Tuesday, November 28, 2006


You only have to talk to Black workers to realize how many of us feel that our careers are often intentionally stifled by those we work with. Sometimes I wonder exactly how many African Americans have been held back, railroaded, and marginalized simply because of our race. I think the answer is far more people than we will ever know. I mean, how do you calculate the number of White managers or supervisors that have not promoted Black staff or given Black staff the same consideration and benefits that White workers routinely receive?

Some Whites would probably say, “That’s sounds like a cop out. Maybe some Blacks just don’t work hard to get what they want.” But, that’s what I expect someone to say when they are the beneficiary of White privilege.

White privilege is the polar opposite of The Black Factor. White privilege is a positive. The Black Factor is a negative. And, much of what goes on in corporate America has to do with these shallow and inappropriate ways of handling issues, evaluating people, examining situations, and making decisions.

White privilege allows you to believe that anyone who hasn’t achieved a certain level of success didn’t do so because they had no desire to succeed and, therefore, really didn’t try hard enough. White privilege allows you to tell someone, with a straight face, that all they have to do is work harder and longer hours than anyone else and that everything else will fall into place. White privilege allows you to not be truthful to yourself or others about the reality of preferential treatment.

Preferential treatment comes from those in power to those they designate as recipients of that power. Far too often, those recipients typically don’t come with a Black face. People choose to associate with those that are like themselves or those who they believe will “fit in.” In corporate America, when all things are equal, nothing is ever equal. So, when someone’s up for a promotion and a White manager has to choose between a White employee and an African American employee, and all things are equal regarding qualifications, years of experience, technical expertise, etc., many White managers are going to select the White employee for the promotion. They’d have to fight human nature, and any personal biases they may have or stereotypes they believe, in order to do the opposite.

Some White people don’t seem to get or want to accept the reality that there are different sets of rules for different people. But that’s the privilege of White privilege. White privilege allows you to believe that everyone has an equal shot to succeed in this country, despite this country’s horrid racial history and current social and economic issues that impact minorities living in America today.

White privilege allows you to become the judge, jury, and, should you choose it, the executioner, of others. White privilege allows you to provide conflicting reasons for your words and actions and to expect that others will accept the contradictions without question. White privilege is the ultimate privilege, hence bliss, because it is the cornerstone that keeps your world afloat—this belief that you are innately superior to everyone around you.

I’ll give you an example of White privilege in action. I’ve worked in Human Resources on a couple of jobs. More than once, I’ve been told that we were placing employment ads, but only as legality. If I received any applications or resumes, I was told to place them in a file with a copy of the employment ad and to tuck them away in a file cabinet. No one was going to be interviewed because someone had already been picked for the position. And, it was usually a friend or the friend of a friend of someone currently working at the company. Yes, they were always White. These people had the job before walking in the door. The interview was a mere formality. Repeat this in how many workplaces and tell me how many other applicants ever had a crack at employment?

It must be nice to have a system rally around your effort to find gainful employment. Most of us wouldn’t know anything about that. Nevertheless, many Americans actually question why affirmative action has been needed in America. They can brag about the system hooking them up, in one breath, and then argue that African Americans and other minorities should have to earn their way into the system, in the next breath. This is despite the free pass that many of them have used and despite systematic racism and other social factors.

For African Americans, hard work, experience, intelligence and other factors don’t automatically translate into success. The Black Factor prevents many African Americans from becoming mid-level managers, executives or even entrepreneurs. People pretend there’s no such thing as White privilege and preferential treatment. But, we all know—deep down—that lots of things people receive (from jobs to qualifying for home and business loans) were acquired because they just happened to be the right color or class.

What’s my point?

Give up?

Never! That’s what the racist wants. So, don’t give them that victory.

The point is that it’s not always about you. It’s often about other people’s bullshit and baggage. The Black Factor is their issue. It’s an issue people force on you…another standard they hold you to. It’s tempting to wonder what you’re doing wrong. It’s tempting to think that other people are inherently superior to you, that they’re always smarter than you are.

But, it’s important to remember that everything people receive, they didn’t always earn. They didn’t necessarily get “it” because they were smarter than you or more talented than you. They didn’t necessarily get something because they played the game better than you.

Sometimes people are just lucky, sometimes they had that hook-up, and sometimes they were the “right” color. Regardless of whatever lines are fed to you about some shortcoming on your part, keep working hard, find ways to improve, and keep striving to do better—for you! Don’t internalize other people’s bullshit. Don’t beat yourself up. You’re not inferior. Control what is within your power to control. Fight for what you’ve earned—don’t give it away!


There are lots of issues that come up at work that would rightly justify people getting hot under the collar. But, for African Americans, who have many popular and negative stereotypes associated with our race, getting angry at work is a tricky situation to deal with. Nearly everything said or done by an African American, that is not appreciated by someone White, is often falsely attributed to that Black person being “angry” or “defensive” or “mean” or “nasty.” Unfortunately, that is our lot in life. Blacks are the owners of angriness. We’ve cornered the market on anger, if you listen to some White people talk.

Whether you’re a person whose anger goes the route of a slow boil or if you are hot-tempered, when you absolutely feel like you’re about to lose it, one of the best things to do is to talk to a trusted coworker or friend about what’s bothering you—BEFORE YOU REACT OR RESPOND TO THE INSTIGATOR THAT PISSED YOU OFF! Here are some tips:

Tip #1: Speak to someone with more experience than yourself, who may have been involved in similar situations and is able to give you perspective on what has happened and how you should respond—if at all. If you don’t have a more senior coworker or friend to speak to, at the very least talk to someone with values, a work ethic, and a level of professionalism that are similar to your own. This way, you know you can trust their opinion and advice.

Tip #2: If you are working in an atmosphere where you feel people have an agenda against you, you don’t necessarily want to vent your frustrations with anyone who’s working for the same employer. Sometimes it’s a good idea to talk to a friend outside your job.

Tip #3: Let your friend or coworker read a nasty email/other document or talk to them about any negative interaction you may have had with a coworker. See if your friend thinks you’re overreacting or if you really have an issue you should address.

Remember, you are looking for an objective opinion, but, ultimately, you have to trust your own instincts. Your friend or coworker may not know the person you’re discussing as well as you do or may not understand the dynamics of your office. If after talking it over, you feel you need to respond, you should be professional, direct, and respond promptly.

Saturday, November 25, 2006


I want to share an incident that happened to me, this year, at a mega movie rental store. A Middle Eastern manager at the store asked me for identification before she would allow me to rent a movie from this particular store, which had just opened at the location I visited. I asked why on earth I would need to show ID to rent a movie and I was told, “Well, this is a new location. So, you’ll only have to show ID for the first visit.” Now, mind you, no one else who’d been on line (all White) had been asked for ID. So, my response was to inform this woman that she hadn’t been asking anyone else for ID, until she got to me. So, we went back and forth. My mother really wanted to rent the DVD, so I showed ID to this manager in order to get the rental. But, I had told this manager, before leaving, “You know, it’s just a movie! It’s not like I’m withdrawing money from a bank.”

Fast forward about two months and I go back to rent movies. Why? Because this mega-store is the closest location to where I live. Every other location is out of the way and I don’t think I should have to drive to Florida for a movie. So, I head back to this mega-store and pick up three DVDs. My mother is with me again. I tell her, “Ma, she’d better not ask me for ID again!” We head to the check-out line. No White customers are asked for ID. I get to this same manager and she proceeds to say that I need to show ID in order to rent a movie. I inform her that I’m not giving her a damn thing! I reminded her that when I was in the store a couple of months prior, she said I only needed to produce ID because it was my first time at the store. So, here was here response:

“Oh, well that’s why I need ID. If you don’t rent from [CHAIN NAME] within two months, you’re automatically deleted from the customer database and you have to be completely reentered again. So, if you give me photo ID, I can just put you back in the database.” After she said that, I was completely silent for a second. And, so was everyone else on line who heard such a ridiculous lie.

I looked Ms. Manager in the eyes and told her, “You’re a liar!” She looked at me with a stupid expression, to match her stupid brain. I said, “Your store has tens of millions of customers. If you deleted everyone who didn’t rent a movie after two months, you’d be spending more time typing in information than renting movies. Also, if I was really deleted from the database; you’d also have to give me another membership application to complete and ask me for a credit card because if I fail to return the movie, it’s converted to a sale after seven days. If I bring the movie back within 30 days, the sales cost is credited back to my account, minus the restocking fee!”

She didn’t know what to say and produced yet another stupid expression that, again, matched her stupid and racist brain. Finally she thought of another lie, “If anyone has ever let you rent a movie after you were inactive for two months, they weren’t doing their jobs. They shouldn’t have let you take out a movie. They were unprofessional. I’m just doing my job.”

I refused to show the manager ID and she refused to rent to me. I left the store. But, stormed back after going about 20 feet. When I reentered the store this same manager was telling a Hispanic man that he couldn’t rent a movie without bringing in two utility bills. He couldn’t believe it. The manager insisted it was the mega-store’s policy and he left the store in disgust, with a young, disappointed child behind him.

I asked the racist manager for the number for the district office and was told, “I’m not giving you a damn thing! If you want the number, look it up yourself.” Yes, the b*tch went there! And, that’s when I lit the store up like the forth of July. Normally, I don’t give a racist what they are looking for (a Negro showing out in public), but this chick had it coming to her.

I quickly found the regional office number. The regional manager I spoke to immediately knew which store manager I was complaining about. He told me that, yes, this manager was a liar—customers are not deleted after two months of an inactive account. I received repeated apologies and was extended store credit for a number of movie rentals.

I was also informed that this manager would be dealt with. I’ve gone back to the store and was told that no one knew where this manager was. I hope she was fired. For a damn movie rental, this woman felt she could ask minority customers for ID, utility bills and, perhaps, DNA. It’s just not that serious. But, to this racist, it was. The Black Factor is everywhere!!


Always take opportunities to network! No matter how quiet or reserved you may be, always take any available chance to get to know staff, managers, and directors within and outside of your department. Networking comes in handy because it creates champions that can push for you to receive special opportunities/benefits, can spread your positive reputation around the company, can make you a go-to person for special assignments, can create promotion and transfer opportunities, and allows you to make allies that can have your back at key points in your career. Always think about making a new friend/ally at your company. It’s easier to ask for someone’s help, when you’ve established some sort of positive relationship with a person.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Michael Richards' Racism Revealed!

Actor Michael Richards, best known as Kramer on the hit TV show Seinfeld, was caught (via a cell phone camera) committing a vicious verbal racial assault against a Black man. The incident took place on Friday night at the Laugh Factory Comedy Club in Los Angeles.

During his racist rant, Richards told a Black, male heckler that:

--The man was a “nig*er” (shouted at the man far too many times to count)

--50 years ago the Black man could have been “hung upside down with a f*cking fork sticking out of you’re a**!”

-- The verbal attack was justified because “that’s what happens when you interrupt a White man!”

-- That he was rich and could have the Black man followed by the police and arrested.

Anyone who’s seen the video on www.TMZ.com probably was in a state of shock. We know that in fits of rage, and sometimes just because, there are White people who will boldly call a Black person a “nig*er,” but to see the outburst on tape and to see how easily Richards brought up a longing for the days of public lynchings was a bit unexpected. You’d expect a White person to look to their left, look to their right, and then whisper such vile language. You don’t expect a White person to say this sort of thing while standing on a stage, with a microphone in their hand, in front of an audience that was comprised of many minorities.

I am very proud of this audience because they did not sink to the level of dirty water established by Michael Richards. They could have responded to his attack with even nastier language. And, no, Richards being called a “cracker” by one Black audience member does not equal what came out of Richards’ mouth. Or, they could have bum-rushed the stage and beat his a**! Or, they could have waited outside the Laugh Factory and beat his a**! But, they didn’t.

As angry as they were, they exercised their right to make Richards as insignificant as possible—they walked out on him. The sight of Blacks turning their backs on a White man, who was disrespecting ALL OF THEM, almost brought tears to my ears. They stripped Michael Richards of any power and superiority he felt he had over them. Michael Richards bragged that he was White and rich. In the end, at least for a moment, he was rendered invisible.

Richards claimed, on an appearance of Late Night with David Letterman, that the heckler caused him to fly into a “rage.” BULLSH*T!!! Every comedian deals with hecklers. Hecklers are part of the business. Most real comedians have responses ready for hecklers or they can think of a response on the fly. But, not Richards. Richards wasn’t bothered by the heckling, per se. What bothered him was that a “nig*er” was interrupting a White man—just like he said.

Richards told the truth on Friday night. But, today, he’s doing damage control. He’s sorry? Now? Well, Richards went on stage at the Laugh Factory on Saturday night and claimed he would apologize for what he’d said the night before. That apology never came because Richards never intended to apologize. He just wanted to get back in the spotlight.

It wasn’t until the video appeared on the TMZ web site that Richards suddenly felt “shattered” over what he said to the “Afro-Americans.” Video does that sometimes.

Richards claims, “I’m not a racist…” But, now we see him for who he really is. I’m glad I was never a fan of that show! What do you think about the situation?

Monday, November 20, 2006


QUESTION: What happens when a Black employee shuts their office door for a prolonged period of time?

ANSWER: Some White staff will begin to openly wonder what the Black employee is doing behind that closed door. And, unfortunately, many White staff will also begin to offer up unsolicited comments about what they think is happening. So, you’ll hear everything from “I’ll bet she’s on a personal phone call” to “She’s probably shopping on the Internet” to “She’s just goofing off.”

I call it the “The Zoo Syndrome.” White employees, who have The Zoo Syndrome, like to be able to walk by a Black person’s office or cubicle and have the ability to inspect what’s going on inside. It’s just like going to the zoo to see what the animals are doing inside the different exhibits. And, just like at the zoo, some White people get pissed when the “exhibits” are closed.

For some strange reason, a Black person working behind closed doors seems to inspire a fair amount of negativity from White staff. It’s not uncommon for a Black employee, who dares to shut their office door, to be told that they are perceived to be “inaccessible,” “closed off,” or “non-managerial.”

But, when a White person shuts their office door for an extended period of time, have you ever noticed that the conspiracy theories suddenly disappear and positive insinuations are all that can be heard? As a result, a White person working behind a closed door is “probably working on a deadline” or is “probably on a conference call” or they are perceived to be “busy and focused.”

I’ve been amazed, over the years, at how often the open or closed position of a Black worker’s door could inspire so much petty commentary from White staff. But, it’s really not surprising. Blacks in the workplace are often victimized by negative inferences being drawn from normally accepted company-wide behaviors and practices. As a result, three White staff in one room are “having a meeting” and three Black staff in one room are “having a party.”

In the workplace, the on-the-job racist will leave no stone unturned in their effort to paint a Black worker as having some sort of professional deficiencies. As a result, many Blacks are forced to deal with some of the most petty, mean-spirited, and career-stifling nonsense imaginable. So, petty issues, such as doors being occasionally closed, can often become fodder for discussion on a Black person’s year-end performance evaluation, but the same situation will never be mentioned to a White employee.

We live in a society full of race-based double-standards. The workplace is no exception. This is just one example of issues that Blacks face in the workplace. Have you had the audacity to shut your office door? If so, did you ever get any complaints or any requests to keep your door open? Tell us about it.


Know what’s in your company’s personnel manual. Use quotes from the personnel manual when you are emailing HR or executive staff about any official internal complaints or grievances you plan to file. This will let HR know you’re familiar with the policies and procedures of the company. It tells them you know how they are supposed to be handling your case. This also lets your company know how serious you are about your issue. This awareness should encourage your employers to follow their own written procedures. However, if they deviate from the procedures, they are simply providing you with documentation that is evidence of a potentially deliberate attempt to violate your employee rights and to ignore your complaint. Know your rights and hold your employer’s feet to the fire, when it comes to adhering to their own written policies and procedures.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Notable Quote

“An American, a Negro . . . two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.” - W.E.B. Du Bois (activist, writer, and scholar)

Common Types of Evidence/Proving Misconduct

Depending on your circumstances, the type of evidence you might gather (to prove a case of race-based discrimination, harassment, retaliation, etc.) may vary. Things to keep in mind, when considering evidence, are:

--What information do you need to compile that will give a third-party, who is unfamiliar with your circumstances/company, the necessary background information that will help them easily and clearly get up to speed with your situation? (e.g., the organizational structure of your company or department)

--Do I need to compile any information that is specific to my industry/field? Are there key procedures or ethics rules that are involved in my work? (Relevant if you’ve been falsely accused of violating protocols, etc.) Is there some part of my work or field that would be confusing to a third-party?

--What direct evidence do you have? Direct evidence is hard to come by, but isn’t impossible to obtain at some companies. For instance, some employers will have a manager or supervisor that is bold and stupid enough to bring your race into a discussion about why you can’t get a promotion.

Most people, today, are too savvy to make this mistake, but you still hear complaints, from time to time, about someone being called a nig*er or monkey or some other derogatory name that helps show the pattern of racial intolerance and outright hostility that some Whites may have towards Blacks at a company.

What circumstantial evidence do you have? Circumstantial evidence is the most common type of evidence in complaints and cases against companies. Circumstantial evidence is likely what you will have. You need to compile as much of this relevant evidence as you can to support your case.

So, if you want to prove that Blacks are passed over for management jobs, some circumstantial evidence to prove this might be: a list of all managers (with a racial breakdown); two-years of promotion announcements, for management positions (with a racial breakdown); a list of Black workers that were passed over for management promotions; signed affidavits from these working stating the rationale given to deny them a promotion or an affidavit with the person describing other ways that they have personally been passed over or denied opportunities to manage; promotion criteria; and a copy of a management job description and a comparison to your skills and experience.

These are just some examples. Below is a guideline of items to consider when you are developing your evidence of harassment, bullying, intimidation, and discriminatory or retaliatory actions by a company:

--Emails (making false accusations against you, documenting you for false negative behaviors, blaming you for problems caused by other staff, threats/intimidation, etc.)
--Memos and Other Documentation (reports, charts, etc. or memos citing false performance deficiencies, putting you on probation or giving you written warnings, etc.)
--Handwritten notes
--Voice Mail Messages (transcribe, save, and tape record)
--Documentation of Face-to-Face Meetings (You should write down what was said at any face-to-face meetings. Following the meeting, send an email to the person or people you met with in order to get the content of the meeting in writing. For instance, “We just met to discuss [insert the purpose of meeting] and you said that I was deficient in…”)
--Tape Recordings of Meetings or Conversations
--Witness Support/Evidence (notarized statements, corroborating testimony, etc.)
--Copies Of Performance Reviews
--Your Personal Logs of Events
--Human Resource Records (your personnel file)
--Corporate Personnel Manual On Policies And Practices
--Corporate Performance Review Guidelines
--Departmental Information (specific procedures, contracts, etc.)
--Organizational Charts and Records (corporate and/or department level)
--Regulations Regarding Workplace Conduct (your company’s anti-harassment policies, anti-discrimination policies, promotion criteria, etc.)
--Federal Law

Nothing is too small or insignificant to save. One sentence of a long email or memo might be crucial to proving a claim that you are making. It’s better to save everything and not need it, than to throw items away and want to smack yourself in the face for making a huge mistake!


That's right! I used the "B" word. Take a BREAK from what you're doing! This is really good advice when you're feeling stressed. Sometimes, we do more harm than good by continuing to plug away at something when we are feeling swamped. I can tell you from experience,when you look at a document for too long, your eyes will sometimes see what they expect to be there--not what's really on the page. It’s amazing what errors, inconsistencies, and omissions you will find when you review your work with fresh eyes. You may also find new ways to improve your work, once you’ve stepped away from the assignment for a little while. So, don’t sit there agonizing over a work project. Step away, take a break (even 5 minutes), and get back to it. P.S. If you're agonizing about your work on your break...it's not a break! Think about something else, go have a brief chat with a coworker or quickly step outside for some fresh air.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

RESEARCH STUDY: Race Discrimination Linked to Health Disparities

According to UCLA researchers…"The experience of racial discrimination may be a key factor in explaining why African Americans have higher rates of obesity and suffer at higher rates from such diseases as diabetes and cardiovascular disorders.”

Yes, YOU HEARD IT HERE FIRST!! The stress caused by being aggravated, targeted, and attacked by active racists in America may cause Black people to have health issues! So, for example, after a Black person is targeted by White coworkers and is falsely terminated, causing that Black person to not know how they’re going to feed their kids or pay their rent—the Black person’s blood pressure is probably going to go up. Bet, you couldn’t guess that’d be the end result!

But, seriously, I know people like to blame the high incidences of diabetes and high blood pressure and other cardiovascular disorders on the diet of African Americans (because the only seasonings we supposedly use are salt and sugar), but any fool would know that life is hard, in general, and it’s exceedingly hard when coping with rampant racism is thrown into the equation.

Despite my “Well, duh!” reaction, the study does include some interesting commentary on the physiological response that our bodies go through simply when we perceive discrimination. According to Vickie Mays (African American), the lead author on the report and a UCLA professor of psychology and health services and Director of the Center for Research, Education, Training and Strategic Communication on Minority Health Disparities, “When a person experiences discrimination, the body develops a cognitive response in which it recognizes the discrimination as something that is bad and should be defended against.” She said this response occurs for the most part even if the person merely perceives that discrimination is a possibility.

Starting with the brain's recognition of discrimination, the body sets into motion a series of physiological responses to protect itself from these stressful negative experiences, Mays said. These physiological responses include biochemical reactions, hyper-vigilance and elevated blood pressure and heart rate. With many African Americans, these responses may occur so frequently that they eventually result in the physiological system not working correctly.

According to Mays, the experience of race-based discrimination for some African Americans is akin to the response a person's body mounts when it experiences significant life-threatening danger, such as fear for a person's life or of a possible attack. She said that if the body mounts a response to protect itself against a "life-threatening" experience on a regular basis, after awhile it is strained and overworked. Many of the chemicals that come to its rescue can damage systems in the body that are associated with disease and obesity.

The report will be released in an upcoming issue of the Annual Review of Psychology (Vol. 58).

Source: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/10/061027183652.htm

What's the Most Ignorant Question You've Been Asked By a White Coworker?

What’s the most ignorant question a White coworker/manager has asked you? I’ve heard a variety of crazy questions, such as:

-- Is that real? (Asked while touching some fabric I was wearing like silk or leather and clearly because a Black person couldn’t be wearing the real deal.)
-- Why do Black people have different hair textures? (Uh, why do White people have different hair textures?)
-- Why do Black people use hair grease? (Uh, why do White people use hair products?)
-- What’s up with Black women and their skin? (When I looked like I was going to jump across my desk and slap her, she added, “I mean, it’s so pretty.”)
-- What is that? (Asked about a Black woman’s dreadlocs)
-- Can you wash that? (The follow-up question about dreadlocs)
-- You don’t live in the ghetto? (Asked after I gave my address to a White person dropping me home after we worked overtime. I didn’t live in the so-called ghetto, but you did have to drive through it to get to my neighborhood!)
-- Am I gonna get robbed? (The follow-up question after I got out of the car, leaving the White person alone)
-- Do you know any rappers? (Yeah, let me pull Snoop outta my pocket right now!)

I’m all for people seeking to enlighten themselves at every opportunity, but come the heck on! How are these appropriate questions to ask a coworker? What’s the craziest question that you’ve been asked?

Monday, November 13, 2006


One of the most common complaints I’ve heard from Black workers, over the years, is that they’ve felt used and abused by companies that requested (read: forced) them to train White coworkers, who eventually were promoted to a higher level position than the Black person that taught them everything that made them valuable.

How many of us haven’t been put in the position where we were asked to train a White counterpart, to train a White person that was junior to us or even to train a White person with a more advanced degree than we possessed? And, how often did the White person you train end up getting a promotion that you weren’t even considered for? Or, maybe they got a substantial raise based on their newly acquired skills.

It’s one of the oldest workplace racism games in the book…marginalize and overlook Black workers until an up-and-coming White employee of the day needs a few more skills to justify a preconceived plan to advance them through the ranks of the company.

Nothing hurts more than seeing someone else rewarded for your skills and knowledge. Nothing…EXCEPT… receiving a poor performance evaluation and STILL being asked to train White coworkers.

Years ago, I received a fraudulent performance evaluation from a White manager who wasn’t even my direct supervisor. I never worked with this man and I barely interacted with him. YET, he threw out my supervisor’s performance evaluation for me and submitted his own—completely trashing my work performance and the quality of my finished products. He recommended I only receive a $200 yearly increase because my performance was “horrible.” He said that he considered not giving me an increase at all.

BUT, he turned around and asked me to train two White new hires. And, he wanted me to create procedures for everything I did. I looked at this fool and said, “Absolutely not!” He turned red. I didn’t care. I asked him, after the horrible performance review that HE had just submitted for me, if it was appropriate that I pass along my poor work habits and other issues to new staff. I also asked him why I, who he stated really didn’t know what I was doing, would possibly write procedures. Clearly, I didn’t know any procedures. If I did, I would have been far more successful at completing my work—which he said I wasn’t. I told him I would not be comfortable training anyone under those circumstances. I suggested he find someone, with skills he approved of, to train the new hires. Well, HE WAS TRAPPED. After a recent resignation, no one else in the company performed the job function that I was doing.

Long story short, he rewrote and resubmitted my performance evaluation. And, he gave me a significant increase. There was never an issue with my work. It was just the oldest game in the book…marginalize and overlook a Black person and use them to build up the skills of White underlings.

I’m at the point in my career where I refuse to be used. It’s one thing to be a team player and it’s another to set yourself to be passed over. If you are asked to train individuals…ask to be officially referred to as a mentor or trainer. Make sure any training you do is included in your reviews. If you have to write a self-assessment during your performance period, list every staff person you trained and what you taught them.

And, if you are being asked to train what you feel is going to be your replacement (I know you know that trick), simply refuse to do so. If you’ve been given negative feedback, as happened to me, talk to your manager. Tell them that you feel you are receiving mixed signals and you would like to know where you stand. Get a formal declaration of any intent to replace you or not. It doesn’t mean the company can’t fire you, but if they’ve stated your job was secure—and then fired you—it provides you with more ammunition to use in a potential case. Remember, if an employer is having problems with an employee, the employer is supposed to make the employee aware of the issues, state possible remedies (such as training, etc.), and put the employee on a verbal or written warning or on probation. Unless you’ve committed some outlandish action, you are supposed to be given the opportunity to change your behavior and to keep your job.

When it comes to training, also try to figure out what’s going on. If the person you are being asked to train is in line to compete with you for promotions, don’t train them (if you can get out of it) and NEVER teach them everything you know (if you can’t)!!

This is just another issue for Blacks in the workplace. Have you been asked to train White coworkers that ended up being promoted, while you were not? Tell us about it. Send an email to blackonthejob@yahoo.com or respond in the comments section of this post.

NY Bias Suit Winners Sit Down with Top Brass

After settling a race discrimination law suit against the FDNY, two Emergency Medical Service (EMS) workers finally had their sit-down meeting with a top official from the FDNY. At the meeting, the two EMS workers (one Hispanic/Latino and the other African American) urged the FDNY chief to institute a color-blind written test to determine high-level EMS promotions. The two workers also urged that the promotion test not contain in-person interviews, which could promote racism and discrimination of potential candidates. Since 1996, when the EMS was merged with the FDNY, promotions to the level of captain and higher could only happen with an evaluation and interview. One worker stated, “We wanted to show him where the current system failed…The upper ranks simply do not look like the rest of the EMS.” The FDNY chief vowed to review the current promotion procedures.

We’ll see if anything changes!

Source: www.nydailynews.com, EMS bias suit wins sitdown with brass, By Jonathan Lemire, November 10, 2006)

Thursday, November 09, 2006


Over the years, I’ve worked with some White coworkers who literally thought that being racially open-minded meant enjoying Thai food on their lunch break. They’d brag about enjoying Malaysian, Peruvian, Indonesian or some other foreign cuisine, all while treating the minorities they worked with like pieces of crap.

But, we know eating foreign cuisine and respecting people and their culture are two different things. There’s inherent racism in American society. Part of the genesis of this racial hatred and intolerance, the country’s dirty laundry (a.k.a. SLAVERY), still contributes to many of the issues that Blacks face in American society.

I often think about the slave-like caricatures that Whites used to depict Blacks, when this country’s television and film industries were in their infancy. Many of those images slowly evolved over time, but they can still be seen today.

Do you ever stop to think about how many White people shape their perceptions of Blacks based solely on what they see in the media? Some Whites have never had or don’t have Black friends, often by choice and not geographical location (because Blacks are everywhere) or simply have never gotten to know anyone Black—often by choice and because of stereotyping. I've had more than one White coworker tell me that they never really got to know anyone Black until they were in college or started working. What some White people know or think they know about Blacks can often be chalked up to inherent racism or from media images—which includes many stereotypes. Sometimes, Whites “know” things based on negative experiences that other Whites have had with Blacks—that are extrapolated out to represent the entire Black race.

But, Whites have also learned a lot about Blacks from their early years in school. Remember those lessons on slavery that usually occurred during Black History month? Well, below is a sampling of the “history” taught in my public school classes in order to justify the enslavement of Africans (hence, African Americans) in the United States:

· Africans were primitive – this was explicitly stated and written on the blackboard

o African women exposed their breasts and the men were also partially unclothed;
o Africans did not wear shoes;
o All Africans were cannibals; and
o Whites wanted to teach Africans to be civilized (proper dress and behavior).

· Africa, as a continent, was backwards – this was explicitly stated and written on the blackboard

o While Europeans had progressed, Africans didn’t understand the need for science, math, writing, etc.;
o Whites used slavery to show and teach industry and technology to Africans;
o The White man was compelled to take action to bring Africa into the modern age;
o Africans were enslaved for their own good;
o Africans sold each other, so they were responsible for the enslavement of Africans in America; and
o Without African participation, Whites could not have enslaved so many Africans.

Each reason for slavery fell squarely on the shoulders of the Africans that were enslaved, traded, lynched, murdered, raped and otherwise tortured and abused, including being stripped of their children. According to the lessons taught in my schools:

· Africans require mistreatment for their own good.
· The African is stupid.
· The African is wild and animal-like.
· The African is used to not having any possessions or anything of value.
· The African needs the judgment and intervention of Whites to exist.
· The cultural standards and lifestyle of Africans are inferior to those of Whites.
· Whites are not responsible for what America did to the African slave.
· Dealing with the African is troublesome and taxing.

I’m only in my 30’s. Yet, these were the lessons taught in public schools prior to my reaching the 9th grade. And, if they were teaching such nonsense to justify slavery, in the so-called progressive schools of New York, what were they teaching around the country—particularly in the south?

When you look at the ridiculous “lessons” taught in many American schools and add to that family upbringing, geographical mindsets, lack of exposure to other races, and media images (movies like Birth of a Nation, Mammy, Sambo, etc.), can you really tell me that there won’t be some leakage of this nonsense in the workplace and throughout American communities? It’s just not possible that we won’t be living with the effects of inherited racist mentalities for many decades/centuries to come. Racism is taught and, unfortunately, not enough Americans think that racism should not be passed on as an American value. Throughout the country, Blacks live AND WORK with many of “massa’s” offspring. And, some of massa’s kids certainly don’t think there’s a damn thing wrong with them. The problem is Black people. They believe us to be inferior, that we should be subservient to them, and that we are not their equals. I’ve heard a White person say, “To be perfectly honest with you, it’s hard to forget that your ancestors owned other people.”

And, that, my friends, is the problem. People want Blacks to let go of the past, to stop talking about slavery and its legacy, but even those same people can’t help but be a bit nostalgic themselves. How do you forget something like slavery—regardless of which side your people were on? Now, you can choose to forget or pretend it’s not important, but isn’t it always there?

I’m just curious…

WHAT “LESSONS” DID YOU LEARN ABOUT SLAVERY IN SCHOOL? Do you think it’s possible for White people to forget that their ancestors literally owned another race? Or, do you think it’s always in the back of their heads, when they’re dealing with Black folks? Do you think that many companies still treat Black employees with a plantation mentality or allow Blacks to be treated as if they are still on a plantation? What do you think is the continued impact of slavery, if anything? Post a comment or send an email to blackonthejob@yahoo.com. I'll share some of your thoughts with our readers.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

ISSUES IN THE WORKPLACE: All You People Look Alike!

In my opinion, MORE THAN ANY OTHER RACE, Black people are very easily distinguished from one another. African Americans have such a wide variety of facial features, skin tones, hair textures, hair styles, etc. that a person would have to go completely out of their way to be routinely unable to distinguish one Black person from another.

Many Blacks try not to be visual cookie-cutter types. In fact, African Americans are damn near studied and are routinely imitated because of the creativity we bring with to our style of dress, manner of walking, behaviors, etc. Even in our “professional clothes,” many African Americans are still able to rock our own personalities and to maintain our personal swagger. Only a Black person can turn a wild Saturday night burgundy weave hairstyle into complete professionalism by Monday morning. Yes, the wild burgundy weave will be swept into a neat up-do hairstyle, bun or sophisticated ponytail. What’s the saying? “Let me do me!” And, many of us do—professionally.

Yet, I think nearly every Black person has been “confused” for another Black person, by someone who is White. At some point in your career, haven’t you or someone you’ve known been “mistaken” for Black coworkers that you did not resemble?

Unfortunately, Blacks are often viewed and treated as an INTERCHANGEABLE GROUP OF PEOPLE who aren’t worth knowing—or remembering—on an individual basis.

So, let me break this down. A racist considers particular groups of people beneath them, as unimportant, as worthless, etc. A racist in the workplace is not going to trip off of having to remember the names and faces of Black or other so-called minority workers. A racist sees a minority as an annoyance or, best case scenario, but still offensive, as something to tolerate. But, the minority worker is still essentially invisible to the racist because the racist sees a person without value. The racist sees someone to use, but only when absolutely necessary. A racist doesn’t mind using Black workers as labor because even “massa” did that on the plantation. To a racist, that’s all Blacks are—labor. So, if they have to work with you, they will. But, they will treat Blacks as labor—like an ox or a mule. THESE ANIMALS DO NOT NEED TO BE CALLED BY NAME!

And, I don’t want to hear anything about…maybe it was just an honest mistake. That’s a load of crap. We each learn to identify other humans BY NAME as infants and toddlers. We learn that PEOPLE AND THINGS HAVE NAMES, such as Mommy, Daddy, ball, bottle, doggie, etc. So, don’t tell me a full grown human being can’t remember the face and name of someone they work with EVERY DAY!!

I started temping at a company where I was subbing for a Black woman who had been an employee at the company for a number of years. This woman went out on maternity leave and I was taking her place in Human Resources for 3 months. Her coworkers would enter Human Resources, look me dead in the face, and would call me by this woman’s name! We looked NOTHING ALIKE!! This woman was taller, lighter, had different hair color, dressed differently, etc. But, I can only assume, they believed she transformed herself into another human being—overnight. How else could they confuse me for their coworker? They’d worked with her FOR YEARS!!! To make matters worse, some people acknowledged their confusion. They would furrow their brows and say, “You look different today.” My response? “That’s because I’m not her! I’m another person. Nice to meet you.”

I’ve even heard a recent story, at a company I will not name, where a Black man was called by the name of a BLACK WOMAN, who’d just joined the company. Who called him by this Black woman’s name? HIS OWN MANAGER!! How long had he worked for this White manager? YEARS!! That’s how much he meant in her world. He could be “mistaken” for a Black female new hire.

So, here’s my thing now: you want to call me by another name? I will not answer you. Get my name right. You want to send me an email with another person’s name? I will not respond to you!! Or, if I respond, it will be simply to ask you if you meant to send the email to someone else. White people don’t have a problem letting you know that you mispronounced or misspelled their name. They will correct you on the spot—even in email. And, they will let you feel their attitude about the mistake. Blacks shouldn’t accept anything else, but being properly identified for who we are. Don’t laugh it off…CORRECT IT!!

This is just another issue for Blacks in the workplace. The Black Factor will examine other issues in future posts.

HAVE YOU BEEN MISTAKEN FOR YOUR BLACK COWORKERS? Tell us about what happened. Write a comment in this post or email blackonthejob@yahoo.com!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

"Ask the White Guy" -- I'm Not Making This Up!

Diversity.com has a feature called “Ask the White Guy,” which lets people submit their name, email address, and a question for—a White guy. Diversity.com publishes information (Internet, magazine, free newsletter, etc.) for the public about diversity issues in America. This includes issues about race, gender, sexual orientation, ageism, etc. The link to “Ask the White Guy” a question is http://www.diversityinc.com/public/607.cfm

If you send a question, let us know what you asked and what response you received.

ISSUES IN THE WORKPLACE: Having Whites Interpret Basic Information For You

For a Black employee, this is one of the most offensive occurrences in the workplace…

a White coworker or manager decides they must interpret information for you because they assume you do not understand the English that has been spoken in your presence or clearly written on a piece of paper.

Blacks don’t even have to sit around with a look of confusion or furrowed eyebrows or display any behavior that suggests we are—like the characters on the hit, ABC TV show—LOST!! Some Whites will just take it upon themselves to define words, restate plain language or insult their Black coworkers in a variety of other ways.

Managers and coworkers sometimes assume that a Black coworker doesn’t understand “big words” or standard industry jargon. So, after a departmental meeting, a manager may single a Black worker out to say, “All of that was a fancy way of saying…” Or, the White manager might say, “A computer interface is just a technical way to refer to the way we interact with…” Or, the White manager might say, “What you should have taken away from all that was…”


WELL, NO SH*T, SHERLOCK!! And, who the hell asked you anyway?

While it can be quite useful to be able to observe that someone is having trouble understanding a topic, whether through communication that was spoken or written, it’s not useful to make blanket assumptions about an entire race or other classification of people. So, while working with the poor, it might be tempting (and stereotypical) to assume a high level of low-literacy, but that doesn’t mean you should treat all impoverish people like potential dunces.

Anyone who makes an assumption of stupidity, not based on actions, but based on their own preconceived beliefs, is an outright racist. If your only reason for “breaking down” your verbal and written language is because you think the person’s race makes them so innately incapable of understanding the spoken or written word, you have serious issues, which do not belong in the workplace.

I’ll never forget a conversation I had with a coworker, who was Peruvian. She said, “My father came to New York to practice law, but he has a really thick accent that makes it hard for most Americans to understand him. He’s been really upset. Back in Peru, he was a respected lawyer, but he’s having a hard time picking up English. He hasn’t been able to get work, so he’s driving a cab until he learns the language well. I caught him crying because he says a lot of the White passengers speak to him like he’s an idiot and treat him with absolutely no respect. Because his accent is really thick, they think he’s stupid. They don’t realize, he’s probably smarter than most of them.”

And, that’s the heart of this matter. You can’t and shouldn’t judge people on a superficial level. There are all sorts of smarts (book smarts, common sense, street smarts, hands-on experience, etc.), which determine an overall smartness factor. But, Black workers often don’t get credit for any of our smarts. With or without a degree, we are often treated like everything is rocket science that we just can’t mentally grasp. And, when we try to clarify that we don’t need things spelled out for us, no matter how nicely and professionally we do this, we get the label of having a bad attitude. I’ve written it before…it’s a catch-22!

This is just another issue for Blacks in the workplace. The Black Factor will examine other issues in future posts.


If you are trying to demonstrate disparate treatment and discrimination in the workplace, having a copy of promotion charts or announcements will help illustrate who is receiving promotions at your company and who is being passed over. Many companies will email or post the list of promotions when announcing the good news to the rest of the workforce. Save the email or make a copy of the announcement. If the information is not included, write the grade/level, race, and previous title of each individual, if you have a way of identifying this information. Always think about what information you need to prove a case of racial discrimination by a business. While you're employed, save everything that's relevant. But, be really sneaky about it. If you're having issues, you are being watched!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

When Dealing With Racists, It's Sometimes Good To Be "Oblivious"

Don’t be offended, but most people who are targeting you for bullying, harassment, discrimination or retaliation will, generally, think you’re stupid to begin with. Even if they don’t quite think you’re an imbecile, they will certainly believe you have far less intelligence than they possess. This arrogance, which is typical of the arrogance of a racist, can be a blessing in disguise.

Unfortunately, any perpetrators and company officials, who are targeting you for mistreatment (e.g., supervisors, managers, and Human Resources staff), will likely share this view. So, because of your assumed stupidity, you won’t be seen as a true threat—even while you’re under attack. Your company fears litigation, but they will still be inclined to see you as just a dumb nig*er! So, here’s how you can use that to your advantage…

Occasionally pretend to be oblivious to a large portion of what is said to and around you. Give people the chance to put their guard down! Let them talk and talk and talk.

Here’s a real life example of how this works. I had a Latino coworker tell me that he couldn’t believe some of the racist and unethical things that were said or discussed (by White senior managers) right in front of him. But, he didn’t openly complain about the remarks. What did he do? He said, “I sit there like…,” and motioned with his hand over his head. You get it. He acted like what was being said went right over his head, like it was meaningless to him. And, the entire time these senior managers were speaking, he would take notes or he would wait to get back to his desk and write the entire conversation down. Why didn’t he say anything? Because he felt he was being targeted by certain individuals at the company and decided it was better to keep some information as ammunition to use against them at a later time—when it would be most useful to him. He said, “I just pretend like I didn’t understand a thing. You wouldn’t believe what I can do with this information. If they try to fire me, I’m pulling it out and I’m taking people down with me.”

That’s what I’m asking you to consider. There are times when you can’t let something slide because it’s simply far too egregious. But, there are other times, when something is important, but you can just let it simmer. You want to be very discreet, so that the people talking don’t realize that you realize they just put their foot in their mouth, contradicted their previous statements, contradicted statements from someone on “their side” who has given a completely different story, lied, misrepresented or massaged facts, and given you a huge boost in proving your case of harassment, discrimination or retaliation.

Don’t play your entire hand. You should learn to be patient and learn to bluff. When I was in meetings, I’d hear things that clearly contradicted the previous statements of multiple company officials. I didn’t say a word, I’d just ask a detailed question that didn’t tip my hand to the fact that they had shown their true motive, but that would make them make further admissions about this new contradiction or lie. If you want to fib, I’m the type of person that will help you go all the way—to your own demise. Start learning to think fast on your feet and you’ll see opportunities to probe and ask questions in a way that makes people reveal more than they would like, implicate other people, contradict themselves, etc.


Be Professional and Courteous. Always remember that you are in the workplace and conduct yourself as such. Remember, DIRTY WATER SEEKS ITS OWN LEVEL, so don’t sink to the level of a racist, an ignoramus or other workplace cretins. You will be much better off if claims that you are unprofessional can’t be supported by your own written correspondence or verbal remarks. Don’t give people ammunition. You can be direct in your language, but don’t be juvenile or unprofessional. Do not give racist coworkers the opportunity--and proof--to allege that you are another angry, defensive, etc. Black person.

Thursday, November 02, 2006


The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced that it has filed employment discrimination suits against the Atlanta Bread Co. restaurant chain and BJ's Wholesale Club Inc.

In separate lawsuits filed in federal court, the EEOC claimed that Natick, Mass.-based BJ's and Smyrna, Ga.-based Atlanta Bread International Inc. allowed racial discrimination of black and Hispanic employees.

According to the EEOC, between June 2005 and Sept. 2005, the Atlanta Bread Co. and ARO Enterprises, also known as Acra Enterprises, fired black employees and segregated them by race at the South Florida restaurant.

"It is shocking in the 21st century to see a work force segregated by race and the systematic termination of virtually all black employees," said the commission's regional attorney Delner Franklin-Thomas in a statement. "All these workers wanted was an opportunity to provide for themselves and their families; they were denied that because of the color of their skin."

In the BJ's case, managers at the company's Homestead store in south Florida allegedly harassed Hispanic and black employees with slurs and other derogatory comments.

Source: www.newsvine.com
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