10 things you should never, ever say to a black co-worker

Avatar Mildred Europa Taylor | Editor October 30, 2019

Photo: Shutterstock

Day after day, we tend to spend a lot of time with our coworkers as we try to get along with them while having discussions related not only to work but also life.

Your coworker is not your best friend, but it is not out of place to create a rapport with them as you never know when you might need their help.

However, as colleagues do come from diverse backgrounds, it is imperative to make sure that your comments do not offend anyone.

Black people and other people of colour have often made complaints of certain comments their white colleagues passed at them that they felt were inappropriate.

If you are a white worker and you want to maintain the peace with your black coworker, here are things you should absolutely avoid saying or asking at all costs.

1. You’re so smart

You might think you are just passing a compliment, but this might mean something else to your black coworker. They might think you are making such a comment because you feel they are different from a perception you have held about people of their race.

2. Is that your real hair?

This question should never be asked as you probably can’t tell if your black coworker is suffering from a medical condition.

3. Do you eat a lot of fried chicken?

There is nothing wrong in trying to know the eating habit of your black coworker, but it is inappropriate to focus on foods such as fried chicken or watermelon which have been associated with racism. Claire Schmidt, a professor at the University of Missouri said “chickens had long been a part of Southern diets, but they had particular utility for slaves. They were cheap, easy to feed and a good source of meat.”

4. All Lives Matter – not just black people

Saying black lives matter does not imply that other lives do not matter. Black Lives Matter is basically a campaign against violence and systemic racism towards black people. Almost all the experiences and systems in America already cater to whiteness and its safety, and this is why it is imperative to emphasize the need to protect black bodies.

5. You’re different, you’re not like them…

This is almost like saying the above statement: “You are smart”.

6. You don’t sound Black.

Do Black people sound differently?

7. Are you real black?

8. You should understand Trump

Even after not moving away from the racism upon which he built his campaign and his businesses?

9. You’re the prettiest black woman I’ve ever seen

10. The N-word

You would say that some black people use the n-word, so why the uproar when a white person does. But Ramsey explains in a YouTube video that one needs to look at the word’s historical context. “The n-word was used to describe black people as they were being stolen from Africa, put into slavery, chained, lynched, beaten, spit upon — so the word was created as a tool of oppression. Its historical context cannot be erased.”