Why I Love Working With Black Women

August 17, 2012  |  

If you’ve ever worked in a job you hate, you know what a godsend GChat is. It allows you and your coworkers to gripe about your bosses and the other coworkers you don’t like somewhat discreetly (shout out to big brother) and exchange war stories with your friends as each passing day turns into a contest to see who has the worst job.

About a couple months after I quit my 9-5 and started freelancing full-time, I found myself getting annoyed with the GChats my friends were sending me. Every day, all day, they were complaining about wanting to quit their jobs, having too much work, being treated unfairly, and I would think, can it really be that bad? How soon we forget, right? It wasn’t until I realized I didn’t have anything to complain about when it came to work anymore that I began to really appreciate not just what work I was doing but who I was working for.

By the time I’d started really thinking about the reality of quitting my old job, I’d been overcome with anxiety to the point that just seeing a new email from my boss in my inbox set my stomach turning. On the flip side, when I began writing for a number of different black websites and interacting with black female editors and writers on a daily basis, I’d never seen so many exclamation points and smiley faces in emails – or GChat for that matter.  Day after day, I was greeted with a “hey sis,” or “hey girl” or a compliment on something I’d written, or a “thanks!” (with exclamation point) for turning out a piece at the last minute. Even the simple gesture of “how are you today” had become foreign to me in my corporate life but was a part of my every day dealings with the black women I was working with and I couldn’t help but be pleasantly surprised, though still surprised nonetheless.

I’d been somewhat set up with low expectations of black women in the workplace prior to my current situation. I remember when I told a black coworker at my old job that I’d wanted to work at a particular black publication and I was cautioned that the work environment was not all it was cracked up to be from the outside. I was told stories of black ceilings, or a crabs in a barrel mentality, with black women trying to keep others from succeeding, nasty attitudes that proved the whole angry black woman meme was about three-parts reality and one-part stereotype, and just an all-around uninviting environment that was nowhere near as glossy as one might think. I knew this was just one company but even with all my awareness of how diverse black women are, I also know how we can sometimes be, and I’d be lying if I didn’t say there was some apprehension on my part about what exactly an all-black work environment would be like.

It’s strange to think about being more comfortable in a predominantly white setting than a black one, but the reality is white corporate America is simply what most of us are used to and though we may be around black people all day long outside of our 9-5, we usually don’t have much experience with each other in professional settings on a daily basis. Now, there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t thank God that this is my reality.

Of course, the nature of my work makes for a fun environment, but there’s also the element of the unspoken ways in which black women are just able to relate to one another.  A lot of things don’t have to be said when it comes to our professional interactions, and the things that do, you can bet we’re going to say them because, well, we’re black women. There’s a sense of a safe haven to be who you are and feel free to wear your hair how you want, and dress how you want, and say what you want to say how you want to say it (in a non-rude manner), and eat whatever food you want in the office without being that black girl. Whereas the “how’d you get your hair like that/can I touch it” questions felt like an intrusive annoyance before, they now present themselves as admiration and shared camaraderie.

You no longer feel like a puzzle with people trying to figure you out or wait for you to mess up, or prove their pre-conceived notions right, instead you’re met with smiles and genuine inquiries about your life and your wellbeing, and share inside jokes you don’t have to laugh at in secret all because of the shared reality of being a female with brown skin. I realize all black work environments may not be like this, but I’m certainly glad mine is.

Have you ever worked in a predominantly black work environment? What was your experience?

Brande Victorian is the news and operations editor for madamenoire.com. Follow her on twitter @Be_Vic.

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  • makingmoves

    Its okay to work WITH other black women, but working FOR a black woman is a whole nother thing! I strongly urge my sisters to sway from it! They get on power trips daily, will throw you under any moving vehicle, will lie, and are soooooo darn messy! I worked for the FAA for a few years and my boss was a black lady! I will never ever do it again. She was a drunk, a liar and worst of all a AKA. (AKA’s) are some of the most childish, silly broads on earth! GROWN childish, silly broads!!!! TRUE STORY

  • This article is so on point. I would love to work in a predominantly black company but I didn’t find one yet.

  • Erika

    I like to work in an environment where theres a mixture. I like working with black co-workers because they are easily relatable and I feel a little bit more comfortable engaging in conversation with them HOWEVER I notice that some black people can get too relaxed about their job and their reputation can do some damage to mine (because black people are all alike right?) Black managers on the other hand…. maybe its just me, but I’ve had plenty bad experiences with Black managers. Its like soon as they get that position they get the biggest ego and abuse their power as a manager. Some of the attitudes and stuff they do I have never seen done by a white manager #i’mjustsaying

  • FromUR2UB

    I wouldn’t want to work or live in a “predominantly” anything. But what gets me about my work environment – and I think it has to do with this being a red state notoriously bigoted – is that black people here tend to be a bit Uncle Tom. When they’re in the company of whites, they act like they don’t see or know other blacks. When whites talk negatively about someone, it’s almost always someone black, and they do that with blacks. For example, I often overhear a particular white woman at work, bringing up some gossip about black celebrities, with certain black coworkers, and they always agree with whatever she says. But, you will never hear black people here, criticize anyone white, especially to anyone white. They seem to be OK with that unspoken rule. UGH!! Oh well. I have to remember that although this is a large, major city, schools here were segregated until the 70s, and many people native to the state moved here from small towns. I rue the day I moved to this place, and can’t wait until I can transfer somewhere else.

    • I experienced the same thing with some white washed black co-workers. That’s crazy. But, in which state are you?

    • I experienced the same thing with some white washed black co-workers. That’s crazy. But, in which state are you?

  • sabrina

    I recently worked for a black company, and as hard as the actual work could sometimes be, i actually really appreciated the environment. i realized i could relate to everyone because we were all black and although we were professional when needed, we could still greet each other with the “hey girl!” or “your braids are so cute!” we could discuss the ratchetness of Love and HH ATL and other black TV shows. we could just be ourselves, and i appreciated that. i think i’ll be headed back to working with the fairer skinned people soon, but its cool…i can handle it.

  • Negress

    “‘how’d you get your hair like that/can I touch it’ questions felt like an intrusive annoyance before” say that, say that. ”
    You no longer feel like a puzzle with people trying to figure you out or wait for you to mess up, or prove their pre-conceived notions right,” Me thinks you’re reading my mind.’ I read a B.V. article 3 years ago I enjoyed as well.

    • Kayo

      I’d get questions all of the time from Black coworkers about my hair, whether it be them asking me how much it cost or who did it. I’d also get backhanded compliments, like, “Your hair is cute. The Africans must have done it because it is so tight, but neat.”

      • Negress

        Funny the people who want to know where and how much never do what you do, they just want to know the price.

    • tired of the sister gurl crap

      why go out of the way to make your hair the topic of anyone’s conversation….anyone wonders how you got the empire state building on top of your head lol

  • Is It 5:00 Yet?

    It is hard to trust anyone at a job in Corporate America whether they are white, hispanic, asian, and even black.

  • Kayo

    I’ve worked in many predominately Black work environments and I hated it. There is just a certain level of professionalism that is not there, one, two or three bad apples affect the way management feels about everyone, customers do not react the same being told “no” as they would in a predominately White or multiethnic environment, and for someone like me who can better connect with non-Black people, I always end up not being apart of anyone’s clique and feeling left out.

    • tired of the sister gurl crap

      i agree totally….can we focus on the task and not your drama at home?

  • guest234

    BRAVO Brande! I’m sooo glad you wrote this. First of all, I love the way you dispel the myth that we can’t work together. I have worked at a predominately black company owned by a black man and it was great. The only reason I left was to stay home with the kids, and my husband and I still speak regularly with the owner. I also want to take this moment and say that I love ALL Brande’s articles. She is so talented and whether you agree with her point-of-view or not you must admit she is always thorough and her articles are very well written. There are no other entertainment sites that take as much care in having journalistic integrity. I think Brande is a great example of how loving what you do is reflected in the quality of work. She is a great journalist. Her honesty without brutality reminds me of Soledad O’Brien – my fave… 🙂

    • IJS

      Please come out from under her desk!

  • Rasharne

    I’ve always felt I can be me around black co-workers and felt more comfortable in general.

  • rozzjack

    I’ve worked for all black and black owned companies for about 15 years. I love it! It always feels like family.

  • xxdiscoxxheaven

    I agree with some stuff here but “leaving the plantation”?? Really? Black women can be judgemental of each other just as much as anyone else. I think the better idea is that you ar working with people you feel that you are friends with. Many people dont want to be friends with coworkers for many good reasons

  • A Person

    Good for you but the type of “all black” work environment/utopia you described would not work for me. Why? Because I do not like to socialize with co-workers for many reasons. One of them being I like to keep my professional peers away from my personal affairs. I love/prefer colleagues who say “good morning” and then go on about their business; and I loathe those who tend to go on and on about themselves or try to pry into my personal life.

    • I see you

      Well damn, you would make a great assassin.

      • guest234

        Wow, I see you, you made me laugh out loud.

    • Kayo

      Yes. Yes. Yes.