Young, Black and Under Attack: Corporate Blackballing

Before I begin expressing my views on the subject of ‘’Corporate Blackballing’’, I must declare that this opinion piece is riddled with personal encounters that I have experienced while working in the corporate environment. Furthermore, a few of my peers have also shared similar allegories with me and therefore I felt compelled to pen this thought-provoking article in hopes of sparking debate regarding the scourge that is ‘’Corporate Blackballing’’.


Now, a phalanx of people may wonder what exactly is ‘’Corporate Blackballing”? Well, to put it bluntly, Corporate Blackballing can be defined as an act that aims to discredit and disseminate a former employee’s credibility in an attempt to thwart his/her future opportunities that may advance their career in another organization. There is a myriad of contributing factors that can be attributed to Corporate Blackballing, one primary fundamental is when an employee resigns from their current place of employment due to an internal dispute or other work-related issues. 

Without negating the ear ringing unemployment rate that is plaguing South African masses currently, Corporate Blackballing is the paramount cause that has spiked the unfortunate stance of unemployed youth; particularly black! Over the years, I have been privy to playing the protagonist in the Corporate Blackballing flick – a role I settled into nicely, might I add. I became predisposed to this working environment epidemic during the early stages of my career as a content writer / digital copywriter. True enough, I had been oblivious to Corporate Blackballing (which was somewhat of a myth to me) until I experienced it first-hand. 


The year was 2015 and I was a fresh-faced digital copywriter with coarse potential that was yet to be refined; but with unjust luck and barely a month into my new designation, I found myself facing off with Corporate Blackballing at the most unsuspecting of times. The company I worked for was a digital marketing agency that was predominantly white and my being a black copywriter didn’t quite earn me the ‘’token melanin creative genius’’ accolade. Within 3 weeks working at my new job, I was accused of plagiarism by…you guessed it, my line manager (a pale WHITE senior copywriter) and my other two WHITE colleagues. Although this almost led to my clinical depression, I held my head high and not even once did I raise the racism picket sign; although it was warranted.


Needless to say that I was found innocent on all these allegations. It later dawned on me that they couldn’t believe that so much creative prowess could come from a black kid who commanded the English language so well (thanks to an IV League school’s tutelage and a natural knack for vocabulary). I continued to kick ass in my capacity as a digital copywriter and karma served a cold dish when all 3 of my hecklers received retrenchment letters the following year. In 2017, after what I’d dub a great run working for that digital agency, I resigned from my job due to an internal dispute that involved an irresponsible colleague who was a client services manager and an ‘’Uncle Tom’’ who fancied himself an executive position. This fellow black brother threw me under the bus (for an error that he made) to rise up the corporate ranks. 


I soon realised that Corporate Blackballing is not a White people thing – although the term is racially befitting- but a prevalent issue amongst black folks as well. I left that company with a tarnished reputation (if any did exist) and soon thereafter the worst two years presided over my career as a writer. With every interview I scored after leaving that company, rejection (without sound reasoning) became part of my corporate DNA, LITERALLY! I did however manage to get another job at a radio station – where my employer was bold enough to take a chance on a ‘’villainous copywriter’’, even though she was advised (by my previous employer) not to hire me. Hardly 3 months into this radio gig and there I was again, fighting off naysayers (of my own kind this time) and before I knew it, I was on my way out again. I parted ways with my employer due to an assortment of issues, one of which was my remuneration package. 


It has been 2 years and some change since I was last employed by a corporate company and I have since used my time to dabble in entrepreneurial endeavours; and although my business partner and I are in the formative stages, I must say I feel emancipated and vowed not to blackball none of my future employees should we ever fall out. 

The moral of this opinion piece is, never try to block someone from advancing in their respective careers no matter what may have transpired between them and their employer…it is only fair that as an employer, you allow your former employee to flourish elsewhere and be someone else’s problem because blackballing them isn’t and WILL NEVER be the solution.

Writer: Tebogo Kawawa