Column: Dear Black Girl With A Job


By: Brook Ellis

I’m Brook, and I’m a Black girl with a job just like you! I’ve worked at major corporations, and I’ve worked at places where my paycheck bounced. I’ve seen it all, and I’m here to give you the “best friend” advice you need to thrive in the modern minefield that is the workplace. If you have a career question drop me a line at (I promise to never tell you to lean in).

Hi Black Girl With A Job:


I work in a small office full of white people and they always want to potluck for team lunch. I don't eat just anybody's food, plus the few times I tried, that sh*t was nasty. How can I get out of eating Becky's dry pasta salad once a month?


- Pass the Seasoning, PLEASE




Dear Pass the Seasoning, PLEASE,


Come on now, don’t be like that. I think you might be making a mountain out of a mole hill of dry pasta salad.


Imagine how you would feel if you worked in a majority black office and your one white co-worker didn’t want to potluck because all of the food was “greasy.” What if your office was majority Indian and the complaint was that the food was too “spicy.”

 Is this really about the food or are you uncomfortable socializing with your team due to their overwhelming whiteness? It’s understandable if informal food based activities make you uneasy. They can be awkward and turn what should be fun into a stressful situation.

 I would encourage you to embrace the awkwardness. Look at it as an opportunity for personal growth over a plate of “differently” seasoned food. Jokes aside, you should make an effort to not exercise bias towards your co-workers. Not for them, but for you.

 One of the best and worst things about the modern workplace is it’s ability to force us all to learn about people different from ourselves. As in all things, we seem to get forced to learn and grow more than everyone else, but knowledge even when not pleasant, is still knowledge.

 I get (more than your co-workers likely will) not eating “just anybody’s food.” This is a cultural norm in the black community. However, if you get to know your co-workers they won’t be “just anybody.” In time you’ll be able to discern who carefully sanitizes their greens, who mixes salad with unwashed hands, and who consistently serves dry pasta salad. After all, being an unhygienic cook has nothing to do with being white, it afflicts trifling people of all races.


So now let’s remove race for a moment.


Your co-workers may just be terrible cooks. It happens and no shame in it. Even if you aren't interested in eating anything being served, try something.  At the next potluck, load up on your own food and do “a taste” (a tablespoon serving) of anything that looks edible. Talk to your co-workers about what they made, how and why. If you get less than savory information, control your face, and make a mental note to skip their dish next potluck.


Black Girl with a Job