Readers Sound Off on 10 Things NEVER to Say to a Black Coworker

Readers can't stop e-mailing us about "10 Things NEVER to say to a Black Coworker." What's getting them so riled up? Here's what one reader has to tell you.

“10 Things NEVER to Say to a Black Coworker” is one of the most popular articles on Nearly every day, readers comment on this article and the other comments readers have left. Here’s one of the best new comments in the ongoing discussion:


Why does your choice not to be offended impose the same on me? I’ll be happy to use YOUR boundary definitions in YOUR home, but in public spaces–the workplace included–I want a chance to weigh in.


Friendship comes with some mutual, though tacit, agreements and latitude. If we don’t know each other well: Don’t touch my hair, don’t ask to touch my hair, and if you ask me about fried chicken, I want the right to suspect the possibility of veiled antagonism and to look at you in that light! It’s a useful defense mechanism in a world that’s highly competitive and political. I resent being asked to give it up.


Would there be the same vitriol against a list of things not to say to Asians or other ethnic groups?


“Why are you angry?” is OK from a FRIEND. If someone else asks, in the context of an interaction, it makes sense. But when strangers ask, it’s just annoying! Another version of the “You should always be smiling” attitude often directed to young women. My emotional context is different from yours and that’s OK!


When I am feeling that upset, I don’t make eye contact because strangers don’t deserve the glare I wouldn’t be able to avoid. But yes, it does show on my face.


“Articulate speech is not yet prevalent in the black community …” Wow!  Thanks for the enlightenment–because of course, any speech outside of Standard English and outside of the accepted doesn’t qualify. When we describe oral tradition, vestiges of which currently manifest in comedy, rap, poetry and song lyrics, we’re just deluding ourselves!


–Hyderabad Chick


  • Ben Richardson

    I once was asked by a co-worker what I was having for lunch. We both worked nights and got off before noon, so it was a typical question. I’m originally from NC and he was too, but we worked in AZ for a large company. When I responded with Fried chicken, stewed okra with tomatoes, corn on the cob, and watermelon — he gave me a look like I must be pulling his leg or baiting him. Then he laughed as he realized it really was our white southern lunch menu.

  • 10 things not to say to your black co worker is a perfect and tragic example of cultural hysteria
    I can’t compliment someone being articulate. ..BECAUSE THEY ARE BLACK? Your reaction to a perfectly everyday comment is the problem. Not the comment.
    As for not being able to ask where someone graduated? Come on! Thats a classic getting to know your co workers question.
    People need to get over themselves. Good communication does not require pussy footing nor censorship.

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