Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Color Conversations At Work...

just don't have them!

There is no reason to comment on anyone's color at work. Even a positive comment can cause serious problems depending on the person's attitude about their skin color. For instance, it's unnecessary to make comments that you find a coworker attractive because they are "light, bright, and damn near white" or with some other stupid and/or cliched comment. You also need not tell someone that you are fond of them because of their chocolate color. You can offend both of the individuals described in those two examples for any number of reasons. Some people are tired of having remarks made about their complexion, as if they are a skin color before they are a person. And, others may dislike their complexion--light or dark. You just never know with people.

You certainly don't want to make color remarks about workers of other races because it's not just in the U.S. that color, especially darker colored skin, is an issue. For instance, a darker complexioned person from India may not want you commenting on how similar they are in color to a Black person or how beautiful you find their "dark skin." You may think you are making a harmless remark, but based on that person's heritage, they may have been raised in a society that dislikes darker skin--similar to the U.S.

Furthermore, you may have some people of Hispanic origin who would be offended by comments about their complexion--even those you deem harmless. It's how the person takes the remark that will case problems at work and not just your intent.

If a White person makes comments to a Black worker about color, as many of us may have already experienced, it automatically changes your perspective on the person and, depending on the remark, may be really offensive.

I had a White, female coworker say to me, "Black women and your skin..." Then, she just trailed off leaving those words hanging. I immediately asked, "what about it?" Her response was to stammer and to say how "pretty" it was. But, I was ready to jump over the desk on her and didn't really feel that was the spirit in which she was speaking initially. Those words stuck in my head when dealing with her because it was like...is that all she sees when we work together and is race AND color something that preoccupies her mind?

Color is just another one of those subjects you should avoid at work. Even with other Blacks, it's a conversation that can take a turn for the worse. One comment about thinking light or dark skin is better than the other and all hell can break loose on the job.

There are some convesations that are better left for friends and family and should stay out of the workplace. Many people are unable to have adult conversations about sensitive topics and some people have hang-ups about color that you may not be aware of.


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