Worse Than Bedbugs, There Are Hoodrats in My Office

November 8, 2010  |  

It started out simple enough.  One of those “get to know each other” exercises around our office’s chestnut conference room table.  We would tell each other our favorite movie characters, the book we loved the most, just small things that could give clues as to who we were.

We started off at the head of the table: Mumford and Sons, Feist, Malcolm Gladwell, Dave Matthews Band, Corinne Bailey Rae.  I even smiled a mental smile at the surfer-looking dude who admitted his love for all things Zora and Toni Morission.

And then it happened.

“Right now it’s a cross between Wacka Flacka and Rick Ross…and I know we’re not up to books yet but anything Sista Souljah, no question.”

I could hear a thousand DJs scratch and hold their records.  While the heads at the table slowly nodded, their eyes showed confusion.  Several questions lingered in the air.  For my colleagues: who was this Wacka Flacka that this girl spoke of?  And for me, there were two: Lord, why hast thou forsaken me and what is going through this girl’s head?

In that moment I didn’t know how to react.  I mean I don’t think anyone’s favorite book can be ‘The Coldest Winter Ever.’  To me, that suggests, that person hasn’t read enough books in general.  And to be fair, I do have some Ricky Rosay on my cardio mix but is “I go hard in the paint” really a quotable lyric in the workplace?

Whether we buy into it or not corporate America has many unspoken DOs and DON’Ts and the areas can be hard to define.  Many of the folks who go to work in suits were the same ones front row at Jay-Z’s 9/11 benefit concert and…well, if you go to any major hip-hop act, you’ll find that the people in the front rows will likely include folks who spend their days buttoned up behind a desk as well.

So why is it that even with no concrete way to know what is in and out of the lines, we all can tell and know when another Madame has crossed into our office’s questionable territory?

What is our reaction when another Madame walks in with self-applied falsies that are hanging off or the acrylic nails that look like baby snails?  Is it wrong for us to feel some type of way when the sisters with our skin tone participate in all shades of foolishness?

I know what it is like to experience these situations and wish I could have a flashing light sign that said “SMH” every time someone acted out of line.  But on the flipside, if it’s not unprofessional, is it really a problem?  After all, without personality we’d all be mindless office drones, or paper cut dolls with a uniform and shared voice.

Diversity in the office is definitely necessary but does the questionable behavior leave a bad impression or does it provide a necessary challenge to corporate culture?

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  • Yes!! I'd like to see some suggestions to the question posed!! lol! Lord knows these things happen alll the time. I work in a corporate business and moments like the one you mentioned happens too often. Usually there's mouths open and hands to foreheads haha Whether right or wrong, it seems that no matter the education level, experience, etc of the person their statement along with their skin color trumps it all…

  • Shanelle

    your at work anyway. why get all personal? R u tryna make friends at da work place. a big no no.

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  • Chanel

    To the writer of this article, as a young black woman you disgust me. I'm currently working in my third Fortune 100 Corp (non entry level) position…..educated, established, and from the PRO-jects. I once was the girl you laugh about, put on blast, and so called pitied in this article. That was until a WHITE VP recognize the potential in this non pretentious, risk taking, creative, fun loving, MOTIVATED, young girl from the streets and pushed me. It's phony, insecure, Superiority complex having "sister’s like you… I now laugh at…….because you will never have or experience the joys of people liking/loving you for who you truly are!!!!! A polished apple rots the same as an unpolished apple …to the core:}

  • I don't think diversity has anything to do with professionalism, well it shouldn't. We all know there is certain protocol when it comes to office behavior. Somethings just don't belong. But we can't think we're the only ones with bad office manners, I've ran into a lot of non-coloreds who have it bad too!

  • Najat

    Why is this website so negative? The headlines are a huge turn off. I am not impressed, and I think a lot of other readers are not either. We're trying to support our own by coming to this website, but you are making it difficult.

  • SoKali

    This article is so frustrating to me because it is a reminder as to why it is hard being black. Racism from whites isn't our biggest problem anymore. It's the racism within our own race. We are so ashamed of ourselves that we pick eachother apart for the stupidest stuff. I work with a Mexican lady who is proud of her culture and isn't ashamed to admit to what she likes even when I don't always understand. Why aren't we like that? I think we love the whole house vs the field mentality is why. We love to feel like we are better than some "poor ghetto idiot". Too bad. We could be getting along and solving some real problems.

  • kisha

    This article is another example of the bourgeois, stuck-up, self-hating attitude that has plagued black women thus far. I hold two masters degrees and am currently working on my doctorate and have worked in a variety of professional settings and can say without a doubt that I do enjoy Wacka Flocka Flame. Do I think everything he says is positive and intelligent? No. But that doesn't mean I'm a hood rat. This article is an example of hating rather than lifting someone up. Why is it okay for the Whites in your office to express their taste of music (which is not all "inspired"by the way) but when we mention music hailed by our culture that is meant purely for entertainment, it's unprofessional. Does professional mean conforming to White standards? Also Sista Souljah is a very positive woman who in her public work and novels seek uplift Blacks without glorifying destructive lifestyles. Shouldn't we be celebrating this work rather than ostracizing it? When I clicked this article I thought it would be talking about behaviors like wearing revealing clothing, being late to work, or being disrespectful to co-workers which disrupts everyone's work environment. Never did I think that one's preference for music or makeup would quantify them to be a hoodrat. Overall, let's try to create a balance between helping each other and minding our own business rather than pulling each other down. Do better sista!

  • Denise Ray

    I, too, work in Corporate America – the Finance sector – so, I know where you're coming from regarding this article. You have to be able to play the game, so to speak. How I act at home and how I act at work are totally different. If people on my job only knew. That said, I know the difference between the two and I act accordinly at work. I have braids in my hair and always keep them neat and clean. I where suits because, yes, I want to be taken seriously on my job. I communicate with my boss in a clear and effective manner in which he understands and knows what I'm talking about. Also, that "thin line" in which most of you speak of; that thin line is you forgetting where you are and mistakenly using a word which you would normally use around your peers at home. Example: My cousin works at a hospital. She, too, works with someone who is of "hoodrat mentality." My cousin said that a doctor asked the young lady how long his patient had been waiting for him. She said – wait for it – "Oh, she's been waitin' for a minute." Need I say more?

  • Aqua

    I think a lot of you all are missing the point.

    African Americans need to do better. It is ok to like certain types of music but one should also elevate and want to educate themselves. There is so much more to music than Waka Flacka and so much more to life than "Urban" Novellas.

  • rudeashell.com

    still wearing the "mask" I see… If those are someone's choices of favorites, then sobeit; the counterparts who selected dave matthews band weren't chastised because another member of the group had never heard one of their songs. I think its unfair to consider someone a hoodrat for their taste in music or literature. I think this article was stupid and I think the person who wrote it is so caught up in moving up the corporate ladder that they are willing to sell their soul to accomplish the mission. At least the "hoodrat" was honest enough and true enough to herself to mention the things that she sincerely likes. Black people are not the only ones that violate office decorum. In MY office there are white people who are way more "hood" than some of the Black people could even pretend to be. I believe "hood" and "ghetto" are a state of mind, not a zip code. I have a college degree and I still GO HARD IN THE PAINT. SO WHAT?

  • Lahela

    Leslie, thanks to you i will never refer to anyone as ghetto again.

    For you information Sister Souja is a excellent author of several successful books.

    I like Dave Matthews, Led Zepplin, and Stevie Nicks but *LOVE PRINCE* While i can’t stand most music put out today also, who do you think you are to deem these youngsters choices as ghetto.

    I wonder what kind of smile you would have had in your mind if the surfer dude claimed those two artist?
    Would you have “smiled a mental smile”?

    By the way stating “I smiled mentally” would have sufficed in you prose.

    If these co-workers aren’t fighting, complaining for everyone to hear about their “babies’ daddys” or coming to work in night club wear maybe you ought to take a knee and mind your bee’s wax.
    (Cause didn’t you know that being noisy and worrying about other people’s affairs is GHETTO)

    its spelled w-h-e-r-e

  • Kay

    With a name like Wacka Flacka, I know this must be a part of a covert government mission to destroy black folks. He must be getting paid by some unknown entity that only allows him to inteface with their low level agents for payment. Loser.

  • MySistersKeeper

    As someone who has spent the last 15 years with one of the top 3 financial institutions in the country I've adopted the each one teach one mentality…meaning when I cross paths with a fellow sister of any color who is not dressed appropriatly or doesnt present themselves in the best possible light I offer my mentoring services. I do this not to change the person but to arm them with the tools they will need to be successful in corporate america. I agree with having diversity in the workplace but am experianced enough to know that the person mentioned in this article will likely be passed over for promotions or valued less by the powers that be than someone who carries themselves as a professional in the workplace.

  • Mo

    I was very interested in this article's title…I was prepared to laugh @ faux pas like ordering 'scrimp' for lunch, but I was disappointed to learn that a persons honest choices were deemed "hood ratted". I personally don't care for Wacka Flocka, but I do like Ricky :D! As far as the book choice, The Coldest Winter Ever did hit the NY Best Seller isn't that list of reads socially acceptable, lol? I am glad said person was honest and didn't try to make up some 'name dropping, trying to sound "smart" lie' like Tolstoy, knowing they never even cracked War & Peace. I think urban literature has more young people at the very least reading for pleasure. I bet the higher-ups couldn't wait to return to their offices to Google Wacka & Sista Souljah! Being untrue to your self is worse than bedbugs! I understand the keeping our business our business, and there are certain things you just don't do professionally, it's not a race issue, it's an issue of class and self-respect. I wonder did the author take the time out to try to educate the woman on why that situation didn't call for full on honesty and how to have some across the board choices to spew @ the next meet & greet?

  • Valerie

    Oh Please! That's why we're in this mess of 72% Black children with no dad at home: Low Class Attitiudes!

    HOW did someone like that get hired in the first place?

  • Allie

    I wish more people would read this article. Losing your "blackness" is not the issue. This is not an article promoting conformity. It is an article about thinking about how you are perceived in society. As a person of color, it does not matter how educated you are, how accomplished you are, or how far you are going. The minute you do something that is considered out of the norm, then you are ultimately classified as "ghetto." I'm certain many of you have heard that you have to work twice as hard to be half as good. This is the state of society now. Of course I would love to see the day when someone can say their favorite artist is Lil' Wayne (in a corporate setting) and people would not think twice. This, however, is not the case. So the dilemma is do I stay true to myself, or do I think of answers that will keep me in the loop? Well, had I been there, I would have certainly touted Jane Austen as a favorite author, and Machiavelli's "The Prince" as a favorite novel. Is this because I am trying to conform. No, it is because these books taught me how control situations like these. A quote all people (of color and otherwise) should keep in mind is one from Machiavelli: "Everyone sees who you appear to be, few touch upon who you are." Understanding this quote makes life just a little easier.

  • beautyspeaks

    So the girl needs a mentor just because she likes Wack Flocka and Rick Ross and reads Sister Souljah? wow I must say I completely agree with EAJ. What I read or what I listen to on my time has nothing to do with the corporate world. I'm not going to ham it up and pretend to like Chopin just like you wouldn't ham it up and pretend to like Tupac for me. What I choose to listen to or what I choose to read does not make me a hood rat in the least bit. It just means I like something different than you.

  • Fendt

    Yes, but the line isn't that "fine". I am in Congress America and the most offices where there are even ONE black, they will speak of their culture. In my office were there are GHETTO blacks it is a totally different story and I just SMH SMH all day. I am not saying you have to act white but keep the ghetto at home especially when you are trying to talk white and the words coming out of your mouth make you look like an idiot.

  • Brob

    I just think its funny that a grown woman admitted to liking that kind of stuff lol.

  • Ash

    I can agree to most of these things; however, I did love "The Coldest Winter Ever". Through that book, I gained a hobby of recreational reading. This is coming from a person who has a masters and a corporate job. Nonetheless, that girl probably needs a mentor.

  • Corporate culture is not challenged by anything that does not add value. It rejects it. People generally respond in the same way which is why you could hear "a thousand DJs scratch and hold their records". Her answer just didn't sound right. She also showed herself to be unlearned about what is and is not appropriate. Personality is one thing. Announcing yourself to be one outside of the group in an environment (corporate) where you must appear to be one of the group is abnormal behavior. She may be tolerated but people generally reject the abnormal.

  • tactik

    Love the article, but I would have rather you delved into answering the question that you posed near the end. The findings would be very useful in helping to define the line.

  • avery

    lmbo!!! I totally understand were your going with this…I do the same thing I think it comes from the mind set of not wanting to be grouped in with those other black females and there hood ways…when one person acts up society seems to think we are all loud, ghetto and "dont know how to act"…and thats why I hate to see black females portraying themselves exactly the way the media portrays us…your not wrong… and there is a difference between being spunky (having personality) and straight up ghetto…

  • Lady B

    LOL at this article, I understand your point because I'm in corporate America too, but there is a fine line between black culture and being ghetto. Where that line crosses I'm not sure. We have to be careful not loose our blackness by trying to fit in with the white man too much. We also need to make sure we are not acting or looking ignorant with trying to keep our blackness.