THE ONLY BLACK GUY IN THE OFFICE

The Weight of White Guilt in the Workplace Is Too Damn Heavy

My coworkers — bless their hearts — are making a tough time even worse

The Only Black Guy In the Office
LEVEL
Published in
5 min readJun 9, 2020

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Illustration: Richard Chance

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

When I received the Zoom meeting invite, I knew something was amiss. All it took was a quick glance at the attendee list, which only included me, a few department heads, HR, and the other two Black employees at the company. Oh, and Nat, our (Black) intern. The agenda: Working Toward a Better Tomorrow. I just knew things were about to get weird.

The timing of said meeting made its motivation obvious: It was scheduled the week after the inhumane killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, just one of a string of state-sanctioned murders that include Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery this year and countless others in the decades prior. In the aftermath of that news — and the subsequent Black Lives Matter protests that have been popping up in cities around the world — I’ve noticed that my well-intentioned colleagues seemed to be tiptoeing around me in a way that’s palpable even virtually. There was a thoughtful, companywide email that had been sent, but up until this point, none of that awkwardness had formally landed on my iCal.

The whole call felt like being doused with a Gatorade cooler full of White guilt for a championship I didn’t know we’d won.

When I logged into the call — camera off, as usual — it was exactly what I’d expected: feigned concern over what us Black employees must be facing emotionally “in these trying times” and an open forum for us to discuss our feelings that felt straight out of a kindergarten classroom. In a Stretch Armstrong-like reach for solidarity, our CEO insisted that he’s really sorry and he totally gets what we’re going through—after all, he lived with a Black suitemate for three months during his days back at Cornell. The whole call felt like being doused with a Gatorade cooler full of White guilt for a championship I didn’t know we’d won.

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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.