Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Don't Be a Proverbial Crab-in-a-Barrel in 2009 and Beyond!

Black people can make each other miserable at work by being the proverbial crabs in a barrel. I can’t believe some of things I’ve seen Black workers do to each other over the years. For instance:

--Having a preference for reporting to a White manager because they can so-call “do more for you” and are “just better,” which results in some of us being resentful for being “stuck” with a Black manager;

--Engaging in a work slow-down, when given an assignment by a Black supervisor/manager;

--Intentionally holding on to an assignment in order to cause work delays for a Black supervisor/manager and out of a sense that you have to be “begged,” which makes you feel important;

--Intentionally turning in sloppy work to a Black supervisor/manager or coworker;

--Pretending not to know how to do something or how a process works, when asked about it by Black coworkers;

--Accusing Black coworkers of being “fake,” a “wanna-be,” etc. because they have been deemed not to be “ghetto” or “real” enough and making these statements to Black AND White coworkers;

--Knowingly spreading false gossip about Black coworkers to White coworkers or actually telling their personal business to White coworkers.

--Being complicit in targeting a Black coworker for mistreatment after they’ve complained of abuse;

--Accepting money and/or a promotion or some other reward for false testimony against a Black coworker;

--Lying to investigators about what happened to a Black coworker (e.g., saying you don’t know anything), not out of fear for your job, but because you don’t “owe them anything;”

--Intentionally making false statements about a Black coworker, who has complained of race-based discrimination, harassment or retaliation;

--Openly finding humor or getting pleasure out of a Black person being targeted by management; and

--Saying there is no racism in the workplace, just because a Black person has complained about it and not because it is true;

These are just examples. I’m sure some readers could greatly expand on this list.

The sad truth is many of us still have a plantation mentality. Instead of focusing on our condition, we focus on what’s petty and we may treat each other in an intentionally harmful manner. We set up false competitions with each other. We envy each other because of success or reward. We seek to bring someone down, who we think believes they are superior to us (e.g., they “talk White,” went to a “good school,” etc.). We find reasons or don’t need reasons to be uncooperative. We feel a loyalty to Whites because we’re grateful they “let us” have a job. We’ve seen friends and family treat each other this way and treat other Blacks this way. We simply may not know any better. There are all sorts of reasons for Blacks hating on each other and walking around with a “that ni**er ain’t shit!” attitude about another Black person.

We need to stop being so quick to tear each other down. We need some self-reflection…a moment to stop and ask why we engage in this behavior. We need to strive to change what is internally wrong with how we think about and treat other Black people. We need to treat each other with the same respect we demand from Whites in the workplace.

It’s fine not to deal with someone and develop a reasonable rationale for why you don’t care for them. But, with Blacks, from my experience, you have people sniping and carrying on with people they don’t know enough not to like.

“That b*tch think she cute.”
“That motherf*cka thinks he’s so smart.”
“He ain’t gonna tell me what to do.”
“She thinks she can boss me around.”
“She don’t mean sh*t to me.”

I’ve heard it all before and more than once. Just trying to be difficult and trying to find a way to cause some grief. Many of us don’t mind being crabs in the barrel.

When it comes to the workplace, we will never free ourselves from discrimination and other illegal behavior, when we choose to focus on needlessly destroying and being difficult with the Black people we work with. This reinforces our targeting by those in the workplace, who would choose to treat us in a disparate and unequal fashion.

We can’t fight the real battles that need our intention, if we simply desire to focus on petty squabbles of our own making. Let’s all look inside ourselves this year and identify how we may be contributing to any issues in the workplace and how we can make things better. And, let’s strive to stop being difficult with each other for reasons that are without merit!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm glad you wrote this very important article about how we blacks sometimes treat each other in the workplace. Personally, I have worked at jobs where other black personnel would often drag their feet about responding to my requests yet the same would be very quick to respond to requests from white employees--and often their requests were more complex, too! We all worked on the same level in the organization. I want to mention too that we blacks tend to ostracize each other simply because of sounding differently when speaking--the "non-ghetto" speaking accent which you alluded to in the article.
Also, my sister experiences this "crab mentality" as a high school teacher: a fellow teacher often thinks my sister talks down to her simply for asking her assistance in the classroom. This teacher, who is black, works with special education students and sometimes my sister needs her assistance with special education students in her classroom. The teacher onced accused her of being "white talking and "white acting." As black workers and professionals, we truly need to be more of a support to one another.

6:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for writing this article. I can relate to much of it. It is sad, but true. I am at my workplace for over 12 years and was not well-received by my black co-workers. Most of my jobs in NYC before this one, mainly consisted of white employees and there always seemed to be very few blacks--less than 8 within a particular divisions at jobs I worked in the past.

So when I was offered the position at my current job, 12 1/2 years ago, I was so delighted and happy that there were many black americans and other persons of color there. I am proud of who I am and love my people. But unfortunately for the first 6 years the female employees in my division treated me with much disrespect. They did not welcome me with open arms although when a white co-workeer was hired they treated her better than me, and also got her to turn on me and disrespect me. It was an uphill battle. I tried in the beginning to be friendly with them, but they would gossip about me because I wasn't the type to hang in a clique or partake in gossip about other women like they did That is something that is a no-no for me no matter what job I am at. I feel sistas go through enough already, so why talk against another? It was very difficult for me and I stayed by myself and only dealt with them when I needed to, but always projected respect towards them, even though I knew they did not like me. I was told by some nicer employees, who I was able to relate to (black employees), and they told me it was a case of jealousy, but truthfully, i don't understand why they would be jealous as we were all there because we all had a reason as to why we had to be at a job every morning.

Anyway, when I saw your article, it hit the nail on the head. My experience was over 6 years ago, and since 2 of the employess left and new ones were hired, things are less stressful. I guess the troublemakers finally found their way out the door. It seems the others finally started respecting me more, although I still keep a barrier up because of all the issues I had with some of them in the past. I guess you can say they pretty much damaged the "trust" between us, and a couple of them still continue with gossip and childish behavior.

The good thing is, I always sat in a separate area from them because my supervisor's office is on a different floor. It is amazing how God knows where to put you when you go through certain situations in your life. I thought I was the only one who went through some of the things you posted here.

I hope one day black women learn to support each other and not be jealous of one another. I've seen so much of that happen with my own sisters on their jobs and friends as well. It seems we still have a very long way to go.

I wish I could go further with the story, but it would take too long. Thank you for writing this article and I hope many woman read this and take your advice.

Many Blessings to you!

5:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe this is a serious issuse, I've been in situations where I was the supervisor amd a worker. I found alot of women periof were jealous of my confidence, not so much that I looked better- they just like to drag you down! I currently work at a large comapany- I have a Director that is a real hater- she did everything to try to keep me down, or down paly my success- this actually effects my ends! She is from the Islands and is really jealous like!

11:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have experienced this in the past and now currently. Two of the cases it was from people I helped advance/promote. I told myself after the first time I would no longer help people with career growth. I love me people and want to see us grow in the work force and as a race.

I am angry, sad and disappointed and more at myself then at the people who are acting that way. I feel like damn how did I get fooled again I should know better.

So, now I am trying to figure out how not to let this negative turn me into someone I am not. I wish the best for everyone. I guess the good part is management can tell they are jealous, it really does not make it better. I just wish we could learn to work together if we did we would be so powerful.

8:39 PM  
Blogger Yvonne said...

Just a side note on the "crabs-in-a-barrel" idea: The reality isn't crabs pulling each other down, rather, one crab trying to pull them ALL out. The weight is too much so they all fall back in.
Maybe the lesson we need to take instead is not to rely on ONE person to make it all ok for us, but let us ALL work to uplift each other!

2:11 PM  
Blogger Zennie Abraham said...

Thanks. I mentioned you here: http://zennie62blog.com/2012/05/22/newark-mayor-cory-booker-meet-press-black-crab-barrel-obama-53184/

7:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You, mr Zennie 62, ate guilty of the same behavior
You're accusing Mayor Booker of. I'm sooo sick of blacks
Speaking badly of other blacks. STOP IT! Perhaps the
Mayor should've chosen a different time or venue to send his message regarding the private sector, but for the donations he receives and to continue the cash flow to his city he felt he had to do what the private sector wanted him to do.

1:12 AM  

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