touchy topic, so I’ll touch on it briefly. How lucky is it to be 2 minorities at the same time. I am both female and black. My first job was at a car wash, and my boss loved to tell me how he had never dated black women, but how beautiful we were. I was 16. He’d make comments about my body shape and my looks, and one day it was uncomfortable enough that I did mention it to higher management. He was admonished, and then I was moved to a different department. See how that works. He was eventually fired, but pervs are everywhere. Even recently, I’ve heard men remark, “Did you see that black girl?” when I’ve walked by while at work. I was on a construction site, but still. It’s one thing to already face the flagrant comments of men who constantly sexualize women, but it’s an added layer when your race is attached to it.
Questioning why I’m here: I know I’m a smart girl, and well-qualified for the work that I do. However, sometimes, it is strange being the only black girl (person) at work. I’ve worked for jobs where we have to make sure that we have a certain percentage of minority workers on projects, and I remember being in those meetings, discussing how many blacks or Latinos were on a project, and just feeling so weird that I had to sit in on a discussion like that. Yes, it’s great that we’re being inclusive and striving for an equitable workforce, but these meetings felt more like forced business decisions. The tone was less “we need to give everyone an equal opportunity” and more “if we don’t get more minorities, we’re not going to get funding!” It made me think, hmmm, when I was hired, what racial quota did I fulfill? Ha. I’m not complaining about it, because I think the underlying reasons behind affirmative action are great, but I do acknowledge that it’s my reality and sometimes it is a little uncomfortable. Thanks for the job, though!
My hair: Hi. Guess what. Black women change their hairstyles a lot, a lot, a lot. If you like it, compliment it. Look, but don’t stare. Gesture, but don’t tug. Converse, but don’t ask 100 questions. The day after getting a hairstyle, I prepare myself for the great reveal at work. My go-to hairstyles are typically a straight “protective style,” a high bun, and when I’m feeling patient, a head full of braids. I don’t mind you admiring my braids--actually, I appreciate it. They’re complex, neat, and if braided by the right hands, artsy and symmetrical. But after telling me how I look like Cynthia Bailey, and telling me about your one black friend who got braids one time, I’m simply tired. I’ve been compared to so many black celebrities. In the beginning it was flattering, because at least people chose pretty women to compare me to, but at the end of the day, I don’t look like those people, and what you’re really doing is just showing your tendency to group black people as one and not truly see us as individuals. On a petty note, although I do the awkward laugh when you joke about my hair growing 5 inches overnight, it’s not funny, and I’ve heard it 1000 times before. *shrugs*
Calling me other people’s names: So occasionally I get to work with another black girl. “Hey gurrr!” It’s a happy moment, but you soon realize that everybody thinks you and she are the same person. I try to be cool, so the first few times, I think nothing of it, because to be honest, I’m really not good with names if I don’t work with you on a consistent basis. However, after being called “Tisha” too many times, I’m just like, come on, bro. And then the people that made the error nonchalantly laugh at their microaggression, like “oh, haha, do you know her, I don’t know why I always get you guys mixed up.” Oh, I’m sure I could tell you why you get us mixed up! I actually like my name. ANGELA. AN-GE-LA. Let’s try it.
These days I’m accustomed to being the only black in most professional environments I’m in. Unless it’s a black-centered event, my minority status becomes ever so apparent.
I didn’t want to get too deep with this, because I’ve been blessed to have decent jobs and have made great friends with colleagues even amidst a few uncomfortable situations. However, there are just some awkward moments that arise due to ignorance, the poor state of race relations in this country, and sometimes my my own lack of patience.
Whatever you’re going through, hold your head high, and know that there are other sisters experiencing the same awkward mishaps as you. G-Chat your other black professional friends during work, and share a laugh. Sometimes it’s needed to get through the day.
In an effort to keep this post humorous and light-hearted, check out the clip below. It’s one of my favorite episodes from “The Mis-Adventures of Awkward Black Girl.”