The Widening Office Divide

The heightened awareness of racism and impact of Covid-19 reveal a bigger workplace division between Black and White employees

Erika Stallings
Published in
6 min readJun 18, 2020


Photo: Westend61/Getty Images

A few days after my company moved to work from home due to the Covid-19 pandemic, my boss decided to implement a daily team call via Zoom. Beyond the inherent annoyance associated with a daily hour-long call, I started noticing that I would be in an extreme funk for hours after the meeting. It took a few weeks to realize that I, the sole Black member of my team, was having a much different quarantine experience than my co-workers. For them, it seemed to be a minor inconvenience. Some people talked about the upside of having more time to spend with family due to the elimination of their commute. Another person shared a special hack for finding Instacart delivery windows. I was somehow added to both a recipe and a poetry chain letter.

In contrast, I was counseling friends who were dealing with infected relatives or losing loved ones to Covid-19. At the end of March, a good friend lost a fraternity brother who visited three different emergency rooms before being given a test. I woke up on my birthday, in late April, to discover that someone I had followed and interacted with for years on Twitter had also died from the virus. I also worried about my relatives in the South who were living in states where governors were being more lax with shelter-in-place orders.

My feelings were validated when data on who was being most affected by Covid-19 started being released. According to CDC data on Covid-19 hospitalizations during March, 33% of hospitalized patients were Black, despite only being 18% of the surveyed population. In a May poll released by ABC News, 30% of Black respondents reported personally knowing someone who died from Covid-19, compared to only 10% of White respondents.

Each week, I would log on to my computer feeling more and more detached from the cheery demeanors looking back at me. Then, news of the killings started happening.

In Georgia, Ahmaud Arbery had been killed in February by two White men who decided that he fit the profile of a burglary suspect and enacted their own vigilante justice by chasing Arbery down and trapping him while he tried to escape. In…