BLACKS SHOULD AVOID: SLAVE-LIKE BEHAVIOR AND THOUGHTS
If White managers asked this woman to check the fax machine on the floor below us, she would throw off her shoes, race down the hall, catapult herself down the stairs, and dash into the reproduction office where the fax machines were located. Then she’d repeat those steps in reverse to get back and tell them—more often than not—that there was no fax waiting for them. Repeat this throughout the day, for various requests, and you’ll understand how many times we’d hear muffled footsteps and see runned-up pantyhose and red toe nail polish racing by our office doors during the course of the day.
Can you guess what this woman got for all of her Flo Jo type racing?
Laughed at and disrespected!
The same White people that had her racing all around the building, would refer to her as “stupid, but sweet” to anyone who would listen. “She’s not very bright” was the office mantra that was used by Whites when referring to this Black woman. But, instead of understanding the reality of what Whites really thought about her, this Black woman bragged to other Blacks that she was the one that White staff “liked.” “I can’t help it that I’m liked,” she’d say. What an idiot! They didn’t like her. They didn’t even respect her. She was a thing…a thing to take ownership of, to control, and to degrade.
No self-respecting Black person should display this sort of slave-like behavior on the job (or anywhere else). You can kiss all of the White a%s you want, but it’s not going to get you anywhere. Because unlike unqualified Whites, that can thrive and advance in many American workplaces, a Black person is going to have to earn his or her keep. Do you realize how overqualified a Black person still has to be in order to get a promotion? No, forget that…in order to be considered for a promotion?
That’s why Blacks should focus on doing their job to the best of their ability and seeking any opportunities to learn new skills or take training courses offered by the company. That is a far more productive use of time than playing the company court jester or the stereotypically grateful slave who is happy that ‘massa threw him an old rag to sling across his body.
We are not slaves. Our ancestors fought as hard as they did, so that we would never have to play that role. Do not set us (Blacks) back decades by embracing a slave mentality and slave behavior in the workplace. Your White coworkers do not own you, despite what some of them may think. “Can I borrow your girl for a minute,” is something I’ve heard one White worker ask a White manager. How do you borrow a human being? This is the mentality we are fighting. The person asking to do the borrowing didn’t even use the Black WOMAN’S name. She had a name! And, yes, she was a woman. She was not a girl. The woman who was to be borrowed was over 40 years old. Yet, she was “your girl.” Yes, this White person was intentionally using an ownership label.
As Blacks, we need to stop facilitating this mentality by reinforcing the old stereotypes. It’s fine to be helpful. But, it’s another to get carried away with the foot-shuffling, bug-eyed, wide smiling assistance that some of us still give to Whites. Stop deferring to White people. They are no better and no worse than you are. They are your equals in this world. See them as such. Even your so-called “superiors” are mere mortals, just like you. So, when you are working with them or interacting with them, don’t avoid eye contact, lower your head in deference or lower your voice. Command the respect you deserve, as every person in the workplace should—regardless of race.
Don’t play yourself by acting like a caricature of a Black servant (think of some of the TV and movie images that Blacks have been subjected to). Do your job, take opportunities to learn new skills and expand your knowledge, network with colleagues, streamline a process, make suggestions and share ideas, show you are a team-oriented person, and display leadership skills. You can do all of those things without acting like a coon! You can do all of those things and still look at yourself in the mirror without feeling a sense of shame.