THE ONLY BLACK GUY IN THE OFFICE

It’s All Fun and Games Till a White Person Asks to Fondle Your Fro

When workplace morale-boosting activities go from innocent fun to inclusion fail

The Only Black Guy In the Office
LEVEL
Published in
4 min readJun 29, 2020

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Illustration: Richard A. Chance

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

At this stage in the WFH game, I’ve all but settled into the hyper-focused employee role. A great day for me is clocking in, knocking down tasks the way Lillard drains 3s, then peacing out to live my real life with my real friends. I’ve never quite craved office camaraderie as much as my 9-to-5 counterparts, and I’ve managed to duck-and-dodge happy hour hangouts, both physically and digitally. But something about couchin’ it daily — knowing in-person kickbacks are on pause for the foreseeable future — has shifted my spirit. After months of being anti during a somber news cycle, I decided to loosen up and join in on my job’s staff-bonding, morale-boosting activities. I literally have nothing better to do. What could go wrong, right?

I’m sure the members of my marketing team were shocked when I finally clicked “Accept” on a Friday afternoon happy hour invite, and even more tickled when they saw my IRL Black face pop up on the Zoom grid, swirling Jameson around in my coffee mug. They probably didn’t understand my previous aversion to these strongly encouraged extracurriculars, which often inadvertently lack consideration for Black and POC employees. For instance, in a past job, the People team’s idea of fun was asking employees to post baby pictures so that everyone can guess the coworker. Of course, I felt a way about it: There was no Earthly way to confuse my brown-skinned baby mug with anyone else’s. (For what it’s worth, my ’86 Sears photo with the custom onesie would’ve shitted on all of my colleagues’ baby flicks, but that’s neither here nor there.) I declined that invite with the swiftness.

It never ceases to amaze me how a moment of candor can spiral into an all-out “Ask the Black Guy” AMA, with people spitting out questions they know they’ll never have the opportunity to ask again.

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The Only Black Guy In the Office
LEVEL
Writer for

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