This Ad Agency Wants Everyone To Experience What It's Like To Be Black At Work

It's not easy, as anyone who enters Havas Chicago's obstacle course will learn.

Photo Credit: Photo: Havas Chicago

| February 22 2017,

9:48 pm

If you’re reading this, you probably know what it is to be a minority. To be the only brown face in a sea of white. At school, at work, minorities find themselves having to navigate issues that white colleagues know nothing about — that would never even cross their minds.

According to Adweek, Havas Chicago is taking this Black History Month as an opportunity to enlighten its non-black employees with an art installation in the lobby of its downtown Chicago office.

Havas Chicago’s chief creative officer, Jason Peterson, told the magazine, “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.”

In order to begin effecting change, Peterson asked one of Havas Chicago’s art directors, Jason LaFlore, to create “something that’s going to show our point of view and not be passive.”

LaFlore and his team created what they call a “jobstacle course.” It is an interactive exhibit full of clever copy and bright typography that is drawn from the experiences of black Havas Chicago colleagues.

LaFlore found that, “If you’re too nonchalant about your job, you’re automatically seen as lazy. If you’re too passionate about your job, you might be seen as the angry black man or the angry black woman.”

To help white colleagues understand the difficulty to avoiding either stereotype, the team built the “Beam of Perception,” a balance beam with the word "angry" on one side and the word "lazy" on the other. 

Photo: Havas Chicago

Other portions of the course illuminate the weight black employees sometimes feel to be ambassadors of black culture, forcing people to dodge suspended speech bubbles featuring questions that generalize or that are common yet altogether inappropriate. 

Photo: Havas Chicago

“A lot of times, whether it’s a company party or something, people always expect that the black guys are going to dance,” LaFlore said, explaining the inspiration behind the word balloons, “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 exhibit, entitled #BlackAtWork, is currently open to the public at Havas Chicago’s office, and will be up until the end of February. If you’ll be in the city, why don’t you stop by and give it a try?