If there’s one thing I noticed working as a professional in the past three years, it’s that if we aren’t shooting a layup or going long for a touchdown, black people are not team players. We don’t look at one another as team mates, we see eachother only as competition, and most of the time we have no idea what the prize is, all we know is that we want it and we don’t want to share.
I’ve worked in offices where I was the only African-American and I’ve worked in offices where we were casually sprinkled throughout. The one thing I noticed is that if our Caucasian counterparts are in positions of power, suddenly instead of cooperating we start competing with the house/field ni**er mindset that there can only be one intelligent negro, one well-spoken negro, or one socially-intelligent negro. Since when did we start vying for the spot of “the token”?
Take the movie “The Social Network” for example. A tale of friends turned social network moguls. It was only until they realized that they were sitting on a cash cow and people’s bank accounts started climbing that the guys started clawing each other down, and even then lawyers were called, the conflict was straight business; everybody walked away with a piece of something that would have them more than financially stable. If Facebook had been invented by four brothers, I can almost guarantee you it would have never made it out that damn dorm room. Don’t let a ni**a get some shine and a few hoes and somebody would be fighting, someone else would have spent the little money that had been earned on Louis Vuitton interior in their Impala SS, and someone would want it to be called “The Faces of Dre” or some other narcissistic bull so their name and their name alone would be the face of the company. My point is that we don’t choose our battles wisely. We spend so much time beefing at the bottom, that we never even get to see the top. If we put the petty bull about getting credit, recognition and who’s in charge aside long enough to work cooperatively to get somewhere, we’d truly be a force to be reckoned with.
And what is this obsession with fancy titles? We could be making $2.00 and hour, but put “executive” somewhere on an official-looking business card, give us a corner office with a window and a company car and you can’t tell us we’re not head of a Fortune 500 company. I’ve been management before. I managed a small Dairy Queen in Philly which funded my humble lifestyle as a high school student and then an undergrad. Thankfully my flexible schedule not only helped me to pursue my academic goals, but I gained some valuable management skills as well. But let’s be real, I managed an icecream parlor, not Google headquarters. The most serious problem we had was dropping the vanilla soft serve into the cone dip. I didn’t walk up in the restaurant everyday and kick my feet up in a back office barking out orders to my lesser minions. I was right there blending Oreos and soft serve for our blizzard orders and guiding new employees on how to perfect the “loop” on the top of a cone. Unfortunately, many of us view “management” or “supervisor” as a first class flight to the land of all talk and no action. Leaders effectively lead a team by example. If you’re sitting with a fancy title and a corporate credit card but at the end of the day can’t rub elbows with your team or even worse, don’t truly possess the skills needed to do that job, you’re nothing but a professional paperweight worthy of no credibility or respect. I don’t care what your resume’ says, talking a good game will only get you in the door, skills and work ethic are what get you that corner office we crave so much.
We’re so easily divided on very basic levels, and we allow it to be used against us. Who hasn’t had a the co-worker you were working on a group project with only for them to turn around and take credit for everyone else’s effort and ideas. Or what about your fellow colored co-worker who uses every opportunity to throw your behind under the bus tires so they can get that overly-hyped executive position they crave, only to blow up your inbox with e-mails on the low about how to add more columns in Excel or use mail merge.
We have got to do better. In offices where the majority were white employees, I’ve seen employees meet by the water cooler to talk trash about Becky only to throw her a birthday party the next week. The thing is they rarely mix business with drama. Becky might be the office bitch, but best believe if she’s about her business, they will work with Becky so everyone will walk away with a hefty ass bonus. Look at all of the rich and famous politicians who have had successful careers only to have baby mamas and extra-marital affairs pop out of the woodwork. Their dirty laundry doesn’t come floating to the surface until they’ve reached high points in their careers. You think everything was on the up and up while they were grinding their way up the corporate ladder? Probably not and their colleagues were probably aware of their drama if not had a hand in helping create it. What they didn’t do was let that blind them from their shared ultimate goal. They knew by exposing secrets and backbiting under bus tires at the bottom, no one would make it to the top. Why don’t we understand that?
As I write this I am trying to think about all of the black-owned businesses successfully built by African-Americans working together. For some reason, the only thing popping into my head is FUBU (there probably are a lot more, feel free to educate me in the comments section). That saddens me, especially when I think of how many young black teenagers are walking around with Iphones while checking their Facebook and Twitter accounts and you can bet they are not dressed in FUBU.
We need to put our egos on stand-by until we are in a position where it matters. It’s not about how fast we can get to the top it’s about how long we can stay there and the only way we get there is by lifting each other up instead up trying to break each other’s backs. The late Rodney King was known for saying, “Can we all just get along?” That could very well be a possibility…as soon as we stop competing to just be the “token”.