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Ad Agency’s Obstacle Course Shows What It’s Like To Be ‘Black at Work’

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Being a minority in the workplace can be the source of stress and a major hindrance to your professional development. In addition to the normal obstacles that come with any career, minorities must face the additional burden of having to deftly navigate racial stereotypes, subtle discrimination, and ethnic double standards. To honor Black History Month, a Chicago advertising agency created a Black at Work obstacle course to shed light on this under-discussed aspect of the African-American experience.


Havas Chicago set up a “jobsstacle” course based on real experiences its African-American employees have faced throughout their professional careers. The first obstacle on the course is a beam of perception. On one side of the beam is the word “lazy” and on the other, “angry.” “If you’re too nonchalant about your job, you’re automatically seen as lazy,” Havas art director, Jason LaFlore, told Ad Week. “If you’re too passionate about your job, you might be seen as the angry black man or the angry black woman.”

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Other obstacles show the inappropriate conversations and comments black people must endure in an office setting. Another obstacle called the “Hollywood Shuffle” shows how non-black employees often incorrectly assume that blacks are up on the latest in urban cultural trends. “It spoke to the idea that a lot of times, whether it’s a company party or something, people expect that the black guys are going to dance,” LaFlore said. “I don’t always know all the dance moves and all the trends that are happening just because I’m a minority in the office.”

The Black at Work exhibit is also a way for the agency to point out the lack of diversity in the ad industry itself. “I love reading these articles about how white and old the industry is, and the industry itself acknowledges and talks about the problem versus actually changing and activating on the kind of issues we have,” Jason Peterson, the agency’s creative officer said. “In my point of view, America is multicultural, so if you’re an agency that doesn’t have or isn’t made up of a multicultural point of view, there’s no way you can do your job properly.” The obstacle course will be up in Havas Chicago’s office for the rest of February



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