DEAR HARRIETTE: I am an African American woman working in a largely white corporate institution. There are only two black women in my division of about 50 employees. She and I look nothing alike. Specifically, I am tall, with dark skin and short hair; she is at least 6 inches shorter than me, with light skin and long hair. And yet, regularly, co-workers mistake us for each other. It is blatantly racist to me. They don’t make that mistake with one another, even when they may be referring to two blonds of similar height and stature. I don’t get it, and it’s so annoying. What can I do to be seen in my company? -- Invisible
DEAR INVISIBLE: Your job is to educate your co-workers -- to the best of your ability -- without a chip on your shoulder. It doesn’t make sense that people who work directly with you would not be able to discern who is who, especially if there are only two black women on the team.
Before you present to your group, start by introducing yourself. Literally say, “I am (fill in your name).” Follow that with your presentation. If you do that every time you speak, chances are, someone will ask you why you are introducing yourself to a group of people who know you. That’s when you can point out that they often call you by your colleague’s name. In the interest of clarity, you want to be certain that they know who they are talking to. If they scoff or say that’s ridiculous, that’s your chance to agree and point out that it should be obvious that you are two different people, but given how often your identities are mistaken, you felt it necessary to reintroduce yourself each time you speak.