The Only Black Guy in the Office

I’d Rather Quit My Job Than Return to the Office

After more than a year of WFH, I can’t imagine it any other way

The Only Black Guy In the Office
Published in
4 min readMay 10, 2021
Illustration: Michael Kennedy

Update 6/7/22: Level has a new home. You can read this article and other new articles by visiting

A couple of weeks ago, my manager, Richard, sent out an invitation to join him and a few other co-workers for a Saturday picnic in a local park. Prior to 2020, this was par for the course; here in Seattle, the coming of spring weather is so satisfying, people would throw a full-blown parade for the occasion if they could. But last year, Covid-19 made spring feel as dark as winter. The only invitations we were getting were to Zoom parties.

This year, however, things are starting to feel somewhat normal. Citywide restrictions are being lifted on restaurants and businesses. Outside is opening up. The streets are calling, emailing, and two-way paging, asking us where we’re at. The aforementioned invite — extended to vaccinated employees at my job — is a perfect example.

The note was packaged with the assurance that there’s no pressure to attend for those who feel uncomfortable with in-person meetups. Most folks RSVP’d with their intentions to go. I, however, was one of a few who declined. I told Richard I had plans that day, but that was a lie. The truth is, I wasn’t ready.

I haven’t quite been a social recluse during the pandemic. I have my group of friends — a herd, if you will — and together, we’ve occasionally linked up for hangs after passing rapid Covid tests with flying colors. So my reason for declining the invitation to a picnic with co-workers wasn’t exactly out of fear or caution. Truth is, when I thought about seeing these people with whom I’ve been video conferencing for more than a year, the idea of meeting up in real life got my anxiety going.

Throughout the work-from-home era, I’ve been acutely aware that I’m still one of a very small number of Black employees at the company, even though the office is now virtual. I’m reminded of that every time I see that Brady Bunch layout of squares on my screen in meetings and seldom see another attendee who looks like me.



The Only Black Guy In the Office
Writer for

Do you know him? Is it you? The trials and tribulations of a Black man navigating corporate life.