It’s Black History Month which means you should make the extra effort to shop at Black owned stores and restaurants, embrace Black culture, read books by Black authors, and in general support Black creators (in case you were wondering, this isn’t an arbitrary rule made up, it’s a rule the system we’re operating in established). You might be asking yourself, “But which book should I read by a Black author?” I’m so glad you asked! As you ease into Black History Month, check out the modern story Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour about startup culture.
Darren “Buck” tells his story of going from slinging coffee as a barista at Starbucks to working sales at a startup in New York City in Black Buck. He immediately faces the nonsense people of color face in corporate world, shocking nobody. Of course, the story can’t end with a Black man entering the tech world to immediately dip out at the first sign of covert racism and gaslighting, he perseveres because that’s the expectation (as stated in the Handbook for Working a White Collar Job as a POC). He’s the only Black person at his company and the CEO believes in him, but oddly doesn’t believe him when he suggests the CEO’s righthand man is high-key racist.
Despite some bad PR the company faces, Buck plays a key role in the company company overcoming a murder, a terrible sales quarter, and investors and customers who no longer want to associate with the company. His personal life falls apart, but who needs a healthy social life when climbing the corporate ladder? Buck becomes the guy for the company, and sure, he’s 23 and making questionable decisions, but who among us hasn’t hit rock bottom? Fortunately, he finds his way out from rock bottom and ends up helping young people of color get into sales. What started as Buck trying to get an old coworker a sales gig, leads to something so much bigger.
The book explores the underlying tension of being Black in a historically white place, and how it can ebb and flow depending on where an individual is at in that space. Starting out, young people of color are told to work hard and be thankful they’re even in that space. Then people start to see that there’s a gap in who is also fill the spaces they’re in and not everyone gets there by their own merit, but connections. And then confronting taking side of empowering and supporting people of color or trying to remain neutral on the topic of race despite the fact that not picking a position on matters of race is also choosing a position. Askaripour has written a funny and face-paced story that shreds startup tech companies and their workplace culture. As someone who works in Austin, Texas, where many of the tech bros have taken up residence without giving much thought to people of color, I highly recommend this book.
If you’re the type of person who often finds yourself saying “does race really matter when it comes to getting a job?” I empower you to go to your local bookstore and buy this book, it will teach you about sales. If you’re the type of person who has no interest in sales, this book is also for you! This book is for everyone. And if you’re looking for even more books to read, peep books from authors like bell hooks, Alice Walker, James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, W. E. B. Du Bois, and so on. They’re essential reading in general.
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