Tuesday, April 10, 2007

It's Easy to Signal that Racist "Chatter" Isn't a Big Deal!

I was in a business meeting, a few years ago, where a White VP stated that she was surprised to read a recent research study that found that—more than White parents—Black parents warned their children and teenagers to stay away from drugs and alcohol and not to smoke (including warnings not to smoke marijuana). The White VP asked, “Can you believe that? I didn’t think Black parents would care. Can you believe they actually warn their kids about drugs? I didn’t think they did that in the ghetto!”

She was so shocked by the research study that her voice became shrill and more annoying than usual. She was so shocked that she couldn’t hear the absolute silence in the room. So, she continued to talk about how amazing it was that Black parents didn’t want their children using drugs.

There was senior Black and minority staff in the room making 6 figure salaries or close to 6 figure salaries. One of these Black staff was actually an executive and the boss of the VP making the remarks. I looked over at all the senior staff. I was an entry level staff person and expected they would address the VP—on the spot. They each looked at the table, while a dead silence loomed over the room. The VP continued to drone on about her surprise.

I grabbed my note pad, my pen, and walked out of the meeting, looking at my White manager and visually daring her to ask me to sit down and participate in the meeting. She was extremely uncomfortable, but didn’t say a word or make any motions. I went to my desk, where I sat unconcerned about continuing my employment.

I wasn’t reprimanded. In fact, no one made mention of what was said. Everyone pretended the comments weren’t made and the questions weren’t asked. When I tried to bring it up, someone would quickly change the subject.

And that just goes to show you how easily racist “chatter” and seemingly random comments can be ignored and brushed off—all the while showing a tolerance for such crude and ignorant behavior. The VP should have been reprimanded, if not terminated. I was working at a government contracting company. We were being paid with taxpayer money. And, that money was being used to pay an obvious racist, who went on to have numerous problems with Black and Hispanic/Latino staff. This VP sat in on norming sessions, employee by employee discussion meetings, to determine staff promotions, performance evaluations, etc. How fair was she to Black staff? You should have heard some of her comments that were passed on from staff that broke the confidentiality of these meetings. She was as racist as expected, never thinking a promotion was justified for minority staff.

Employers are rightly held to account, when they refuse to ignore the warning signs regarding racist and insensitive staff in the workplace. Only by speaking up and making complaints can we, as a race, make sure employers accept their fair share of the liability for the hostile and offensive working conditions that some Blacks are subjected to.

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4 Comments:

Anonymous Mitch said...

This was a great post; thanks. And I hope you get the job.

11:44 AM  
Blogger Stewart said...

Hey All
Recently I became involved in a situation with a Black supervisor. I also work for a government contractor and the Black supervisor feeling that his AUTHORITY was being challenged/threatened, decided to berate myself and several other(ALL BLACK, at the time) co-workers about our unwillingness to allow an unsafe condition to exist. He used the N word/was beligerant/threatening/very unprofessional to the point of 'You MFs are going to do what the F I tell you to do or you will sent home.' This was all done in an attempt to intimidate/harrass/threaten us into doing something we felt could not be done in a safe manner.
This is blatant racisicm but by a member of "Us"! There was an EEOC complaint filed and an investigatuion is on-going.
I just wanted to bring it to all that the rasicm we have to deal with not only comes from outside our race but also we have those that are willing to sabatoge "Us" from within.

7:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I apologise to those who are posting for what they are going through. I'm a middle age white male. I work in a manufacturing plant in the south. I'm going through the same thing by my black supervisor and the white management who refuse to take action. You know racism is wrong. I get very angry because my superviser professes to be a christian.

5:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for your amazing post. I work for a large arts organization in a large city. I constantly feel racially harassed and am having difficulty finding ways to confront it. I'm at the point of giving up and moving on to another organization. Unfortunately white privilege leaves many unaware of just how hurtful ignorant comments can be.

2:11 PM  

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