Racism Easily Partners With Business, Personal, and Social Issues in the Workplace
Although this incident occurred about 7 years ago, it still amazes me how that discussion became the basis of illegal actions by many managers, directors, and executives—all who knew better than to break the law by engaging in such violations of Federal statutes. But, racial animosity can be blinding, especially when combined with business, personal, and social concerns. A racist may be protected by a coworker, manager, director, HR staff, or executives for a number of reasons, including:
(1) A person engaged in racially offensive/illegal behavior finds a “soul mate,” another racist who is willing to put their own job and reputation on the line to keep the racist’s job safe and who may aid in targeting a complaining employee with abuse;
(2) A belief that the company will avoid any legal or financial jeopardy if there is a cover-up about a racially-based incident and pressure is applied to a complaining employee in order to silence them or run them out of their job;
(3) Friendships/cliques jump into action to protect one of their own by executing a plan to protect the guilty party, while possibly targeting the complaining employee through slander, harassment, retaliation, etc;
(4) Departmental loyalties may work to protect the guilty party, even if they have a reputation of causing racial strife in their department or throughout the workplace;
(5) A desire to advance or show company loyalty may prompt an employee to bear false witness against a complaining employee;
(6) Some employees simply like to stir up trouble or assist in troublemaking, without any thought of reward/benefit;
(7) Executing a vendetta against a complaining/targeted employee by assisting in their race-based mistreatment. The vendetta could be rooted in jealousy, an inability to bully or dominate the complaining employee or out of a sense of competition with the complaining employee;
(8) Financial reward, promotions or other benefits may be offered by management to anyone willing to bear false witness against a complaining employee. Of course, this collusion is done in secret and can be hard to prove/uncover; and
(9) A high-powered protector makes it clear to other staff (including high-level staff) that they are not to get involved in the incident, especially by coming to the aid of the complaining employee.
Racism may be the catalyst that provokes an incident at work, but other business, personal or social needs may combine with racism to increase the magnitude of the event—and the scope of illegality.
In the case I described at the beginning of this post, my friend and coworker watched as the director of their department (White) came to the aid of her buddy (lunch buddy, happy hour buddy, shoe shopping buddy, etc.), even though the White manager had made racially offensive remarks. The director didn’t care that many Black subordinates complained about what was said. All she cared about was that her friend was upset. She informed the Black manager (my friend) that “you made her cry.” And, that made this director very upset. She didn’t care about Black workers being upset. Her White friend cried and it was going to be war—and it was! She was willing to put everything on the line to cover up, assist with, and perpetuate workplace racism.
This director brought all of the resources of the company down on the head of this Black manager. All for a friend, who was DEAD WRONG!! This director abused the authority given to her by her employers and she manipulated and abused her authority over departmental staff to turn them against the Black manager. Even more troublesome, our employers decided it was a great business decision to protect this director, who’d clearly violated Federal statues. Therefore, they had to also support the White manager, whose racist words and actions were the catalyst for the entire episode.
The Black manager was stripped of her staff, given menial tasks, told to wear a head-scarf to clean up around the office, was asked to serve clients—waitress style at an in-house meeting, was physically bumped in hallways by White staff, etc.
I provided testimony about what I witnessed and became the victim of retaliation as well. This includes post-employment retaliation. I was called by an Acting Director (White, foreign born), who passed along my former employer’s threats to me. This is how far some companies, who desire to protect their racists and false reputations, will go to silence complaining employees.
A racist simply couldn’t survive on his or her own. A racist needs public assistance! In many cases, the racist receives assistance from friends/allies, self-serving coworkers, troublemakers, and one or more persons in authority within the company. That is the only possible way a racist can maintain their job and status on the job.
Because racism is often combined with these other factors, many employers try to knowingly morph racist behavior and actions into personal/social issues between workers. That is how many companies will attempt to dilute allegations of racism. In fact, my former employer added a line into the anti-harassment section of their personnel manual, which stated that personal or social issues were not discriminatory (harassment and retaliation fall under discrimination codes). Then, when they responded to the investigatory agency checking into my complaint, they claimed I had a personal/social issue with my supervisor not connected or reflecting a racial matter.
Racism is not one-dimensional. Racism anywhere is a complex matter. Racism often combines with other factors and companies will use many tactics to fight allegations of racism. Therefore, you must be mindful to avoid the bait and switch. Don’t get into lengthy discussions about these tangential factors. Focus on whatever race-based issue prompted you to complain. Don’t fall for any tactics designed to cause the perception that you’ve acknowledged you have a personal or social issue.
I will have more on this subject tomorrow.