Think Like a White Man
Book reviewed by Ahmed Olayinka Sule, CFA
Book written by Nels Abbey
Hardcover: 256 pages
The corporate environment in the west can be described as a gladiatorial contest where men and women jostle to reach the summit. At the end of the battle, many carcasses are left bloodied on the floor while the successful lot earn a place on the seat of the corporate power table. People who find themselves in this rat race arm themselves with the necessary tools to succeed.
For blacks working in the western corporate world, getting an offer letter of employment is the first step in a very long walk to surviving the corporate landscape. A number of things can work to their disadvantage in the battle for corporate supremacy including but not limited to their accent, their limited understanding of the cultural landscape, their lack of social capital and of course the curious case of the colour of their skin.
In his maiden book titled “Think Like a White Man: Conquering the World While Black”, Nels Abbey, a British based Nigerian (Itsekiri) writer provides practical solutions to help black people navigate the western corporate environment. This satirical self-help book which contains an amalgamation of humour, facts and history is not for the faint-hearted. As I read it, I went through a range of emotions including laughter, anger, surprise, fear and disgust. The book was written using the voice of Dr Boulé Whytelaw III, who Abbey describes as an “Unhinged black man with no political filter or time for political correctness.”
Since the people at the summit of the western corporate world are most likely to be White Men (not white men), it is critical to understand their thought process and bias to succeed. To help blacks, the author provides a “Whytelaw Classification of the Caucasian” which includes in descending order the White Man, the white man, White people, White tragedies, Hollywood Villain White People, etc. He argues that not all White Men are equal and describes the British White Man as the quintessential White Man.
In addition to the 187 Do’s and Don’ts list to survive the white corporate world, the book contains novel concepts like the Ten White Man Commandment, the Whytelaw formula for black progression in the white corporate world, the subservience test and the LDP formula for Two-stepping with racism.
My favourite part of the book is the appendix. Abbey covers the various categories of black people one is likely to find in the western corporate world. After reviewing the first appendix you will be able to easily categorise yourself, black friends, relatives, colleagues and even enemies into either the white person trapped in black skin, the JJC, the undercover brother, the office revolutionary category, the shook one or the balanced category. He also decodes the meaning of around 78 white codes such as terrorist, good black leader, our allies, the free world and collateral damage.
The book would appeal to many people. Academics and scientists will be able to understand the mindset of the 21st century Tom who sees nothing wrong selling people of his own race for 30 pieces of silver and a mess of corporate pie. It will appeal to captains of industry helping them understand the motivation behind those who pass the “subservience test” and the extent they would go to get a seat on the table. Those who claim to be “Woke” will learn to be more sympathetic towards their “Unwoke” brethren. But the greatest appeal will be to those who look black but aspire to think and look otherwise.
Ahmed Olayinka Sule (An office revolutionary)