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  • Writer's pictureAuthor T.D. McLaughlin Talks

Part 2: The Theory of:There Can Only Be One; Corporate America (Op-Ed)

The corporate world is a realm where the theory of "There Can Only Be One" is unfortunately still alive and well, particularly when it comes to black representation. In boardrooms and on committees, it's not uncommon to find that black individuals are underrepresented or, in some cases, the sole representatives. When they do find themselves in these positions, they often bear the heavy burden of representing an entire race, which can be isolating and discouraging.


Indeed, many exceptional black professionals have risen to prominence, breaking through the barriers of systemic racism. However, instead of taking pride in their singular achievements, they might find themselves pondering the question, "Why am I the only one?" This self-reflection is a sign of a deeply ingrained problem within corporate America.


Unfortunately there are many theories that grow to strategy and in turn become common practice to continue the perpetuation of the narrative that only one black individual can occupy a particular sector at a given time. There are times when black people are unknowing participants in the well planned and well executed tactic of internalized competition. Internalized Competition is when people are pitted against each other where there can only be one winner and to the winner goes the spoils. The result of this tactic is the unfortunate phenomenon of black individuals " corporately cannibalizing" each other to prove their worth to the very gatekeepers in Corporate America who institute the strategy of internalized competition. The tactic of Corporate Cannibalization prevents corporate black unity by preventing black individuals from utilizing any real or perceived "power, influence or cache" to create a seat at the table for another individual. This behavior is a reflection of the scarcity tactic that has been imposed on the black community, where the success of one is seen as a direct threat to the success of others.


To address these issues, it is essential for both the corporate world and the black community to acknowledge the harmful nature of The There Can Only Be One Theory and actively work to change it. Corporations should be forced to live up to their mission statements and press releases by creating real diversity and ensuring inclusion. Companies could easily do this by ensuring that the composition of their boards, committees, and leadership reflects the diversity of the world we live in. Black individuals in corporate settings should support and uplift each other, rather than competing to prove a point that is fundamentally flawed.


Additionally, mentorship and sponsorship programs should be established to help black professionals navigate the corporate landscape and overcome the isolation that can come with being the "only one" in a room. These programs can provide guidance, support, and opportunities for career advancement.


It is essential for both black professionals and corporate America to recognize that diversity is not a zero-sum game. There is room for multiple success stories within the black community, just as there is room for diversity and inclusion in corporate leadership. By working together to dismantle the harmful theory of "There Can Only Be One," we can create a more equitable and supportive environment for not just one but for all.

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