Blacks and Workplace Racism
I can remember the first time I saw a major race-related issue break out at work. I’m not talking about a minor skirmish or a brief back and forth between a worker and one manager. By break out, I mean that this was the first time I really saw a major fight brewing between a Black worker and the entire power structure at the company. And, it was the first time I saw a significant number of Black workers, who were intimately involved in what was happening and who had something at stake in the events, react to what was going on.
To put it mildly, I was completely overwhelmed with both disappointment and disgust at the Black workers involved in the situation at work. Yes, I can understand the natural fear that any worker would have, as far as sticking your neck on the line for another employee. But, in this case, these workers had actually encouraged a Black supervisor to stand up and speak for them because they were too afraid to complain about offensive comments made by a White manager at a staff meeting. I remember all of these Black workers talking a good game and saying they’d had enough and this time things were gonna change. So, they pushed to have this White manager confronted.
When it was all said and done and the Black manager was falsely accused of calling this White manager a “racist,” not a single one of these Black employees could remember any offensive remarks being made or of asking the Black manager to speak to the White manager about causing offense. “It didn’t bother me” and “I didn’t say I had a problem with it” were NOW the types of comments that were being made once the proverbial s%it hit the fan!
It was sickening. But, as the situation escalated for the Black manager, the behavior of the Black staff got even worse. Her Black subordinates and coworkers within her department turned on her in ways that you would not imagine.
Here’s some of what the Black workers said about the Black manager and did to her, which assisted the company in stripping the Black manager of her staff, assigning her menial work, and making false accusations against her:
• They said they didn’t hear any offensive remarks or didn’t take them to be offensive;
• They denied asking the Black manager to complain to the White manager about her offensive comments;
• They told the Black manager to apologize—even though she didn’t do anything wrong and was being responsive to the requests of her subordinates to address offensive behavior;
• They said the Black manager should “just let them [Whites] win” and should stop complaining and fighting back against harassment, retaliation, and a hostile work environment;
• They signed false statements against the Black manager that were written by White management;
• They suddenly and falsely accused the Black manager of being a bad manager, of being rude, of physically attacking them and fighting them at work, of turning them into “running dogs,” etc;
• They laughed at her behind her back and snickered in her face because her work was taken from her and divided among her subordinates—resulting in the subordinates feeling they had more power and respect in the department;
• They isolated the Black manager by not speaking to her, and/or being disrespectful or dismissive, when they did talk to her;
• They expressed pride in getting the new White managers they were assigned or felt they would benefit more from having a White manager;
• They took unspoken bribes to take the company’s side of the complaint or to remain silent about what they knew—in the form of unprecedented salary increases, bonuses, never before conducted market increases (solely for their department), tickets to sporting events, etc.
These Black workers made out like bandits on the back of another Black employee. They had no shame in what they’d done. This is despite the fact that this manager had put her neck on the line to fight for decent pay increases for many of these workers and had suggested promotions for others. This was her reward. When Whites put a target on her back, they helped cock the gun and pull the trigger.
Crabs in a barrel!
We play right into the hands of racists way too often.
Sometimes, I wonder if we haven’t conditioned ourselves, as a people, to be part of the problem and not part of the solution. When we see a Black person down, we immediately think that it’s their problem and has nothing to do with us.
“I don’t want to get involved.”
But, then I realize that not everyone is going to be part of the struggles that will benefit us all. Some people prefer to ride other people’s coattails. That’s how it’s been and that’s how it always will be. But, that doesn’t mean the struggle is any less important and that those of us, who are willing to fight, shouldn’t put our blood, sweat, and tears into doing whatever we can to change things for the better.
Keep your heads up and think about being part of the solution! That’s the thought for today!!