The Only Black Guy in the Office

Per My Last Message, Your Condescending Emails Make Me Uncomfortable

Petty-ass colleagues and the undying power of receipts

The Only Black Guy In the Office
LEVEL
Published in
4 min readFeb 27, 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.

A real man can admit when he’s wrong, so here it is: I fucked up. But she didn’t have to come at me like that, yo.

I never really got along with my project manager, Shereene. Which was a shame, because she’s also a person of color, although she’s not Black. The issue was that she addressed me differently than she did other co-workers — she tended to be curt with me, even callous — and it was so obvious that a lot of my colleagues picked up on it too. I couldn’t help but suspect there was some racial bias at play.

My fuck-up wasn’t even that serious. I’d mistakenly double-sent a marketing email out to prospective customers. An honest mistake, minor as things go, and I owned up to it. As per the protocol for those situations, I emailed the leadership team explaining the incident in a detailed brief, identifying who was affected, and outlining next steps. The only real point was to have a record that everyone had been updated, and keep it moving.

A few minutes pass. Then, ping! An email from Shereene, with all of the higher-ups CC’d — a classic aggressive-aggressive gambit in the corporate world — criticizing the way I… [looks again at email] formulated my brief?

Gimme a break. It was a subjective disagreement, if not a totally bullshit microaggression, and it felt like she was attacking me to try to make an example. I’d already corrected the double email issue, but her feedback made me second-guess myself. Did I actually misstep? Was I really in the wrong?

Even better, she topped her arbitrary critique with an extra scoop of condescension. “If you need any help, just reach out to me — that’s what I’m here for.” As if I need any help following a simple template. (Seriously, it’s basically a Mad Lib with some marketing jargon thrown in.)

Just my luck: a gaslighting-patronizing two-for-one special! Finally, I understand why dudes freeze their asses off six…

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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.