Walking in from lunch, I asked the receptionist seated in the front of my building, “What’s on the calendar for the conference room?” — She was on an informal phone call. This little girl held up her finger.

Internally, I calmed myself, responded with her name and repeated the question. At which point she stopped her conversation and let me know the conference room schedule. As I was walking away, she returned to her call spitting nastily, “sorry, that is the famous corporate black girl.”

Internal JLee — Who? Who this bitch talking to?

I smiled and walked on.

Because I am the corporate black girl.

I am the only black person in my office building.

What can I do? I am constantly managing the space around me because I am alone. I can’t afford to have an attitude in my voice like the recepitionist. No. Fix your tone J. Head up. Breathe. No attitude. Quiet your voice. Watch your facial expressions…. Because they are watching you.

When I’m not the first one in the office in the morning I see the smirks; when I am the first one in I see the disgust. I never leave too early. Always watching and negotiating the space around me. Because I am alone.

I do my job and the job of people two and three levels higher than me. I do the jobs of people that have no idea where to find their job descriptions. I work my ass off because if I don’t they will get rid of me. I am always on the brink of losing every fucking thing I worked so damn hard for.

I understand that breath Russell Westbrook is taking on a different level — When you are a coporate black woman you keep a string of inner thoughts always on hand. —

Smile JLee. They watching. They want to know if you are as strong as legends say. They testing you girl. Don’t break. Just pray. And smile. This is corporate America. You made it girl. Composure.

Never talk to anyone too much. They will tell your business and laugh behind your back. ‘You can’t take joke’ they will say. Oh, ‘you know how sensitive you can be’ they will chatter. ‘I knew she would be trouble’ they will swear. Keep to yourself. And watch your damn face JLee. It’s not a big deal. You made it. Just outwork them all. Keep working.

But the reality is that no one in that building wants to work for me. Including the receptionist. They don’t want me to win because then they may not get to make the same jokes. Or laugh the same laughs. They don’t want me to win because I will make them work. I will make them accountable.

Because I am. I am accountable for every single movement of face. The way my voice intermingles in conversation, the way I use it in negotiation. Every way that I take a breath can be misconstrued at any moment. There is a thin line between the corporate black girl and the corporate black bitch. I. am. personally. accountable… And I used to be alone.

Well, I am not alone in this life anymore. Thanks to the site I am hoping to share my creative, crazy, twisted, ‘did-she-just-say-that’ journey. Because from now until the forseeable future, we are in this together.

#LetsGrow

credits

Written by — W.D. Herstun with humblyJlee

Meet HumblyJLee

I am the owner and CEO of Humbly Hustling. A t-shirt line that is DOPE! It is changing the game! I am a true Virgo, a loyal friend, and a vibe that is truly unmatched. I am a lover of Jesus Christ, without Him who are we? I have favor bestowed upon me like no other, and for that I am forever thankful. However, I will get you right back together the moment you step out of formation. Don’t trip he ain’t through with me yet! 😂 I consider myself quite hilarious, why be serious all the time? I am the corporate black girl and welcome to my world!

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Curated by w.d. herstun

29 thoughts on “The Corporate Black Girl — Pt. 1

  1. Great piece! Back during my undergrad days I use to intern for a telecommunications company that was hella corporate. Like Fox News in the break room 24/7 corporate 🙃🤦🏾‍♂️. I was the only black guy in the entire department, not to mention one of the youngest as well. This piece hit home for me and really reminded me why I chose to step away from Corporate America.

  2. I love that this opens up the conversation of how black people especially black women take on the work place. It is hard because you’re constantly fighting like you said. Fighting for your job, fighting to prove you’re the best. It’s a constant fight but with God on your side it’s hard to lose. Stay focus and humble.

  3. As a black man working in a predominantly white dominated field of Facilities Management, I understand your words, I’ve dealt with the daily back and forth war within my mind of making sure I’m the happy negro, making sure to work three times as hard as them, and to make sure I’m the first person at. Going well above my salary on the mediocre praises once every blue moon. I definitely understand your fight.

    1. I’m grateful for the support of the men like you. It’s never going to be “easy” for us. But they will never out due us! I have something for the fellas coming up!

  4. Being a Boss Lady has always requires the Energy of the Road Less Traveled. I am proud of JLee for digging in and mentally being in touch with herself because thats exactly what is demanded Corporately. As you keep growing in new first experiences, reach out to mentors who have been there. You will go far and farther!

      1. I do hope this piece starts a conversation in many offices. Diversity training is necessary in the workplace. Thank you for being transparent.

  5. I understand the struggle! Coming from a family of business owners, it was hard to decide to take a corporate job. I thought I’d be able to use the skills learned in my family business to show up and show out in my corporate job. I thought I’d be recognized as exceptional, talented, and promoted quickly. I quickly found out that did myself a disservice. I was expected to think and act like a business owner, give corporate America all of my ideas and overtime for free while it was miraculously not expected from anyone else on the team. And my reward? An occasional department lunch graced by all of the white department presence the table could fit where I had to pay for my own meal and received no recognition. Owning your own business teaches you many things, however we must learn how to create boundaries in corporate America and in our own businesses. I encourage you to keep your head up, do what you have to so you can do what you want to. God bless you and Humbly Hustling!

    1. Yvonne, thank you for your encouragement. It’s a different feeling when you are working long and hard with no promotion in sight, no recognition because they are question how you did it because you were suppose to fail.

  6. Great read! It’s the truth that’s feared to be said out loud! Thank you for being that voice and spreading the truth!

  7. You are a blessing and a role model. Please continue to share with us. I am looking forward for more.

  8. HumblyJLee I love it 🥰 and I also love the young woman you are. Like I have always told you and Yuri is to keep your head up, keep God first and to always believe in yourself. I love the fact that I also had a hand in rising you to became that intelligent smart funny and up front young lady you are.Keep up the good work . I’m one of your number 1 fan. Love you 😘 Auntie Shonda

  9. I’m also the only black person in my office… as a matter of fact I’m the ONLY black person in an ENTIRE agency of about 500! I can totally relate to your story in a different aspect! I love your unwittingly writing style and fearless mindset! Keep striving, I’m glad to be on the same team with you!

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