Straight out of University, I was fortunate enough to have gained a year’s paid placement at one of our countries leading media broadcasters. I won’t mention the name of the organisation. If you know, you know.
Shiny, embellished and polished – it was everything that I imagined it would be on it’s surface. Replete with buzzing young creative professionals bursting to rope you into all of the exciting projects that television holds and fill you in on the latest office gossip. That week I’m pretty the sure the grapevine was reporting that Rob had snogged Alice at the Easter social – in a drunkard, extra-marital fit of lust. As Vicky Pollard would so articulately put it:
Am I bovered?
I wasn’t the type to involve myself in mindless, meaningless office conversation. It was trite and banal – and I had a job to do. A position to affirm and a point to prove. I was a young (heterosexual, yes this is also a thing) black man from the ends in a company that represented the highest level of being in the production industry. I was basically the equivalent of finding Donald Trump in a Thobe speaking about social equality over a pint with a man named Jose Luis Miguel Eduardo.
It just doesn’t happen.
I was working on a game show. I was backstage in the production office, planning my next strategic ‘I have nothing to do right now but I’m going to make it look like I’m doing plenty of work because my boss is watching.’
But I was slightly distracted. The gameshow was being shown on our screen in the production office and a question came up about Macbeth that I knew the answer to,
“King Duncan”, I rapidly blurted out. One of my colleagues – the type to be at the forefront of the Rob snogged Alice chatter – asked me very, in damn near complete incredulity,
“How did you know the answer to that?”
“I played MacBeth in my Primary school play,” I proudly stated.
Then, it came. The moment I knew would confront me at some point in my working life (we all go through it don’t we?). Casual racism.
His rebuttal, was to say with such disbelief,
“A black man playing Macbeth? Scandalous!”
The room fell silent. They awaited my response. Is he going to become militant black guy? Is this going to be a HR issue that we can blow under the carpet? Or is he going to laugh it off like the legions of other young black men and women have been conditioned to do?
I laughed it off.
Forgive me. I was 21. I wasn’t woke yet.
Now I know, that you can’t wish it away and it was made even more apparent, just 15 minutes later.
Why You Can’t Wish Away Racism in the Workplace