Friday, December 2, 2016

Young, Black and Corporate: The Sell Out Myth

Working in Corporate America does not make you a "Sell Out"....You have to earn that title.

Corporate culture has been shaped and modified over hundreds of years into the form it takes today. Very few people of any race or gender can participate in corporate culture without having to adopt some of the customs, language and dress. The notion of the Black, "sell out" assimilationist makes no sense. Everyone who wants to participate in corporate culture "assimilates" in the true definition of the word (not the loaded, judgmental definition). Trading your jeans and T-shirt for a suit and tie is no different than a doctor wearing a white coat or a firefighter wearing a uniform. It doesn't mean you've sold yourself because you prefer jeans, but that you realize the suit is more appropriate for the work.  
There is a very real element of class to the sell out idea. The notion of the "sell out" is often reserved for middle and upperclass Black people. The Black factory worker making low wages who does not speak up in the face of overt racism from a White foreman is rarely cast as a "sell out". Though one could easily argue that he has compromised his beliefs, values and self-respect to keep his job, i.e. sold these things for a continued income, judgement and criticism of his choice would be rare. The Black lawyer or banker will no so easily be forgiven for what may amount to the same behavior in a different context. Part of the reason for this different treatment is based on perceptions about power and choice. A larger paycheck and a few more degrees does not always equate to more power and choice in the workplace.

Here are 3 easy steps to earn the "sell out" title:

1. There must be a payment or benefit to be gained, whether it is money, social status or even acceptance.

2. You can't sell some, you have to sell out. Compromise everything you believe in to gain the benefit. Express beliefs you don't hold and participate in activities you don't value all to gain the benefit. This is not to be confused with "trying new things". This is an intentional rejection of self.

3. Most important is the betrayal or rejection of others who hold the values you compromised. This last step is the reason people hate "sell outs." The performance of selling out is typically accompanied with ridicule or criticism of those who have not sold out.

Until you earn the title of "sell out", you are just another person earning money to support your lifestyle and goals. Be confident in that identity.

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