Monday, October 20, 2008

Should Black Workers Be Company Men?

As I was watching the Sunday news programs, yesterday, I listened to the aftermath of Colin Powell endorsing Barack Obama for President. Some White news analysts said that Powell was showing “ingratitude” for everything done for him [by Whites/Republicans] and there were suggestions that he was some sort of traitor because he didn’t stick with his party and support McCain. Another attack launched against Powell was to suggest that his support of Obama was based on race.

Regarding the last point, did Powell and Obama both become Black men yesterday? If not, and if that was the basis for the decision, Powell could have endorsed Obama at the start of the campaign.

Regarding the other attacks (showing “ingratitude” and being a “traitor”), I’ve been in a position where I had to decide whether to stand up against my “own party.” In my case, I had to make a decision to either stand with my employer—against a Black manager being targeted with lies and attacks—or to stand for the truth.

I decided to speak honestly to an external investigator and explicitly stated that my employer was at fault for the race-based issues taking place at work. I never told a single lie. Not for a paycheck and not to support someone just because we were both Black. I told the truth as I knew it.

Did I labor over my decision because it would make me seem ungrateful or traitorous to my employer? Maybe briefly. Who wants to lose their job or put a bulls-eye on their forehead? Not me! But, I always strive to do what’s right—even when it’s hard, unpopular, and could lose me some favor.

My employer wanted me to be a company man, but it felt like I was expected to be on a plantation doing whatever “massa” wanted.

It really came down to—for me—being a part of the problem or being a part of the solution. I know it’s a cliché, but it’s true. And, it was hard for me to justify allowing someone to be targeted based on race because that made it easier for me to be targeted ONE DAY based on race! Or, for another Black person to be targeted ONE DAY based on race! How does the cycle of workplace racism end or diminish, if we’re all complicit in allowing it to thrive? So, I had to ask if I was willing to tolerate and, therefore, encourage, the racist behavior and revenge that I was witnessing against an innocent person.

This wasn’t the first time I’d spoken up against abuses in the workplaces. Both times, my employer said I was very “loyal.” Meaning, I was siding with the person out of racial loyalty alone. It was implied that I was willing to lie to defend a friend. I expected those lines of attack and my employer didn’t fail to go with the blueprint.

I knew the shoe would probably drop at some point. And, it did. After they were found guilty of retaliating against the Black manager, my employer immediately set a plan into motion to retaliate against me. I mean, within weeks of being found guilty, they were executing an agenda against me. But, I’d do it all again. But, should I have done so?

What do you think?

Should Blacks be “company men?”

The reality is that no matter what goes on in the workplace or how badly we’ve been treated by an employer (or how marginalized or ignored we’ve been), Blacks are expected to tow the company line just like anyone else.

Now, I understand that every employer has a right to expect a certain amount of loyalty from staff. But, what does the company “buy,” when they sign an employee’s pay check?

Are we, as Black workers, supposed to sit by and not challenge those who are violating our federally protected rights? Are we supposed to just sit there and witness another employee having their rights violated?

Are we being paid to lie to internal and external investigators? Are we being paid to deny our own interests, such as helping an employer identify a manager or other staff member who engages in race-based decision-making and/or who believes it is okay to engage in race-based harassment and/or retaliation?

What exactly do we owe our employer, when it comes to fighting race-based discrimination, harassment and retaliation? Do we owe them anything?

What do we owe ourselves—as a race?

Do you think that Black workers should get involved in race-based disputes where they have information that could assist a Black worker being targeted by a supervisor or the company, as a whole? Or, do you think they should mind their business?

If the shoe were on the other foot, would you expect other Black workers—with knowledge that could help you—to speak up about what they know?

Or, would you expect and accept any Black worker to look out for their own interests—even if that means that you end up demoted, suspended, terminated, etc.?

I’d like to hear from you. Should Blacks be company men? Post a comment and we’ll share some of the feedback on a future date!


Blogger Me said...

Big baller, shot caller...

The answer is "No," brothas and sistas should not be 'company men" inasmuch as no one else is/are company men. I have worked in varying aspects of corporate America, and I am more often than not strcuk by how not "company" most tend to be. In is my suspicion that other people (read non-brown) can effectively blend the personal and professional and thus, do whatever they can do to focus solely or their wants and needs. In my experience, (and I am speaking for myself), I have rarely felt that comfort level, where I can be me and damn the company. That being said, I am still working on blending the personal and the professional, and I wills tand by the "No" I won't be no company man. Watch that integrity.

12:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

White employers usually pick black yes-men of average intelligence to do their bidding. Blacks in human resources are never interested in the progression of other black folks at the expense of making an impression as the "good, obedient negro." These racially unaware, soulless and ineffectual black professionals tend to get very far in the corporate world. So, yes, if you are ambitious and put away yourself, the corporatocracy is happy to have you. Yes, you will most likely become a "company man."

There is no way you can be honest, have integrity, stand up for your beliefs, be black, and work in that atmosphere. It will never happen. To butt your head up against that corporate-wall and expect a different result, is ridiculous.

I take pleasure in reading your posts, and I would say, you are an anomaly. It's clear you care about black people other than yourself. Why do you waste your talents working for other people?

7:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No one should be company man. The company does not think twice about getting rid of us.
To hell with loyal

7:43 AM  

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