THE ONLY BLACK GUY IN THE OFFICE

When Co-Workers of Color Cosplay as Allies

My company’s diversity committee is pushing forward to make positive change — but not without posers disturbing the process

The Only Black Guy In the Office
LEVEL
Published in
4 min readSep 8, 2020

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Illustration: Michael Kennedy

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

Halloween is still more than a month away, and yet my co-workers are all dressed up in the most popular costume of the season: an ally! The get-up isn’t difficult to spot. It’s mostly displaying a fair-weather enthusiasm about the news cycle, along with performative activity on social media, with little real-life action to show for it. At this point, it’s to be expected. But as the new diversity committee at my job continues to push for positive change at the company, I’ve been surprised to encounter some wishy-washy peers of the same hue — pseudo-allies who look just like me. Am I wrong for wanting to turn these folks the hell away?

In the beginning, no one anticipated having to make restrictions to join the committee. The collective was created with the intention of moving Black and Brown employees’ concerns forward, so of course we welcome all people to support that mission. We’ll need all the help we can get. But what we don’t want is to rub shoulders with people who look the part but only impede progress. Non-White allies aren’t above being problematic. Our core group is pretty solid, but what about other people of color who want to join but have a record of sharing some questionable shit that was definitely anti-Black, anti-Brown, and anti-justice? How do we include them? Should we?

For example, one biracial man in the office has said a few questionable things in the past. He’s played literal devil’s advocate by vocally supporting some of Trump’s most divisive policies, and has openly “wondered” on social media whether Black Lives Matter and Antifa are hate groups. Those Instagram story posts have long vanished into the digital ether, but another co-worker took screenshots and privately shared it with a few of us in the office. All I’m saying is, Nelson Mandela he’s not.

You can imagine the shame in watching one of “our own”…

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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.