Friday, 4 March 2016

The Only One: What You Noitce When You Are The Only Black Person In The Work Place.

I know we don’t experience things the same way so this may or may not resonate with you. We’re individuals in the end. This is not a criticism or an opinion piece, it is simply an observation. I don’t hate white people – although I recently I got so furious that I very nearly did, but that’s another story altogether. So white people, I don’t hate you. Here we go!

1. The amount of time you say 'I don't know'.

No, I don't know this person. No I don't know that person. No I don't know that musician. No I don't know that song. No I know that movie. No I don't know. No I don't know. No I don't know. 

2. You are the only one who knows anything about the majority of uniquely SA culture.

I find it so bizarre that any South African can have no knowledge of Bonang Matheba, Our Perfect Wedding, black languages, terms like 'yellowbone' or 'Ben 10' and the growing power of socio-political SA twitter. It's a bit weird to know that before I even dare to talk about the AKA-Cassper saga, I first have to explain who Cassper and AKA are.

3. Your hair becomes a frequent topic of discussion.

I don't mind people touching my hair but for the love of God, ask. I understand the curiosity with texture but  no one should be touching anyone. Whether it's their hair or pregnant belly.

4. You can’t get over how insular their world is.

Every morning black person in the country wake up to work in  fancy white-occupied suburbs or learning institutions and get introduced to two sides of the country.  Most white people in the country don’t experience the country the same way and this comes out whenever they speak about social-
issues in the country. I’ve heard some teeth grinding, naive and downright ignorant , painful comments and even harsh trivialization of certain matters like the significance student protests. You realize how unaware are they of the lives of ordinary South Africans. You realize how much of their own world they digest because they only know their own languages and know their own heritage. 

5. The unseemingly insensitive comments.
'You are not so black'. Yes, I am black. I am just not the stereotype floating in your head. Black people come from different backgrounds as do white people. Within the community of black people there are differences but white people have a tendency to see black and make general assumptions.

6. White people love dogs. 
Black people treat dogs like pets. White people treat dogs like human beings. Every single day I am subjected to conversations about dogs as if we are talking about a child. I hope your life never depends on a white person choosing between you and a dog cause you'll be dead. 

7. You are constantly surprised by how little they understand about their privilege 
Whites have the privilege to ignore issues that haunt and hurt black people, issues which black people cannot ignore. Yet because the privileged don’t have to think about these issues, many of them don’t—and working with whites who are blinded to their privilege is discouraging. White people view Slavery and Apartheid as 'something bad' that happened and something that black people need to get over. When you work with white people you move between two worlds and you notice just how much racism has been institutionalized that most white people think it’s normal and thus okay.

8. You constantly resist the overwhelming urge to explain.
I often wonder if I should give my colleagues some perspective on the impact of Apartheid and Slavery but I always choose not to because it has always been more important for me to listen to them. Apart from that, I don't want to play teacher to anyone that is not open to gaining some perspective. You cannot explain anything to someone that is in a defensive mode. 

9. You constantly have to fight to renew your mind
This is probably the hardest part of working with white people. Every single day I came across condescending white people with a superiority complex from hell and everyday I have to remind myself that not every white person is a jackass that needs to move to Australia.

Have you ever worked with people that were culturally different from you? How was the experience?