Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Office Holiday Party: Dancing while Black

This past December, we had our office holiday party. It was great! Seeing people from different backgrounds, departments and pay grades come together to break bread and drink was an experience in itself. I had an assignment to finish, so I showed up late. The festivities were in full swing, and I was completely uptight and uncomfortable. The calculus of workplace social interactions began churning away in my head. Not only was I the newest and youngest associate, I was also one of few Black associates. Yes, my race comes to work with me. 

Like most corporate institutions, the people who look like me dominated the support staff and secretarial roles and the people in leadership roles don’t look like me at all. There I was, in my associateness and my blackness, trying to decide whether I would dance at the holiday party. I love dancing at parties. Normally, this wouldn’t have been an issue, but I faced an internal conflict on how I should comport myself.

It started off as a two-step. Harmless. Unassuming. Nothing to write home about. Then I was singing songs at the top of my lungs and full motions took over my body. It was awkward. My inhibitions were at the bottom of my second tumbler. I was on display. I felt my blackness being judged by my dancing prowess and mastery of 90’s RnB lyrics. Would my Black co-workers think I was “white-washed”? Would my White co-workers think I was “so Black”? Those were the irrational fears that an otherwise fun and festive gathering generated. This is a story about the real-time thoughts and feelings of a young, Black associate at a predominately white firm. 

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