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• Theresa M. Robinson, ABD

• Theresa M. Robinson, ABD

This is what “it” sounds like….

“Congratulations! We want you to give the presentation at this year’s industry-wide conference.”

“We’d like to get a photo of you and a quote to include in our recruiting brochure.”

“You’ve been selected as a feature in ‘The Employee Experience’ and will appear on our website.”

We’re made to feel like we’re being “honored,” like we’ve been “chosen” from among all other employees.


We’re being “chosen” because the company needs a Black face (or two) that will….

serve as its DEI currency

augment its “commitment” to racial equity and inclusion

show the outside world that Black employees matter

These “honors” bestowed on the one to few Black employees who work in non-support roles are the posturing of companies that seek the appearance of racial diversity/representation.

And the “DEI-splay” is rarely ever positioned as an ask.

That we will comply is understood. By the way, the expectation of Black compliance is a carryover mindset that originated with slavery.

It’s the unspoken rule.

The language wrapped around the “opportunity” is a distinct coded message positioned as “an offer we can’t refuse.”

Our employment and advancement in the company are hanging in the balance if we dare object to this common practice.

At the same time, our not-so-secret life inside the company is often rife with multiple instances of inequities, exclusionary practices, microaggressions, and emotional and psychological unsafety.

We are the unprotected “beards” for the company which holds hostage our chances for career advancement.

And as long as we go along with it….everything will be fine….unless…..

I Was One. A Beard.

/Beard/: A persona non grata, who, knowingly or unknowingly, is given prominence and strategically positioned publicly by an entity in an effort to deceive, conceal truth, and convey a desired narrative for the purpose of elevating said entity’s image.

I was the first Black person the company had ever hired in this particular position.

That I was immediately sent off to take a months’ long remedial course in a subject area for which I was not hired (and in which I would not be working) should have been my first clue. The white male hired with me was not extended the same “courtesy” to take a remedial course in the area for which he was not hired. Another clue.

It’s like they wanted to start off the working relationship by letting me know that I was being hired as a generally inferior member of the team.

Anyhoo, they barely waited 6 months to parade me in front of the industry’s governing board to tout the company’s advancements in diversity and inclusion, and also advancements in the industry overall. They even trotted me out on the road to conferences so that everybody could see that they “finally got one”— a Black person in the role.

There was never a point where I felt that I could have refused and also keep my job. I was young and naive.

“Keeping us feeling grateful
keeps us compliant.
Keeping us feeling indebted
keeps us controlled.”


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