Image - Chad Sanders
Image - Chad Sanders

Chad Sanders: Black Magic

"I remember the day I realized I couldn’t play a white guy as well as a white guy. It felt like a death sentence for my career.”—Chad Sanders

When Chad Sanders landed his first job in lily-white Silicon Valley, he quickly realized that to be successful at work meant playing a certain social game. Each meeting was drenched in white slang and the privileged talk of international travel or a folk concert in San Francisco, which led Chad to realize that he could only be successful if he emulated whiteness.

So Sanders changed. He changed his wardrobe, his behavior, his speech—everything that connected him with his Black identity. And while he finally felt included, he felt awful. Carrying the unbearable weight of his imposter syndrome—the constant burden of not being true to himself—left Sanders exhausted and ashamed. Instead, he decided to give up the charade. He reverted back to methods he learned at the dinner table, or at the Black Baptist church where he’d been raised, or the concrete basketball courts. And it paid off. Sanders began to land more exciting projects and eventually got promoted. He earned the respect of his colleagues and clients. Accounting for this turnaround, Sanders believes, was something he calls Black Magic, namely: resilience, creativity, and perseverance, forged in his experience navigating America as a Black man. Black Magic has emboldened his every step since. Leading him to wonder: was he alone in this discovery? Were there others who felt the same?

In Black Magic, Sanders tells his own story while also interviewing other Black leaders, scientists, artists, business people, parents, innovators, and champions, to get their take on Black magic. This revelatory book uncovers Black experiences in predominantly white environments while demonstrating the importance of staying true to yourself.

Chad Sanders is a New York City-based writer. His screenwriting career began when he wrote for ABC Freeform’s Grownish in 2018. Previously, Chad worked at Google in the YouTube and People Operations divisions and as a tech entrepreneur. He has since written and cowritten forthcoming TV series and feature films with collaborators Spike Lee, Morgan Freeman and Will Packer. Chad’s op-ed pieces have appeared in The New York Times and Teen Vogue.


Part of our Good Lit series, underwritten by the Bernard Osher Foundation.

Our thanks to Marcus Bookstore in Oakland for fulfilling book orders.


Marcus Books

Chad Sanders photo by Ismail “Calligrafist” Sayeed.

See more Michelle Meow Shows at The Commonwealth Club.

Image - Chad Sanders

Chad Sanders

Author, Black Magic: What Black Leaders Learned from Trauma and Triumph; Writer, The New York Times; Twitter @Chad_Sand

Image - Michelle Meow

Michelle Meow

Producer and Host, “The Michelle Meow Show”; Member, Commonwealth Club Board of Governors—Co-Host

Image - John Zipperer

John Zipperer

Producer and Host, Week to Week Political Roundtable; Vice President of Media & Editorial, The Commonwealth Club—Co-Host