I was at work and it was clockin out time. So while I waited for my boys to walk out and sat and spoke with one of my superiors. My superior by the way is a young black girl, and she can't possibly be anymore than a year or 2 older than me. I'd even go out on a limb and say I'm older than her. Anyway, she's super cool and I decided to chill by her while I waited.
So jokingly I ask her: " So, how do I get in that front office with you and all the big dogs? How do I move up the corporate ladder?"
Now if you know me, you know I have absolutely NO desire what so ever to move up the corporate ladder. At least not in the traditional sense where I work for some company, make my way up to manager etc. etc. etc.
I truly an sincerely just wanna get my money up, open up my own studio and be the man in the Photography game. I want my success to be MINE. I don't wanna live by the conventional rules etc. etc. Yeah, you all know that.
So when I asked her this question I was literally joking and making conversation. However I'm so glad that I did ask her because what I learned from her response was something I'll keep with me forever.
I can't remember what she said verbatim, but in a nutshell what she told me was I have to stop being a nigga.
She was basically telling me how when I come in, I come in loud, wearing my hat and scarf and "Whaddupin'" everybody.... And how in this business it's important to be a professional in the presence of clients (which we have very often.) She went on to say that our office is thee most diverse throughout the company. We are the office with the most, black and hispanic people. She said that it's "Important for these white people (who don't want to conduct business with minorities) to see that we are just as professional and worthy of working amongst them as they are.
I really couldn't believe what I was hearing. I mean this girl was just sittin next to me a few days prior quoting Juicy J's "Bands ah Make her Dance" talkin bout how she was excited to come with me and the fellas to a strip club? Lol...
It really upset me and not so much cause she was telling me this but because I feel she was confusing me for someone else. I asked her (in an attempt to give her the opportunity to make herself perfectly clear) if she really felt that's how I was.
Lemme tell ya something, Yes, I can be a nigga, yes, I can be a hooligan. I never sag my pants but I do have a very urban demeanor for lack of a better phrase. I'm a sneaker junkie, sometimes weed smoking, Hennesy drinking dude, HOWEVER, when it comes to work I know how to behave myself. I know how to dress, I know how to speak to people and I know the importance of making clients happy. I know these things because this is not my first job, in fact I felt like saying all of that. I felt like telling her: "My last job was in an office much bigger than this one, for a company WAAAAYY bigger than this one. Where I made $6.00 more than what you're paying me here. Our clients were much bigger and professionalism never stopped." But I didn't wanna "take it there." I was in a state of shock.
My peer was telling me that to move up I had to basically become a corporate robot. She then told me that I am very articulate and she knows that I can "do this" and told me that she herself started in my position and moved up from there. You know they always have to say something to try and make you relate to them, but at that point I didn't wanna hear it anymore.
So I came home and posted a FaceBook status stating that I hate the fact that you gotta Chuck and Jive for the white man in Corporate America. But now that you've read this I hope you can see that the white man can be anybody: Black, Asian, Hispanic, whatever.
It bothered me to know that in this game even your peers can be the ones who expect you to chuck and jive. To think I'm supposed to walk in from the cold not wearing my hat and scarf just to make other people comfortable. Never mind the fact that it's colder than God knows what outside.
But what really pissed me off was the fact that I was being told all of this by a person who looks just like me. Damnit man, is this really what you think of me ma? I'm just a random nigga of the street? If it's that real why did you even hire me?
To the best of my knowledge I'd been coming in professionally, clients or no clients around. I come in and say "Hello" to everyone in the front room. I never come in loud like I'm in the hallways of my High School. I'm dress appropriately.
If she thinks I'm coming in like a nigga now she don't want me to come in like what I think a nigga is.
She don't want me to pull into the parking lot blasting ignorant Hip-Hop out the open windows of my PathFinder. And I mean REAL Hip-Hop, not that radio shit, I'm talking Wu-Tang get your bubble goose taken off your back. I'm talkin Snoop when he was still slappin bitches and fuckin hoes. I mean that Clipse/Pusha T heavy crack sellin content. She don't want me to come in with dark shades over my blood shot eyes, smellin like the weed I smoked before my shift. I could come in and give the nigga behind the front desk dap, yellin' "What's good ya!?" But nah.... It's all good tho. I learned my lesson, from now on I'm just gonna walk in, in complete silence and not say shit to nobody and sit at my desk and not say shit to nobody.
I guess this was my first racial/racism encounter and it really rubbed me the wrong way, but I guess a racial moment like this aint supposed to be comfortable for anyone.
I don't even know if this all made sense. But I just had to get it off my chest. So there it is. I walked away with something else to add to the list of life experiences.
Stay Up and Stay Tuned.