Thursday, December 18, 2008

WorkPlace 101: They All Look Alike To Me (Too).

Part of any respectable Corporate Negro's hu$tle is learning how to assimilate, especially when you're often the only person of color in the room. Perhaps even more dire is when you happen to be one of only a handful of Negroes in your particular office/division. Because inevitably, some strange bullshiggedy is gonna pop off by sheer virtue of weakness in numbers.

This is seldom more evident than when there are two black men that work in the same circles, but are the only two such people in said circle. In my professional career, I've been mistaken or called "that other black guy in the office" more times than I'm willing to admit. I lost count years ago.[1]

The scenario is usually the same. Some well-meaning colleague tries to go beyond the "sports and weather" small talk and say something nice and personal to you. They vaguely recall some new baby pictures and a birth announcement being forwarded in an email weeks ago. And you get asked the question you already saw coming a mile away.

"So how's your baby daughter doing?

As ya'll know, I have a starting backcourt of two boys. The "other black guy" in my division has a girl.

{Cue the "awkward silence" music.}

I usually inform them that I have boys only, and you can literally see the embarrassment balloon floating over their heads.

Aww crap, that other black guy has the daughter.

I take this gracefully and we usually enjoy a laugh. But it does offend me when the higher ups in whose hands my career literally hangs refer to me by name as that other black guy. I mean, damn, how hard can this be? There's only two of us. You've got a 50/50 chance of getting it right. Rote memorization and consulting the employee phone list for a photo could eliminate any confusion. Never mind the fact that that other black guy and I are about 5 inches, 20 pounds, 10 years, and two complexions apart. But we're both black, right?

But perhaps the most egregious example I've ever seen occurred the other day. Our Winter holiday party took place the recently, and like most companies, someone takes photos and emails them to the rest of the office once the alcohol wears off. It's commonplace for the designated shooter to add cutesy, but never offensive comments in the name of fun. So, imagine the insult when I saw this bullsh*t.

[Editor's Note: I couldn't use the real office pic for obvious reasons. Of course the photo is Keyshia Cole's family, but don't lose focus. Pay attention to the captions in the simulated photo.]

The photo they sent out had "The Other Black Guy" and two black women sitting beside him smiling. And the caption?!?

"How did {other black guy's real name redacted} get two beautiful women to go with him – I thought he was married?!?"

I know what you're saying, what's the big deal, right?

Well, Woman #1 WAS his wife.

Woman #2? She just happens to be a sales manager who works in the same building as the rest of us and sits two offices down from the shooter.

Yep, they all look alike to me, too.

Tell em' homegirl from fruitless "they all look alike" Youtube search results...

Question: How do you handle those awkward "they all look alike moments"?

[1] I know this sorta undermines my point, but how many of ya'll flipped to the football game and thought "why is Omar Epps coaching The Steelers"?

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