The pandemic taught me a lot about myself and especially about other people. Decades earlier in the corporate space, I learned an uncomfortable lesson, one that always stayed in the recesses of my subconscious… that when someone in leadership or a management role called me “brother” that something nefarious would eventually transpire, whenever it would happen I would tacitly nod to myself and wait.
This utterance of “brother” came in the form of getting laid off via Zoom two days before my birthday in the Springfield of 2020, I remember chuckling at my prescience while looking at a photograph of my Grandmother and I… as she seemed to glance at me knowingly.
During the early days of the pandemic – I applied to over 1,000 roles… on LinkedIn alone, enduring a host of microaggressions, including an interviewer who was incensed at my journalism background and sneered while leaning into the camera to say:
“Oh….you’re one of those people…. who likes to tell us how to think!”
I stared blankly… he laughed nervously and said he was joking, but I knew he wasn’t.
He spoke his truth.
I am used to be being interpreted… as the Other, but that box of otherness is a realm that I will never inhabit, I refuse and rebuke it.
I had another organization, take me through four interviews or maybe it was five, where I was given verbal assurances that I’d receive an offer letter only to be told… via email.
“Oh… we’re going with other candidates.”
Over the course of a couple months, probing questions and areas of fit, discussions of consequence and I just get a shitty form email?
The only response I received in the form of feedback… the who, what and why. Those questions that I had on areas that I should focus on? Was non-existent, getting clarity for my own edification was all that I expected, a little humanity was that insanity?
A couple of days later it came in the form of the HR person who responded to my query with a cold and impersonal email:
“No particular reason.”
That is quite a fuck you.
Based on past experiences this is translated as get lost… simply put, I was merely the token interview that they have to give as a nod to diversity when it really isn’t in their corporate DNA… it is merely lip service. They find a candidate that puts a ✔ in all of the boxes, but time and again the whole specter of race blinds simple minded people with monolithic thinking and it immediately disqualifies people like me – a Black man first and everything else next, qualifications be damned.
Now, I wasn’t particularly surprised, but I was taken aback about how cold they were towards me after they got what they needed. It was in the aftermath of this event that I decided to take a walk to clear my head from what had just happened, it was during this walk where I got the inclination to write my second book while standing on this trail (actual photos from the moment of brainstorm).
Another interesting piece of irony in this whole situation? This same organization later bought ads on this site soon afterwards… and LinkedIn always tells stories, when they announced the person who they hired for the role, I got an alert in my network feed… interestingly enough the person they hired had none of my qualifications, but what they were missing was that elemental force of my skin.
In retrospect I was placed in a box, but instead of confining and leaving me disillusioned, it served to be redemptive, providing me with a lasting takeaway.
The error that many of us make during our respective journeys … of placing our faith and loyalty in the wrong places is simply betrayal on a higher level. That uncomfortable fact that corporations are not people, they will never love you back is a reminder that we have to love ourselves in a more deliberate fashion, we can do this by investing in ourselves with the same fervor that corporations do in sidestepping our humanity.
Sidenote: I wrote, published, designed and I market my books which still sell in pockets around the globe through my publishing arm… so much for the candidate who can’t speak to diverse audiences… an affirmation of something my Father always conveyed to me: “your skin ain’t no sin.”
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