Tuesday, October 31, 2006


In the workplace, many Blacks must fight the stereotype that we are unable to communicate in writing. Despite whatever degrees we may possess, many of us must wage a daily battle to prove that we are able to write in our native tongue, English. Frequently, Black workers are not assigned to writing projects simply because far too many Whites seem to be under the preposterous assumption that we will write in ebonics or broken English.

This stereotype is even believed in cases were Black workers do not speak in broken English or ebonics. Yes, I’m referring to Blacks that don’t sound “ghetto.” Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for Whites in the workplace to assume that Blacks can’t write technical reports, write for an academic/educated audience or write even the most basic written documentation that will be forwarded to clients.

The perception that Blacks lack a mastery of the English language is very prevalent in the workplace. In cases where Blacks are given writing assignments (normally after a lengthy period of time and an ample amount of “begging”) numerous people are likely to review our writing for errors.

If our reviewers are unable to make many negative critiques about our writing, a Black writer may be asked who assisted him/her in preparing the assignment, as if a Black person could not work on a writing assignment without outside assistance.

I think there are a number of reasons for the assumption that Blacks cannot write well and that Blacks are not given writing assignments:

-- Blatant racism and stereotyping regarding language skills (Blacks are forced to work with a lot of racist m.f.’ers, who think we will communicate in an “ignorant,” “defensive” or otherwise offensive manner);

-- An assumption that Blacks have received little or an inferior education as compared to White workers (even for Black college graduates); and

-- To pigeon-hole Black workers in lower level jobs by decreasing the level of threat that Black workers pose to White workers (You are more likely to remain as labor and are less likely to move into a “thinking position,” if you are doing manual or lower level assignments that do not require so-called “brain power” and a mastery of higher level skills.).

Without dealing with issues I’ve heard from other Black workers, here’s just a snippet of what I’ve encountered, regarding writing assignments:

-- A White mid-level manager, who’d never looked at one of my writing samples, REQUIRED me to take an outside technical writing course in order to work on a project that was starting in a couple of months. I had to take the class or not get the opportunity to write. So, I took the class and received flowery compliments on my writing. How is possible to compliment a person on improving, when you don’t know the baseline? This White manager had never read my writing, so how did she know my writing improved? It was just blatant racism. She assumed that I wrote to her satisfaction because of the writing course, which was not the case.

-- After repeatedly trying to get writing assignments, I was told that I had to “wait until next year” in order to write on a technical proposal. I was asked compile the back end pieces of the proposal (case studies, product shots, and charts), so I could “see how everyone else wrote” and “learn from it.”

-- I was asked to do some writing for a technical proposal on alternative medical treatments. I completed my assignment and turned it in to my supervisor. Other staff and managers had also completed assignments, which were being compiled by my supervisor. My supervisor comes to my office to criticize my writing, handing me a paper with red ballpoint pen edits all over the place. I looked at the document, confused. “This isn’t mine,” I said. Dumbfounded, my supervisor still tried to insist the document was mine. I described the section I wrote to my supervisor. She went through her folder and asked, “This is yours?” It was. She said, “This is excellent.” Her mouth couldn’t open any wider in shock. And, then, she told me that she thought my writing was done by the Co-Director of our department, a Vice President making six-figures. It was that good. After that, I was routinely subjected to offensive comments about being “really articulate.”

-- I created written procedures for a number of complex tasks and rewrote every job description in my company’s personnel manual (more than 75 different jobs). I was asked, “Who helped you with this?” I wanted to say, “Your mother!” That question is completely insulting. It was just some darn procedures and job descriptions, which have a lot of boilerplate language.

I could go on and on. The point is, for Black workers, obtaining writing assignments is often an arduous task. We often find ourselves being put on the back burner with promises that we will get a writing assignment or substantial writing assignments “when the time is right.” Sometimes, that time never comes. Yet, we Black workers often find ourselves criticized, come performance review time, for not taking on more challenging work. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “I want you to do some real writing.” This comment was made despite my multiple attempts to volunteer on several projects, only to be told the project was “completely staffed.” I was never given any assignments by the people criticizing me for not utilizing those skills. It’s a catch-22, y’all!

The Black Factor will continue to highlight some of the issues that Black workers are forced to contend with.

Monday, October 30, 2006

THE BLAQUE EXPERIENCE: An African American Online Community

The Black Factor blog is pleased to announce a new African American Message Board, The Blaque Experience. Here's a message from The Blaque Experience's creator, Yolanda Reid: The Blaque Experience is an online community that was created to bring African Americans together in a positive way. The Blaque Experience is devoted to warm interaction, stimulating intellectual exchange and enrichment topped with a lot of fun. Our members show each other love and support at all times. We laugh, have fun, share the good times, bad/sad times, and respect each other and the friendships being built. We are dedicated to promoting Black pride and awareness and also to making each member happy at all times!!! Check out the The Blaque Experience at http://blaquexperience.proboards106.com. The Blaque Experience is also included in the Links section of this blog.


This is an anonymous comment from a reader regarding Black Republicans. This was posted in response to my call for everyone to vote on November 7th. The comment reads: The Republicans are something else. I don't understand how any black person can be a Republican. The RNC has openly stated that they have actively worked to siphon a small portion of the African American and Hispanic vote in order to win. They don't want the votes of people to color to speak to their intrest. They just want to win. In addition, the assualts of Affirmative Action are very telling. AA was a law that was created to rectify the results of the 400 years of laws of that this nation put in place that were deliberatly constructed to hold blacks "in our place." How anyone say that after only less than 50 years the injustices have been corrected?Even if you are black and think you have "arrived," how can you embrace a party that only wants you for one thing and has stated they will not give anything in return? Where is the compassion and empathy? It just baffles me. BLOGGER: Any Black Republicans care to respond to this comment? Any other thoughts about party affiliation and Black voters?


I once posted remarks begging people to stop repeatedly telling their coworkers they are not 100% Black. For those who missed that post, I took issue with Blacks who felt compelled to dilute their bloodline, so as to appear more like Whites and, therefore, more acceptable to Whites. I think we’ve all worked with someone Black who repeatedly found opportunities to rightly or wrongly claim to be part Hispanic/Latino, White, Asian or Native American—usually without anyone even asking them their racial make-up.

Well, today’s issue is similar, except this time I’d like to get Blacks to shut up at work about dating or being married to someone who is not Black.

Yes, that can often be a problem. And, if you do this, don’t even try to run that game of pretending that someone brought up interracial dating and that’s the only reason you said something. From my experience, the people who are compelled to bring this up at work are the ones who find a way to intentionally steer a conversation in this direction, so they can make their grand announcement. Or, they will just introduce this topic out of the blue AND ALWAYS IN FRONT OF WHITE STAFF. Well, if making an announcement like this is the only way to show your White coworkers that you have something “in common” with them, you need to get out more and you need to get a life!

Here’s my thing. If you really loved or cared for your boyfriend or spouse, you’d mention the person by their damn name. You would make statements about that person’s character and what they mean to you. Race would be the last thing that would roll off your tongue because, if the relationship is real, race would be one of the last ways that you saw this person. Yes, the world may see them as another race, but you should see them as someone you love—first! But, that’s not how some of us get down.

I can’t stand when a Black person REPEATEDLY mentions that their spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend is Native American, and/or White and/or Hispanic/Latino and/or Asian.

It would be nice if they could make their dating/marriage announcement once and move the conversation on to other topics. But, no! It’s not that simple because these types of Black people will usually do anything to make sure that everyone knows they are loved and cared for by someone who IS NOT BLACK. Forget names. Some of us will just lead with, “You know, my boyfriend is White.” And, it’s always said like the relationship is a status symbol because it’s assumed that this relationship will make a Negro more acceptable to Whites. “Someone White loves me!”

Some of us will even combine statements that we are dating someone who isn’t Black with derogatory remarks about the Black race or culture! I had a coworker use this line once, after announcing a White boyfriend, “I don’t date Black guys because they’re too violent and most of them sell drugs and don’t like to work.” And, yes, the idiot said this in front of White staff. Talk about reinforcing stereotypes! But, I know why she said that. It’s the same reason that many other Blacks make similar comments at work. The point is to reinforce that a person is completely assimilated, is disloyal to other Blacks, and is a company man or woman! The unspoken statement is, “You can trust me. I don’t even date those people! I’m just like you! Please accept me! I’m begging you.”

I don’t automatically trust or like someone based on who they choose to screw. When we get down to brass tacks, that’s what this discussion is about. I like or dislike people based on character and actions. If you are shady, snooty, back stabbing or are in some other way repugnant, I don’t care what color you are—or what color your boyfriend/spouse is—I don’t have time for you! I do not respect anyone of any color that berates their own culture and race. No groups of people are all the same.

Just as with making repeated and unprovoked announcements that you are not “100% Black,” making repeated and unprovoked announcements that you are dating or are married to someone who isn’t Black is the hallmark of a very sick, insecure, shallow, and self-hating individual. And, it smacks of someone who is using their relationship to gain points and favor at work, rather than someone who is truly expressing their personal joy and happiness.

If you make these sorts of announcements, you need to look in the mirror and ask yourself these questions: WHAT IS MY POINT?!! WHY WON’T I LET MY ACTUAL WORK SPEAK FOR ME? WHY DO I KEEP MENTIONING HIS/HER RACE?

Yes, the rules of the post apply in reverse! I’m tired of meeting White women on the job who feel the need to announce to me that their boyfriend is Black. Who gives a f**k! I mean really. What am I supposed to ascertain about your character because you date a Black man? I have always wondered if White women who have said this to me have done so because they want to show me that we have something in common. “See, we both like Black men!” I just don’t know how to take it and it’s happened to me pretty frequently.

Once, when my car broke down, I was offered a ride to work by someone White, who lived near me. We weren’t super friendly, although we spoke when we saw each other. After not even 2 minutes in her car, she suddenly said, “You know, my boyfriend is Black. I only date Black guys because I think White guys are really corny. Black guys have this way about them…” Yada! Yada! Yada! I disliked her from that point on because the whole thing was completely offensive. The announcement implied that I would judge her favorably based on her dating preference, instead of based on who she is as a person. I tuned her out after that...couldn't tell you another word she said.


Here’s an update on the new lows in the Senatorial race in Tennessee. A radio ad, by the Republican candidate, Bob Corker, features a soaring musical score when his name is mentioned. But,…

when Rep. Harold Ford’s name is mentioned, JUNGLE MUSIC (drum beats, etc.) is played in the background. That’s how important this political race (AND THE ISSUE OF RACE) is around the country! First, Rep. Ford (who is Black and single) was going to have White women asking him to give them a call (a previous TV ad) and now he's going to turn the Tennessee government into something out of The Jungle Book. Get out and vote! We need a change.


Put a password lock on your computer screensaver. Set your screensaver to trigger after 5 minutes of your computer being idle and set the screensaver feature to require that a password be entered to get back to your work screen. This will help you prevent your average nosey office mate from taking a peek at your computer screen/files while you’re away from your desk. I worked with sensitive numbers (e.g., salary information, etc.), so this little trick always came in handy.

Friday, October 27, 2006


If you haven’t learned this lesson already, learn it fast. EVERY TIME you inform a White coworker or manager (or anyone else for that matter) that there is a fundamental problem with an assignment or project, document what your misgivings are, who you reported any potential problems to/what your specific concerns are, and what that person’s response was. Do this without exception! It does not matter whether or not you have raised concerns about your personal work or a group assignment. You need to get in the habit of documenting issues that may potentially be blamed on you or a group of staff, at a later time.

Point blank…many managers and coworkers WILL NOT take full responsibility for the work being done by their staff or within their unit—when things go wrong! When things go right, they will scream from the mountain tops that it was their bold leadership, oversight, judgments, and execution that lead to success. When things go wrong, someone’s head must roll and they will do everything in their power to ensure that it is not their head!

I used to have a screen saver on my computer that always caused managers to frown. It read (and you’ve probably heard this before):


I have argued this, many times, when I have been blamed for a problem that was caused by decisions made by task leaders or project directors. For instance, I worked with a White manager that inundated junior-level staff (all Black) with petty changes to procedures on an assignment that did not enrich the quality of the work. Instead, the non-client requested changes bogged us down. The client wanted a quick turnaround time. We could finish the work quickly, so long as we didn’t have to add the petty steps being requested by the manager. When staff tried to warn this manager that his changes would slow us down to the point where we would probably miss the deadline, he didn’t want to hear it. What really sucked was that he was requesting pretty cosmetic and petty changes that didn’t impact the work being provided to the client, but were time consuming, even though it didn’t appear that they would be. We tried to explain to him why what seemed like minor changes, wouldn’t happen as quickly as he thought. He insisted we do the work as he specified.

The deadline was missed. So, the manager argued to his supervisor (after a client complaint) that we were slow, did not respect and could not adhere to deadlines, and that we were unfocused. He essentially made us sound lazy, which we know is a stereotype. And, he said things like, “I thought I could trust all of you to be professional enough to get this done, without me breathing down your necks.” Trust? We couldn’t be “trusted”? That was a character attack and an attack on our professionalism.

But, the problem wasn’t that we were “untrustworthy.” The problem was that he insinuated himself into our procedures, simply so that he could put his “signature” on the way the assignment was completed. He imagined the client’s jubilation with his petty revisions. But, we warned him that the deadline would likely be missed. Yet, he insisted that the work be done in his special way. When it blew up in his face, his changes were somehow not the root cause for the problem. The group I was working with was accustomed to successfully working on quick turnaround schedules, but somehow we were suddenly incompetent, lazy, and need micromanaging.

Unfortunately, we didn’t document in writing that we were told to add procedures and make cosmetic changes. And, this manager didn’t provide us anything in writing. He just did his usual number of racing into our work space, hyperventilating, and barking orders. We were in such a rush to try to get everything done, we made the mistake of not covering our as*es.

The manager insisted that we “misunderstood” him. He didn’t want all of those petty changes. Those were things that he wanted to “roundtable” and discuss as changes for future assignments. The fact that we “misunderstood” him was the problem. Yes, four individuals “misunderstood” the same information in the very same manner. And, we were chastised by management for not being serious about our jobs, not stating that a deadline could be missed (which we did), and for not respecting our clients. All that from one as*hole lying about reality!!

From that point on, I made it a point to…

ALWAYS PUT REQUESTED CHANGES AND WARNINGS IN WRITING--even when they come from a supervisor or manager. Keep a paper trail. Write something as simple as, "Hi [name]! As you requested, we will be changing our procedures to [name revisions]. However, I am still concerned about [warning]. We will follow your advice to [response to warning]."

Had we simply sent him an email stating the date and time of his revisions to our procedures and included a list of the changes, AND our concerns about meeting the deadline…it would have been impossible for him to argue that he was not aware that he was jeopardizing a deadline and causing us unnecessary work. You live and learn.

Learn the lesson that others have learned the hard way. If you warn someone that “x” will lead to “y”, PUT IT IN WRITING!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

ISSUES IN THE WORKPLACE: Black Workers Are Often Excluded From Strategic Planning Activities

A common complaint I’ve heard from Black workers and managers, over the years, is that they are routinely excluded from their departmental planning sessions because there is an assumption that African Americans can’t be strategic or that we aren’t capable of complex thinking. From deciding on which proposals a department or unit should respond to or deciding on goals and tactics, Blacks often feel totally marginalized and ignored in the workplace. From the Black perspective, many Whites in the workplace don’t seem to think we have any business being involved in a project, until the Whites have made every key decision. Once the work is at the point that assignments can be handed out, then (and only then) are Blacks often brought into the process. I once worked with a Black, female manager who was the only manager excluded from her department's weekly management planning sessions.

Imagine having ideas, but never being asked what you think. Imagine that no matter how vocal you try to be…after decisions are made, you are thanked for your suggestions, but they are never seriously considered.

Unfortunately, African Americans are often considered mere labor and not thinkers. Therefore, a relatively common problem we encounter is that Whites will hold meetings to plan out a project or response to a proposal and then they’ll tell the African Americans what they need to do, rarely giving information about the entire project.

Some Whites in the workplace prefer to own or be in control of everything. But, what they don’t mind sharing is THE ACTUAL WORK. So, they will retain the “sexy” parts of a project for themselves that require client interaction and/or decision making. As a result, Blacks are often boxed out of initial client contacts, when team leaders and select team members (often White) are bonding with the clients and becoming the individuals that the clients know by name and trust. By the time Black and other minority workers become involved, they are just cogs in the wheel—nameless people who represent the “work horses” on a team.

While some Whites choose to exclude and retain as much control as they can over every aspect of a project, these same people have an expectation that others (read: minorities) behave with a “team spirit,” not exemplified by their own behavior and supposed leadership.

Some White managers and coworkers think all African Americans need to know is the piece of work we are assigned to and nothing more. There’s a false perception that African Americans either won’t care about the nature and scope of the entire project, won’t understand the “big picture,” won’t have any contributions to make because the whole project will sound like “rocket science” to us, or that we simply “don’t need to know” all of that information.

The reality is that it’s easier to keep people in a box when you control information dissemination, as well as the ability to control a person’s work day and assignment levels. And, it’s easy to pigeon-hole people, when you intentionally stifle them. Taking away an employee’s ability to be a part of planning sessions/strategic planning virtually guarantees that this person will not be able to easily work their way into management or higher levels of work in a department. That person will remain a worker-bee and nothing more.

When African Americans ask about the details of a project, we are sometimes told we don’t need to worry about it or we will be promised that the project will be explained to us “off line,” which never happens. As we are boxed out of the project, we may be accused of being indifferent and apathetic about our assignments and there is a stunningly hypocritical curiosity as to why we don’t show a greater interest in our work. It’s often an unspoken, catch-22 situation.

This is just one of the issues that Blacks face in the workplace. The Black Factor will address some of the other issues in future posts.

What is your experience with being included in the strategic planning (read: “thinking”) part of projects? Have you been allowed to contribute ideas, on the front end, that shaped the way the project was conducted?

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

THE POLITICS OF RACE: Republican Ad Mimics Common Tactics Used Against Blacks in the Workplace

Harold Ford, the African American senatorial candidate from Tennessee (Dem.), has found himself on the receiving end of a blatantly racist ad from the party of his opponent, Bob Corker (Rep.).

The advertisement features a White woman (blonde and apparently topless) stating that she met Rep. Ford at the Playboy mansion. The ad ends with the White woman winking and saying “Call me, Harold!” Bob Corker says the ad is a "low blow," and swears that he asked the Republican party to pull the ad. But, the Republican spokesperson who says the ad will run through the November 7th election is the same woman who rides along with Mr. Corker on the campaign trail. So, not only did he likely know the ad was being created, he probably knew the exact content, and approved it going on air...despite what he now says. And, I'm sure he is the person authorizing the RNC to continue to air the ad because he has often trailed in the polls to a Black man IN TENNESSEE! He will lose his "White papers" if he loses to a Black man. He will be banished back to the Caucus mountains!!

I think it should be very clear to all of us that the purpose of this ad, which does feature other people speaking about Mr. Ford, is to appeal to the racist underbelly of American society. It is no accident that the ad ends with this White, apparently topless woman, winking and smiling at the Negro candidate. One of the first so-called “great films” in this country was “Birth of a Nation,” which also hyped the image of Black men coveting White women.
What’s ironic is that the Republican strategy is not about challenging Rep. Ford on the issues, but to make personal and personality based attacks. To supplement that tactic, racist rhetoric and additional stereotypes are thrown in as the icing on the cake.

So, that would explain why we’ve heard Mr. Corker refer to Rep. Ford as “childish,” which is a common stereotype that has been historically used against Blacks—especially Black men. Blacks are supposed to be childlike in behavior and mentality, which is why we REQUIRE White “leadership” and “intervention” in every aspect of our lives. We are incapable of adult or rational thinking. We’re just so darn immature!

On top of that, we see the Republican strategy of depicting a Black man as not only hypersexual, but as attracted to a White woman. We are apparently still living in the days of Emmitt Till, since Republicans believe that just the image of a random White woman (an actress) winking at a Black candidate and basically saying “hollah at me” is supposed to rally the White men IN AN ENTIRE STATE to support the White candidate.

Additionally, voters in Tennessee have been subjected to negative ads and rhetoric from the Republican candidate that implies that Rep. Ford is just another Black criminal. Mr. Corker keeps repeating that Ford’s father was indicted, even though ALL CHARGES WERE DROPPED. And, he’s alleged that Ford’s other family members are criminals. To my knowledge, no one is in jail…although Ford’s uncle has been charged with some crime. But, Harold Ford said it best, when he asked Mr. Corker on CNN, what any of those allegations had to do with him! He, Rep. Ford, has NEVER been charged with a crime. And, Rep. Ford added that Mr. Corker wasn’t running against anyone in his family, so any reference to them was inappropriate.

The question is, for any person that thinks Mr. Corker has a right to bring this up:

WOULD IT ALSO BE OKAY FOR REP. FORD TO DISCUSS MR. CORKER’S FAMILY? White people in this country would go buck wild if a Black man began attacking a White challenger’s family members. White people would be telling it from the mountains! Oh, no he didn’t call Mr. Corker’s daughter a crystal meth fiend!! But, it’s apparently okay to talk about a Black candidate’s family. There is very little REAL uproar about this Republican Party tactic (the ad is paid for by the RNC).

So, art has in fact imitated life. In politics, as in the workplace, if you’re a White person who has a bone to pick with a non-coonish Black person, just make personal attacks, fall back on stereotypes, and appeal to the racist impulses of any Whites who are or who may become involved in your situation. It usually works every time!! Let’s see if this succeeds in derailing Rep. Ford’s quest to become the first Black senator from the south since Reconstruction. Harold Ford's website is: http://www.fordfortennessee.com/.


For years, I’ve heard many Blacks argue that there is no point in voting, since all Whites are the same. The Kanye West sentiment, made about Bush not caring about Black people, reflected a long standing perception held by many Blacks—that Whites don’t care what happens to Blacks in this country because we are not viewed as real Americans or equals. Some Blacks have argued that voting Republican or Democrat is just about picking your poison. Do you want a bullet in the head or a death by a slow bleeding out, respectively?

But, six years of Republican leadership and control of Congress should certainly have opened many eyes that it does matter for Blacks, America, and the world, which party is in power. More Blacks have gone into EXTREME POVERTY under Republicans, than during Clinton’s two terms in office. Bush suppressed the government report, which contained this information, so that it was released after the 2004 presidential election. But, it would not have mattered to America, even if the information had been released. America likes its poor silent and invisible. The contents of the reports would have caused a minor ripple in the news media, if it were reported at all.

Despite how Black suffering in America is still ignored…despite rampant inequality in how we are treated in our own country, Blacks owe our ancestors a debt! Our ancestors died for our right to be treated like men and women. To live free. To vote! We still must fight in their memories. And, we should respect the blood of the ancestors that came before us. They lived, died, and struggled so we could have a choice. But, they HOPED that we would choose to be a part of the process that deliberately ignored us for so long.

So, be a part of the process. Vote! If you have never voted, REGISTER!! Even if you can't vote in the mid-term elections, you can vote in the next election...the 2008 PRESIDENTIAL election. Here's a national voter registration link for the Federal Election Commission: http://www.fec.gov/votregis/vr.shtml.


The following is a comment from a reader, Ayo, regarding my post about the Black man who claimed he stripped himself of his blackness (before arriving to work) the way Clark Kent strips his clothes in the phone booth to change into Superman. Here’s Ayo’s perspective:

I have researched how African American women subdue their self-identities in order to conform to a white male dominated organizational culture.

Although the term “double consciousness” was coined in the 19th century, it still applies today in the 21st century, especially for African American Women in the work place

African American women often feel that they must work “White” and live “Black.” You can call it what you like (blending in with staff) in doing so; many African American women compromise their self-identities. In the long run this can lead to negative psychological and physiological conditions.

I could go on, but I will end by stating that most hard working African Americans that I know or have observed arrive at the office with the mentality that they have a job to perform.

Monday, October 23, 2006


My mother works for the Board of Education of New York. She was recently speaking to a woman, who is West Indian. During the conversation, the woman brings up another man, who is also West Indian. And, here was the woman’s comment:

“I saw his [name withheld] wife. He should be so honored that she married him because she is much lighter than he is.”

Yes, he should be HONORED that a lighter woman would marry his DARK a**! You can hear the implication of ugliness in her comments. It’s like…what is she doing with him?

Again, this is not the comment of a White woman. This is West Indian speaking of another West Indian. So, if these people can focus on color issues, then you’re damn straight we’ve got White, Black, Hispanic/Latino, and Asians focusing on race/color in this country. This was a comment about color that came up, out of nowhere, in the workplace. So, let’s stop pretending and understand that people in the workplace are judged and valued based on race, color and other factors that have nothing to do with the job they were hired to perform!

I worked for a bank, in the Washington, D.C. area, where every Black person over a certain complexion was given an office or cubicle in the back of the office. We were completely out of sight and often didn’t even know when there were visitors, clients, etc. present.

Even a White coworker finally commented about the inside “joke” of the Black staff. And, the lighter Blacks were made uncomfortable. We were told it was completely coincidental or random that we were seated in certain sections of the office. But, when you’ve got Blacks making 6-figure (or close) salaries commenting on being a “darkie” in the office…you’ve got an issue. And, probably a legal one. This was clear segregation based on color. By the way, all of the individuals in question worked in HUMAN RESOURCES, where people know better than to do sh*t like this!!


Well, now we know why a chunk of Jay-z’s video, Show Me What You Got, has been siphoned off for his new Budweiser commercial. Shawn Carter a.k.a. Jay-Z a.k.a. Mr. Beyoncé is the newly installed Co-Brand Director for Budweiser Select.

I’m sure this will open up a debate by Blacks as to whether Jay-Z is promoting the coolness of beer guzzling to the Black community, particularly to teens and other youths. Can anyone argue that Budweiser is grooming its future urban beer drinkers with the addition of Jay-Z and his music video commercial?

Budweiser says that Jay-Z can help them reach new customers in “groundbreaking ways…Jay-Z will help in development sessions and offer his insights.”

What do you think about this move by Jigga? Smart business move or just selling out?

Source: http://www.diversityinc.com/public/22289.cfm

Friday, October 20, 2006

Have Your Words Been Twisted?

The posts below discuss "talking back." Have you been completely shocked by how a White coworker or manager responded to, twisted, or completely misunderstood your words? If so, tell us about it. Respond in this post or send an email to blackonthejob@yahoo.com.


I was in a very large NY laundromat recently and was searching for washing machines. The aundry I went to was packed. Most of the people at the facility were of Mexican, Pakistani or Indian. There were also a handful of African Americans there. I was amused when the only White person in the Laundromat motioned to me and then surreptitiously asked me if I wanted to use her four washing machines. Anyone watching her would have thought she was trying to sell me crystal meth or heroine. She was being absolutely sneaky in her approach and conversation. But, I didn’t gripe. I took her up on her offer because the place was overcrowded. I didn’t realize I chose to do my wash on “free dryer day.”

What amused me about my encounter with the White woman was that years ago, when the clientele at this Laundromat was predominately White, she would have never offered me her machines. She would have offered them to another White person. How do I know? Well, she kind of dimed herself out. After the White woman also held her dryers for me she said, “Look at all these people [referring to the Mexicans, Pakistanis, and Indians]. They come here in packs and hog all the machines. They’ve got everyone with them…grandma, the kids. You can’t compete. We have to look out for each other or we’ll be in here all day.” Yes, she referred to the two of us as “we.” You’ve got to love it. Years ago, I would have been one of those people she was referring to as part of a “pack.” But, the “pack” has changed race and color over time. I was her fellow American, for the moment, and not a nig*er. The White woman winked at me as she walked out the door.

The point in sharing this story is that we need to give up the notion that we are living as one happy family in America. We each come from individual homes with different upbringings and belief systems that will impact our ability to navigate in a diverse society.

And, to make matters worse, separate from race, some people behave as if they were literally raised by a pack of wolves. You’ve seen the children in public who have zero social skills and make a disturbance everywhere they go, demanding this and that, throwing tantrums, etc. All the while, their parents laugh the behavior away or ignore it. Well, these people grow up! When you add the crime of racism with a person’s potential for having an overall lack of overall social skills, it’s like having live sticks of dynamite in the workplace. Your chances for race-based problems at work will go up exponentially.

And, we haven’t even discussed the issue of how African Americans have been depicted in American cinema and on television:

Black Face! Sambo! Pickaninny! Mammy! The Servant! The Criminal! The Rapist! The Shoe Shine Man! The Whore! The Eye-Bugging, Big-Smiling Fool! Slow! Stupid! Dirty! Lazy! Wild! Hard-Partying! Sex Obsessed! Drug Addicted! The Single Parent! The Neglectful Parent! The Pissy Drunk! The Crack Whore!

The list of stereotypes could go on and on. When we keep this in perspective, including this country’s dirty laundry of slavery and segregation, it should not be considered shocking that an African American encounters, is tormented by or loses their job, promotion, home, etc. because of the racist perceptions of someone who was holding a position of authority over that person’s life.

Let’s be real, America. Let’s admit that we have issues. Let’s stop pretending that some of us feel we are innately superior to others. Let’s confess that some of us believe that other races automatically represent the dregs of society and should be treated as such (avoided, marginalized, pigeon-holed, etc.)

Only in admitting our deficiencies in thoughts and actions, can we ever have a chance to eradicate the disease of active racism and inequality in American society. If we don’t own it, we can’t change it.


I once worked at a company that allowed employees to take “comp time” when we worked overtime. Nearly every employee in the company was salaried, not hourly. So, we didn’t qualify to make overtime pay. However, if you accrued a day or more of what would have qualified for overtime, the company would let you take a day or two off, assuming there were no impending deadlines with your work. You had to take the time off during the same pay period, so there was a sense of urgency in trying to take advantage of this benefit.

After working out of town with two colleagues, one black and one white, we each realized that we could take a day of comp time. I’ll call the White coworker Megan and my Black coworker Devon. Anyway, the last day of the pay period was falling on a Friday, so we got to have a three day weekend.

On Monday, the three of us met to debrief about the meeting we attended. Me and Megan were still feeling good about the day off. However, Devon announced that she went to work on Friday. I asked her why she didn’t take the comp day off. Her response?

“Because Ann (not her White supervisor’s real name) won’t let me. She won’t let me use comp time.”

Before I could say a word, Megan blurted, "What do you mean she won’t let you? You say that like she owns you. She doesn’t own you. You’re supposed to get that day off.”

Devon said, “I know, but that’s how she is. She won’t let me. That’s what she said before when I asked. She says I can’t use comp time.” Just as an FYI, Ann used comp time, whenever she worked extra hours.

Megan said, “But, you’re entitled to that day. You need to tell her you’re taking it off or you need to go over her head to get permission.”

Devon insisted she didn’t want to say anything because she didn’t want to get in trouble for speaking up and she didn’t want Ann to get mad at her for speaking up. She said that she would just live without ever using comp time.

So, that’s my long-winded way to lead up to the point of this post. Do not be afraid to speak up to your White coworkers or managers. And, when I write “speak up” I’m sure there are some people who quickly imagined the stereotype of a Black person with an attitude, doing some neck-rolling, gum smacking, and speaking loudly. However, when I refer to speaking up, I’m talking about PROFESSIONALLY challenging, questioning or getting clarification regarding something you do not understand, asking for something you’ve earned, finding out how some process or benefit works, etc.

Many Blacks have been conditioned from the cradle to acquiesce to Whites! So, I know it’s hard for many of us to even conceive of a day when we can “talk back” to anyone White. We’re so used to our White employers and coworkers doing what they will with us (regarding promotions, job assignments, transfers, bonuses, etc.) that it’s become normal to remain silent.

But, silence can kill you. And, while you’re being silent, you’re being taken advantage of. Silence signals your explicit agreement. By not complaining, you’ve spoken. You’ve said that everything is okay. Is everything okay?

Nothing is ever completely okay. Things can always be better…regardless of race. And, despite consistent pressure on Blacks to remain silent (even from other Blacks who consider this behavior tantamount to “troublemaking”), you have a right to be heard! Remember that…you have a voice. TALK BACK!

See the post below for some tips.


Tip #1: State your case

Don’t assume that everyone realizes what your (or an overall) problem at your job may be. State your case. What’s bothering you (and/or other staff) and why? How does this impact your job, your work environment, the company, etc.? TALK BACK! Tell someone, who’s in a position to change things, what’s on your mind. This is not about whining and complaining about a laundry list of items. You should pick and choose what’s important enough to be shared that can positively impact your job, etc.

Tip #2: Provide examples

PEOPLE OFTEN DON’T WANT TO ADMIT TO MISTAKES AND PROBLEMS. But, evidence and reality can be quite convincing. When you’re TALKING BACK, provide specific examples of what you’re referring to. Compare that to your situation in order to show the relevance. Only use examples that somehow relate to what you want to discuss.

Tip #3: Make a suggestion

Is someone telling you to do work in a complicated way, when you can think of several ways to streamline a process? If so, TALK BACK. Make suggestions on the process and announce the suggestions to your group, not just your supervisor. At your next meeting, show that you’ve reflected on the process and have come up with real alternatives that can save time, money, etc.

Is there a personality problem on your team that’s causing issues? Perhaps you can recommend training or team building exercises for your group.

Always offer a solution, when you make a complaint. If you can’t think of a solution, talk to someone you trust and ask for their advice and input. Just complaining, makes you a whiner. Complaining and offering a solution makes you proactive!

Tip #4: Put jealousy aside

When you TALK BACK, don’t focus on what so-and-so has and what so-and-so did, simply because you want to be in that person’s league. Don’t let jealousy dictate your actions. As I’ve already suggested, you want to make comparisons or use examples that are relevant. So, comparing yourself to someone whose skills, education, and work load are far more advanced than your own (regardless of their race), is wholly inappropriate.
Focus on yourself. When you make comparisons, make comparisons to those on your level. If you’re looking for a promotion and have been performing more advanced work, that’s an instance when it’s okay to compare yourself to those who are doing a higher level of work.

Tip #5: Be Professional


Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Cracker is at it again!

The Cracker Barrel (CB) restaurant is at it again. I’ve previously posted information on a recent racial discrimination settlement by the chain (for discriminatory practices with staff). Now, CB had better get ready for a second wave! Al Sharpton is about to file a suit alleging that staff at the Murrells Inlet, South Carolina location of the restaurant denied service to actor Chris Rock’s mother, Rose Rock.

According to Mrs. Rock, she and her daughter were waiting to be served for more than 30 minutes. They were the only Black customers. No one ever came to take their order. After complaining, they were offered a free meal, but didn’t want to eat. Mrs. Rock contacted the South Carolina Human Affairs Commission to lodge a complaint, but no one ever called her back.

Mr. Sharpton is getting involved because he says, “We’ve heard similar stories [about Cracker Barrel] from all over the country. Is there a systemic problem…like there was with Denny’s?”

Source: www.nydailynews.com, What’s Eating Al? Cracker Barrel, 10/18/06, by Rush and Molloy)

FDNY Settles Bias Suit

Today’s New York Daily News is reporting that 2 Emergency Medical Service (EMS) lieutenants have reached a settlement with the FDNY in a suit that accused the organization of passing over minorities for promotions. Both lieutenants claim to have been passed over for years. One lieutenant, Frank Andino, is Latino. The other lieutenant, Sylvia Good, is Black.

The EMS lieutenants believe the in-person interview, that partially determines who’s promoted, contributed to an environment that allowed personal biases and prejudices to creep into the determination of who was qualified to become an EMS captain. The officers are pushing for the department to instead use a “color-blind written test.”

Mr. Andino told the News, “They can promote who they want, and they do it along racial lines.”

Ms. Good said, “People who were less qualified but white were getting the promotions that others deserved.”

Haven’t we all heard that story?

Both lieutenants will receive $50,000 as part of the settlement. Mr. Andino will be offered a promotion to captain. Which begs the question…why did he have sue to get the promotion he applied for? If he was truly unqualified, he would still be unqualified! If he has the skills now, he had them during the application process. At no point does Mr. Andino say that he has added any new skills. But, this is how the system works. You sometimes have to fight for what you’ve already earned!

For the full text, see the link below.

Source: www.nydailynews.com (Bias Suit Deal, 10/17/06, by Jonathan Lemire)

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

What happens if an incident is not "extremely serious"?

According to the Supreme Court:

“…when isolated incidents that are not “extremely serious” come to the attention of management, appropriate corrective action should still be taken so that they do not escalate.” Faragher, 118 S.Ct. at 2283.

In other words, your employers can not justify inaction, in regard to an isolated incident, by saying that the incident was only a minor or moderate level incident. Any harassing or discriminatory incident that is reported to management should receive consideration for corrective action. Remember, management is legally obligated to prevent and correct the effects of harassment and other illegal behavior. Therefore, management can’t assign “code levels,” like the security alert system used for terrorism (orange, red, etc.), to determine when they will attempt to stop negative behaviors from escalating. They must establish and implement an appropriate corrective response that will put an end to the behavior.


This is especially true, when it comes to “laughing off” insulting remarks that are being made to you and/or about you. My mother used to say, “One time may be a joke, but if they say it more than once, they mean it.”

I think we all know that some people like to take their actual negative feelings about others and pass them off as jokes. You know what I’m talking about. We’ve all known someone who will target a person with “jokes” about their manner of dress, intelligence level, upbringing, culture, etc. And, if you knew the person well enough, you probably knew that they meant everything that was being passed off as just part of a good laugh.

Some people feel better about themselves when they confront others with what they believe are that person’s flaws. Others are just downright mean and nasty and want to inflict emotional damage on others. Then, there are some who are just downright racist and enjoy taking cheap shots at the non-white staff working with them.

Regardless of the motive, if you’re on the receiving end of someone’s negative “jokes” about you, it’s your responsibility to set the record straight. But, the key is not to come across as being “sensitive” because you’ve complained about the content of the remark. The person who is making a negative joke about you is just going to say, “I was only having a little fun. I wasn’t serious.” And, depending on the perspectives of those around you, you can look like you have a problem being friendly with your colleagues.

Here’s what’s worked for me a few times:

If someone is making and is allowed to make insulting “jokes” about me and/or my race or culture, I’d come right back with an equally insulting, but true “joke” about them. I didn’t one up the person. I just kept the level of the “joke” just about even.

For instance, I’ve overheard a coworker bragging that she sometimes had other people write her papers, while she was in college. So, in an example like this, if that person would have “joked” that I didn’t attend a “real” university (because I went to a Black university), I could have remarked, “Maybe I didn’t go to a “real” university, but at least I didn’t pay other people to write my papers...Oh! I’m not suggesting you did that.”

That quick comeback can often put a stop to things. People will treat you the way you allow yourself to be treated. If there’s no payoff to making negative jokes to a person’s face, what’s the point in continuing the behavior?

But, if the behavior doesn’t stop, document all of the offensive comments being made and document how you believe the treatment is changing your work environment and making it difficult for you to perform your job. As, I’ve stated before, offensive comments aren’t necessarily illegal. It’s only illegal if the behavior creates a negative work environment for you or in some other way impedes you from doing your job. So, if the person is making mean-spirited or racially insensitive jokes about you and is doing this to people around your office, who in turn begin to make offensive and racially insensitive jokes about you all of the time, you want to document how this pattern began, what is being said, and how it is impacted your ability to do your job (a hostile work environment).

Under no circumstances should you sit there and laugh with those who are openly mocking you.


Know the standards of performance and expectations for staff of your level/title. In order to even think about getting a promotion, you need to understand your current job. Find out all of the standards that your work and behaviors will be compared against and make sure you meet and/or exceed those levels. If your employer expects you to assist with leading client meetings, make sure you are playing a key role in this area. Keep performance logs to track how you’ve met and exceeded job expectations. Keep all thank you emails and letters from clients and coworkers that demonstrate that you’ve done a great job on an assignment. Share these emails with your supervisor/manager throughout the year, so they are aware that you are consistently doing a great job—and that you should be considered for a reward (bonus, raise, promotion).

Sunday, October 15, 2006

What Mentality Do You Bring to Work? Is race a factor?

I once worked with a Black man who bragged about “visually changing in a phone booth, like Clark Kent stripping out of his suit to change into Superman.” What was this Black man symbolically leaving behind in the phone booth? Not a suit, but his blackness! This person claimed that, as soon as he arrived at work, he left his “Timberland mentality” in the phone booth and became someone “acceptable” to Whites. He even joined a Cricket team in order to win over Whites at his job. When he announced his participation in this sport, the Whites on our job promptly laughed at him—to his face. But, this Black man still claimed success in earning points with White managers and staff for stepping out of the box of what they expected from a Black man.

So, the question is…do you feel pressured to check your “blackness” at the door, when you arrive at work? How do you handle or perceive your race and your employment? Post a comment or send an email to blackonthejob@yahoo.com.


Yuck! Yuck! Yuck! Yuck! Yuck!

Why do many Black workers insist on behaving like a human laugh track? Is everything said by our White coworkers really that funny? I doubt it.

Yet, many Blacks insist on throwing back their heads, slapping their knees, and opening their mouths wide with laughter…to the point where they look like they have a flip-top head that splits down the jaw.

If someone says something that is mildly funny or that you don’t find amusing in the least, it’s okay not to react as if you have been thrown into hysterics. Everyone knows a dud, when they hear one. You are not a court jester whose job is to amuse and be amused by everything happening around you. So, don’t feel pressured to smile and bug your eyes at someone’s lame jokes or other attempts at humor.

Some whites will be mightily insulted if you don’t or if you stop laughing at their jokes. So, don’t be surprised to hear someone ask you if you’re okay or if something is wrong with you. If you are asked that question, just respond with something as simple as, “What makes you think anything is wrong?” That’s a legitimate response to a ridiculous question. Not laughing hysterically at someone’s joke does not give anyone a valid reason to question your moods.


Keep confidences. If you’re entrusted with private or sensitive information, don’t abuse that trust. At least, not without a good reason. At the same time, write down confidential information about extremely important matters/subjects and keep them in a safe place—not at work. You may need specific details about this information at a later time. You never know when you might find yourself in the middle of a crisis/scandal in the office.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


Unlike some in the workplace who write and speak in a covert or coded way that shields the true meaning of what they are actually saying, there are others who will come right out and make negative statements about those they supervise or work with. When you run across a person like this, regardless of level, it is up to you to:

-- Clear up any misrepresentations by responding with facts. Don’t get into name-calling or write an emotional response to an email or memo. Just present the facts and list/name any witnesses who can substantiate what occurred. Additionally, you may also want to refer staff to supporting documentation, such as previous emails, instructions disseminated to the project team or other information in your possession that confirms your version of events.

-- Have a zero tolerance policy for anyone attempting to slander your name and/or falsely assassinate your character. Your family name is priceless. It may not mean much to those you work with, but it should mean everything to you. You were born with that name and regardless of what kind of life you’ve lead (whether you come from poverty, abuse, etc.) NO ONE has a right to tarnish your name with false statements about who you are and what you represent.

The name you have is the name that you carry to your grave. Wear your name with pride. Don’t let anyone get away with character assassination. I don’t care if you’re a janitor or an executive.

Character assassination must be addressed, in writing, to all those who received negative communication about you or to those who were directly spoken to with negative information. Your silence can be construed as agreement, when you don’t address negative statements about yourself and your job performance. Don’t worry about the mind game, “you’re sensitive” or “you can’t take criticism.” Those comments are a way to put you back on the plantation, as if you have no voice in what goes on around you and what perceptions are created about you.


Today, the New York Daily News has reported that 5 Transit cops have confirmed that they were ordered to racially profile (read: stop) ALL black men near a Brooklyn train station. As posted yesterday, there have been recent robberies near this subway station, which prompted a police captain to order that all black teens be treated as potential suspects.

According to the Daily News, one white officer stated:

“The captain said the descriptions of the [suspects] vary a lot, so we were to stop all black males at the station, stop and frisk them because ‘they have no reason being there’…all black men were to be stopped—no description other than that…so some 30 – 40 year old man who had every right to be at the station – he’d get frisked too.”

For the full article go to the site link below.

Source: www.nydailynews.com (“Cops: We Were Told To Profile,” October 10, 2006)

Monday, October 09, 2006


This is not work-related, but is worth sharing. An NYPD Transit police captain recently ordered his officers to stop ALL BLACK TEENS at a Brooklyn subway station. This was in response to several robberies at the train station. The captain made the command twice. According to the New York Post (October 9th):

“The cops were told to question the [black] teens and fill out “250’s” – forms that the department uses to track down suspects and link them to crimes.”

Stopping all black teens would certainly seem to prove a case of racial profiling. A civil rights lawyer has argued that the NYPD Transit police are essentially making a “black teen database.”

Source: www.nypost.com (“Racial Profile Uproar,” October 9, 2006)


Try to avoid using the workplace as a venue to bad mouth African Americans who are being tried and convicted in the media, whether falsely or accurately (e.g., O.J. Simpson). I know it may be tempting to use current events or pop culture to show that you have similar opinions as your White coworkers; however, that is not what they will take away from the conversation (that you are like them). All that will be heard is that a Black coworker confirmed their negative suspicions or beliefs about a prominent Black figure in politics, entertainment, sports, etc. And, the stain you put on that Black person is often a stain that is placed on you and your Black coworkers…although that is probably not your intent.

So, every time you are tempted to call someone stupid, angry, a crook/a criminal, a race baiter, etc., you should consider how much power your words may have in validating existing stereotypes that Blacks are fighting to this day.

You should avoid going out of your way to make negative, stereotypical, and non-constructive comments about your Black coworkers. But, you should also hold that philosophy when discussing Blacks in general. Even if you are speaking about a specific public figure/individual, you should not assume that your White coworkers are capable of separating their possible personal baggage (generalizing/stereotyping) from the discussion.

Therefore, no matter how much your coworkers try to bait you into conversations about Black public figures, do everything you can to avoid these discussions. Your coworkers are often simply looking for a quote that substantiates their existing negative thoughts about a Black person or Black people, as a whole. And, when your White coworker goes home they’ll say, “My black coworker, Donna, said that the Jesse Jackson is a race baiter and an idiot.” Yes, your quote will likely be attributed to you by your race, first, and then, maybe, by your name. The fact that you are Black makes you and your negative opinion, about another Black person, correct. A White coworker may never agree with you (or quote you) under any other circumstance, but will suddenly agree with you (and quote you) because you have trashed another Black person.

That doesn’t mean that you can’t have negative views of Black public figures or individuals who are prominent in the media. It just means that you should be careful about what you say to your coworkers, who may be accustomed to stereotyping people.

Another reason to avoid these discussions is because you could potentially piss off any White person that feels you have defended someone that they have a very negative opinion of. Again, I will use O.J. Simpson as an example. Saying you don’t think O.J. Simpson murdered his wife and her associate could make you enemies on the job…even to this day. The O.J. Simpson trial was an awkward time for many of us who were old enough to be in the workforce during that trial. In fact, I had a friend tell me a story about how the Whites on her job suddenly “disappeared” from their normal work areas, while the jury was deliberating for the O.J. trial. She was trying to track someone down and came across her Whites coworkers in a conference room…doors closed. They (only the Whites) had gathered to watch the O.J. Simpson verdict come down. They did not want any Black coworkers in the room with them, likely because of the nature of the conversation they were having at the time. When they left the conference room, they were not in the mood to be verbal with their Black coworkers. You can imagine how awkward conversations were, when these Whites were simply looking for every Black coworker to condemn O.J. Simpson. The case of Rodney King is another example of how race discussions, based on media events, can sour a workplace.

You should be careful about what you say because you can shape opinions, reinforce stereotypes, and create enemies based on non-work related discussions.

Friday, October 06, 2006


“If I want to hear white people say stupid s**t, I just have to go to work. I don't need to use my free time to achieve that endeavor.”

A reader, Spiderwoman, reagrding the racial aspect of the TV show, Survivor.


From time to time, I will share reader feedback with you. Here’s a comment that was posted by a reader named Mitch. Here are some of his thoughts regarding promotions:

"One of the realities in today's workplace is that almost no one gets promoted anymore by staying quiet about their accomplishments. Work these days is at more of a fast pace than in the past, which means it's harder for many managers to keep up with who does what. So, yes, everyone, including black workers, have to get used to figuring out ways to promote themselves so that it's informative, without bragging. And that, my friend, is the balance game that most people aren't apt to learn well."


Do not allow White coworkers to designate you as the bearer of bad news that is to be delivered to other minority staff. You know what I’m talking about…a White person may ask you to relay negative information to another Black worker that you are friendly with because that person “might take it better coming from you.”

For instance, a White manager may ask you to speak with your Black lunch buddy about her “attitude” because her “attitude” is causing problems on the job.

Relaying a message like that is not your business, should not be made your business (bad news should be confidential between coworkers or between managers and subordinates), and should come from someone in authority.

If you are ever put in the position where someone has asked you to serve as the office’s Negro anchorman (disseminating “breaking news” to other minorities), kindly tell them that, despite any existing relationship you might have with what I will call their "target," you are not comfortable being placed in the middle of a sensitive situation.

Thank the person for considering you capable of being careful and delicate in conveying sensitive information, but make it clear that you do not wish to take your relationship with the other minority in that direction. Emphasize that you are not their supervisor or manager and, therefore, it is inappropriate for you to conduct yourself as such. You can also make it clear that you will speak to the person about the subject, but only if they choose to share the information with you first. Other than that scenario, you would rather focus on your work and personal conduct and leave any verbal warnings to the appropriate members of management.

Thursday, October 05, 2006


On the plantation, it would not be startling to hear a slave master say, “I’m sick” and to then hear a slave ask, “’Massa, we sick?”

The African slave life involved many cruelties that are still haunting African Americans, and white society, to this day. But, some of the horrors included seasoning (being broken in to “accept” slavery), forced servitude, beatings, lynchings, rapes, children sold off to other plantation owners, a denial of life-long love, learning self-hatred, learning hatred of the African race, learning to feel deserving of mistreatment and ownership, learning to take on some of the slave master’s attitudes, etc.

And, it’s this last point that I want to briefly expand on in this post. To this day, far too many Blacks feel that we need to take on the attitudes of the Whites we work with. Why?

-- For acceptance (“Please like me”);
-- To show assimilation (e.g., “I am just like you”);
-- To look better or smarter in the eyes of Whites;
-- To avoid angering or pissing off someone White by disagreeing with them; and/or
-- To avoid the stereotype that we are “difficult” or have a “chip on our shoulder” or are “angry” or that we are “defensive.”

But, that is just ridiculous. Every person is entitled to their own opinion. You do not have to succumb to the will of the Whites you work with, no matter how much they try to put you in a position to agree with what they’ve said. For instance, a White person may ask you a question about something by using words such as, “Don’t you think that…” or “Wouldn’t you say that…”

That is what we call a “leading question.” A leading question is designed to steer someone into responding in a way that has been determined in advance. And, while all Whites may not start questions this way, many Blacks do feel some pressure to pretend that they share certain opinions with Whites, when they do not.

Most Blacks know, in advance, when our opinion is truly being sought vs. someone who truly wants us to give them blanket agreement on a particular opinion, methodology/action, etc.

And, then there’s the “peer pressure” situation of being outnumbered by Whites in a setting and, therefore, feeling the need to agree with what the group consensus may be.

I want to remind you, that you should not undervalue your own opinions. Sometimes, Blacks put Whites on a pedestal. As a result, if Whites are the first to share an opinion, we may immediately go into the mode of convincing ourselves that we must not fully understand the “big picture” of what’s being discussed (a criticism Whites use against Blacks all the time) or we aren’t smart enough/educated enough to come to the same conclusion as Whites (because some Whites try to turn everything into rocket science or will present their opinions to Black coworkers as facts). Or, sometimes, we’re just afraid to appear disagreeable or to have the Whites in the room turn on us in a way that publicly embarrasses us in front of our peers at work. In other words, it’s often safer to stay quiet or to just nod your head in agreement.

I worked with a White woman, who told me (point blank) that, “Half the time, I don’t even know what the hell I’m talking about. I just say things with confidence and people accept it. I use my body language and speak with strength about something and it’s rarely questioned by anybody here or by the clients. Usually, I’m just guessing. I know a lot of little things about many topics, but not a whole lot about any one thing. I just laugh, every time I get away with it.”

On my death bed, I would remember this conversation because it’s rare to have someone, particularly someone White, be this honest about running a game of pseudo-intelligence and manipulation on other staff and clients.

So, don’t sell yourself or your opinion short. Regardless of what anyone thinks, you are entitled to differ, if you hold opposing views. It’s okay to agree to disagree with others.

You don’t have to be argumentative about having a contrary opinion on a topic or an approach to completing work. You can simply say something like, “That’s a great point, Sally, but here’s my perspective…” Or, “I have a slightly (or very) different understanding of this…” Or, “I actually have some experience with this, so let me share…” Or, “I’ve read some research on this that, surprisingly, suggests just the opposite of what we’re discussing…” There are all sorts of ways to get your opinions or contrary opinions heard.

Now, if you’re sharing an opinion on project work, whoever is in charge of the project will end up with the last word on a subject. But, that doesn’t make them right and it also doesn’t necessarily mean they will be successful. You still have a right to be heard and to have your own opinion—in any setting. Do not voluntarily surrender your power or voice to other staff. In the end, you surrender your ability to communicate, to lead, and to excel in the workplace.


Proof any assignments you receive from other staff. Don’t assume the work is correct or completely fulfills the requirements of the assignment. Do not assume that, because work was handed over to you by someone White, the work is accurate! Do a thorough review of any work you receive before passing it along to your superiors or other members of your team. I don’t care who gets their feelings hurt because a Black person is checking behind them.

If someone is lingering around your desk, as you review what you’ve been given by them, either ask them to have a seat (and they can watch you check the work) or tell them you are reviewing it before handing it over and will let them know of any revisions or additions that they may need to make to their work (so they can just march right back to their office).

This is important. If the work requires changes, don’t make the changes yourself. You should kick the assignment back to the individual who is responsible for getting it done. NOTE: If you make changes to someone else’s work without talking to them about it, it can be seen as a sign of disrespect and a lack of faith in the person’s ability to perform their job. Mark up the document with revisions (use a pencil–don’t use a red pen, which many people find offensive!) and ask them to get the changes back to you by a certain time. If they are unable to get to the work done, then you can let them know that you’ll go ahead and make the changes yourself. This demonstrates respect and keeps the project on track.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Black Coworker Bragged Of Nightly Bleachings

Since writing my recent post on Black workers who feel the need to repeatedly claim they are other races (in order to appear more acceptable to Whites), I remembered a Black coworker I had in the late 90's. I shared an office with Will. Nearly everyday, Will would brag that he wasn't actually Black. "I know I look Black," he would say, "but, I'm actually Cuban. My name is really Guillermo. That's Spanish...for William." Now, just as an FYI, everything in his possession listed his name as "William." Timesheets? William. Pay stubs? William. But, he wanted to be known as "Guillermo." So, he would make his announcement and I would just stare at him and say, "Oh, really." And, that was our semi-daily ritual. Until one day, when "Guillermo" decided to tell me, "You know, I bleach myself at night." I was like, "excuse me." He said, "I bleach myself at night. You've never done that?." When I told him I had not attempted to bleach myself, "Guillermo" shared his technique. He would take a brown paper towel (he said they were "stronger" than white paper towels) and he would apply water and a bit of bleach and, then, he would scrub his face with the diluted bleach solution. I restrained my laughter and asked, "Does it work?" Just to see what the jacka%s, would say. "Guillermo's" response? "I don't think I've been doing it long enough." "Guillermo" would also go out of his way to talk about places like La Jolla, Califorornia. So, he could use his "Spanish accent" and say, "La Hoya." Yes, people, we work with some very sick individuals.

Monday, October 02, 2006


I had an African American co-worker, who will remain unnamed, whose work was very low in quality. Her assignments were normally full of errors and/or omissions and was very half-a%s in nature. But, I’ll tell you, if you put Jesse Owens and Forrest Gump in a jar and shook it up, she’s what you would get when you poured the contents out on the floor. This woman would fly like the wind when a White person asked her to do something. We’re talking Mach 5, breaking the sound barrier type of speed.

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.


Keep track of deadlines and take deadlines seriously. If you anticipate that a deadline will be missed, notify your team leader and team members ASAP. Provide a full explanation for why you can’t meet the deadline and provide suggestions on how to get the work done on deadline. If you need help, ask for it. If you need to pass off work to someone else (e.g., you’re being pulled from the project by a supervisor), inform your team of the shift in work ASAP so the work can keep moving and it is not sitting on your desk. It is up to you to make sure that the work is covered. And, yes, in case you’re wondering, Black folks can delegate work!!

Sunday, October 01, 2006


This isn't work-related, but I thought I'd share. I got a phone call from my Mom around noon today. She and my sister were on a Greyhound bus heading from NY to Connecticut. She said, "There's a White guy who's sitting in the back of the bus and he has a hatchet with him." I asked, "What did you say?" She said, "He has a hatchet in the seat next to him. Your sister is telling the bus driver right now. I'll call you back." I get a phone call back about 30 minutes later. My mother tells me that the bus driver approached the White guy and asked what he had. The guy says, "A hatchet." Well, duh! The bus driver informs the guy that he will have to put the hatchet in storage underneath the bus. So, the driver pulls over and they put the hatchet with the other luggage. The driver continues on the destination without saying another word to the White guy. When they get to the destination, the White guy reclaims his hatchet and goes about his business. QUESTION: Under what cirmstances would a Black guy, sitting with a hatchet, be allowed to stow it under the bus AND not have police waiting for him when the bus reached its destination? Talk about racism. But, check this out for overt racism: The Port Authority Police searched several Black, young men getting on the bus. Yes, they were frisked, for no apparent reason (except as a part of a "random" security check). The White guy--with the hatchet--was not searched/frisked/questioned! And, he had a freakin' HATCHET! Must be nice to conceal a weapon, display it, and walk away without questioning. By the way, upon disembarking the bus, THE BLACK BUS DRIVER APOLOGIZED TO THE WHITE MAN FOR TAKING THE HATCHET AWAY DURING THE COMMUTE!
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