How Far Would You Go?
Some Black workers will bad mouth other Black coworkers to White staff, will dime out a Black coworker to White staff or will engage in other behavior that is intentionally designed to show loyalty to Whites, while exhibiting disloyalty to Blacks.
I had a group of Black coworkers that made complaints about a White manager to a Black supervisor. When the Black supervisor addressed the issue and found herself the target of many Whites—and the company as a whole—those same Black workers tried to figure out how to turn her misery into their fortune. They signed false statements against the Black supervisor, pretended not to know anything that was going on in the department regarding the supervisor’s mistreatment, and accepted unprecedented raises, market increases, and other financial rewards that they knew were nothing more than bribes.
Their behavior disgusted me then and it disgusts me now. Not only were they cowards, but they were calculating. And, they had absolutely no character. They enjoyed their reward and went out of their way to side with White workers and members of management that were engaging in illegal misconduct. How does this tie in with fitting in and being liked?
The Blacks that engaged in this behavior were the same Blacks that were always trying to win over White staff and who talked openly about the things they did to get White coworkers to "like" them. For instance, one Black coworker would tell Black coworkers that he always shared with White coworkers that he didn’t like basketball. He said that he would only talk about sports that Whites liked, such as golf. A Black woman would buy and make lunch for all the staff in the department—at least once a month. She served everyone in the department lunch, including a few Black staff, but it was clear she was doing this for the benefit of the Whites in the department. She would say, “I’m liked,” when referring to the Whites in her department. She felt that her lunches were getting her over and making her popular with Whites.
So, it’s no accident that these are the very same Blacks that could assist White supervisors and other members of management in destroying the career of a Black woman that was championing their causes at work, fighting for better treatment for them, and had gotten some of them significant pay raises on their yearly reviews. The fact that she did a good job for them as a manager couldn’t fight the desire of these Blacks to get in good with Whites. These Black needed the acceptance of Whites. It was a regular part of their conversations.
So I ask again…fitting in…being liked…how far would you go?
Part of a being an active member of any society means finding common interests with other people/races, compromising, and stepping out of your comfort zone. However, interacting with people in a positive way and a** kissing based on playing into stereotypes and being cut throat—only with other Blacks—goes far beyond the call of fostering camaraderie at work and it goes far beyond simply trying to “fit in” or be “liked.”
In the workplace, the interpretation of blackness and acceptability is not up to us. Executives, directors, supervisors/managers, and coworkers have enormous input into the perceptions that exist about Black people in the workplace. Some of the people shaping these perceptions are going to be racists. Playing into stereotypes and trying to destroy others to gain favor at work only serves to tear down all minorities at the company because it validates the perceptions that we’re fighting everyday.
We always hear about Blacks being like crabs in a barrel, always snapping at each other. Why engage in that behavior at work? We always hear that about Blacks being envious of each and trying to tear each other down because of petty jealousy. Why engage in that behavior at work?
As Blacks, we need to take responsibility for some of the stupid drama going on in the workplace. And, we need to take responsibility for the fact that some of us actively assist White racists in the workplace and we do this knowingly. All the drama we create amongst ourselves serves as entertainment for the Whites we work with and it often facilitates Whites, who are biased against Blacks.
We should never want to fit in or be liked so badly that we are willing to sell out ourselves or other Blacks for the benefit of racists that would target all of us, including those yet to come! Remember that, the next time you think of running behind someone that you know means you or your people no good! You can’t fit in with or be liked by someone who has no intention of ever accepting you and who has no respect for you or your race.