Colorism In The Workplace: When You Aren’t The Right Shade To Elevate

It is completely unfortunate we are in 2018 and we as a country, as a people, still have this problem, let alone must address the topic.

So, here goes.

I currently work in corporate America. Which means, most of the people I come across who are in position of ‘power’ are White/Caucasian or light skinned. Now let me be clear. I am not talking about every corporation, only the companies I have worked at. Me, being of a darker hue, I have found being darker quite challenging in the work place and here is how!

Case in point 1-Interviews. Before I was married, my maiden name was Loving. Yep, that’s right. A black girl named Rebecca and thanks to artist like Sir-Mix-A-Lot, Plies, Beyoncé (don’t come for me Beehive. We all know Beyoncé is DOPE!) etc, Becky/Becki with the Good Hair, is now a thing and it automatically associates you with a Caucasian woman.

Due to this notion, when I would attend interviews, I would watch as other people would come into the office, sign in and be taken back to try to impress someone for 30 minutes about how awesome they are, hoping to obtain financial security.

When it was my turn and they called my name, not only did I hear other perspectives whisper about my name, but at one interview the interviewer asked me for my driver’s license! When I asked why, the interviewer stated boldly they couldn’t believe my name was Rebecca because I’m not white.

My response to them was I didn’t know a name equated a skin tone. The interviewer’s response was, and I quote, “It doesn’t, but I just can’t believe you not white. It’s just not common. You don’t sound white over the phone.” I walked out of the interview.

Case in point 2-Expressing the workplace. I used to work at a pharmacy and not only did I find that all the directors, managers, supervisors and department leads were Caucasian and light skinned, but the darker skin associates were the grunt workers. When I first realized this, my initial reaction was, “Well, maybe this is just a coincidence. Maybe it’s just a situation in which they have worked here since the company opened..”

Yes, I was that simple minded.

Case in point 3- Workplace performance and evaluation. After working at this same company, it was evident and prevalent that my lighter skinned counter parts were indeed in positions of power or leadership. Not just due to my seeing, but through confirmation from my lighter skin counter parts.

We must become more mindful and aware colorism exists! We also must be unafraid and more aware of the concept and truth of it, as well as, be open to conversation to implement change in ourselves, our lives and our community. Colorism seeks to further divide us as a people, comparing our worth to the skin tone closest to white, thereby making out acceptance in the work place only worthy and acceptable to how white people will see you.

Just because we are born into it such as system, doesn’t have to mean that we conform and perpetuate it.


Rebecca Quarles

Contributor, The Ideal Firestarter

[images from Google]

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