Labels and Stereotypes - You Got Me Going in Circles!
A hardworking Black person that has gotten this label at work probably doesn’t tell White coworkers their personal business, doesn’t try to ingratiate themselves with White staff, is uninterested in the social/professional cliques and so-called power plays of White employees, doesn’t stand around the water cooler chatting up White staff, sits quietly as they wait for meetings to start (before participating), and is likely perceived to be totally unimpressed by White coworkers who take absolute pride in the status they believe they have on the job.
The reality is that we each go to work to perform a job function. No one is paid to socialize, although it is okay to foster friendly relationships at work. But, for some people—regardless of race—they are simply uninterested in opening up to everyone on the job. I’ve said it before in another post…
Don’t share too much of your personal business at work. Far too many White people simply want to get in Black folks’ business. They want to know if we are from the “ghetto,” if we were raised by a single parent, if we are married or intend to get married, etc. And, guess what? Some people are very private. This includes Blacks. Not everyone wants to share their life story or stand around socializing when they should be working.
Hardworking Black people who have gotten the “unapproachable” label at work are often simply people who open up to others as they grow to trust them. They are not antisocial. They are not rude. They’re often friendly on projects, but they discuss work and not much else. Therefore, people just can’t figure them out!
Unfortunately, certain people in our society are far too desirous of the return to the era of smiling Black faces (normally of servitude). But, mammy and sambo are gone—or, they should be. Not every Black person is interested in expressing a high quotient of assimilation by spending large chunks of their workday trying to prove to Whites that they are acceptable. And, those are the Black folks who will normally get this label.
As a result, you’ve got African Americans being told they are “aloof,” “distant,” and “unapproachable.” And, they’re stuck with it—until they sufficiently smile in the faces of White staff or kiss enough White behind at work to show that they are “likeable.”
Yes, only an inhumane level of butt kissing will make anyone White reevaluate whether or not a Black person is actually as standoffish as they perceive.
But, the most interesting thing about a Black person being told they are “unapproachable” is that we also get the 180 degree label of being “overly sociable.” You know, a White person’s way of telling someone they talk too much. There doesn’t seem to be much grey area for Blacks. We either don’t talk enough or we allegedly talk too much!
The next label we will look at is…You’re Too Literal!!