Fighting To Be Considered
As a result, many Black workers have to endure the hardship of working with managers and coworkers that never even entertain the idea that we should be considered for certain assignments and projects or be involved in any work planning activities.
For some employees with decision-making authority, Black workers simply do not exist—except to serve as labor. So, if they have a menial/low-level assignment, this sort of decision-maker can call off the name of nearly every Black worker that qualifies to do that level of work. However, if the work is junior to high-level in nature, conveniently the names of White workers may be all that rolls off their tongues.
I remember working with a Black low-level staff person that was going to school for computer technology/programming. He was less than one year away from getting his B.A. A project came up that involved computer technology. In our department, no one had that experience because we specialized in health-related work. Believe it or not, as the team was being built, at no point was this Black person’s education/background brought into the conversation. So, I brought him up and recommended he join the team because he would be able to provide more insight into the specifics of the project. After stating my case for him, I was told, “You know, I didn’t even think about him.”
Well, why not? Everyone was always talking about his schedule because they knew he changed his work hours to accommodate school. So, the issue certainly wasn’t that people forgot that he was studying. And, this worker always talked about computer programming. So, it’s not likely anyone forgot his specialty area. The fact of the matter is this man was just irrelevant to these folks. He was just a low-level Black employee, therefore, it was automatically assumed he couldn’t substantially contribute to the project—even though he knew more on the subject that anyone else involved.
How did the situation get resolved? The Black man was brought in to take notes on our phone calls and do rudimentary work, such as looking up phone numbers for computer technology experts that we wanted to interview. He had great ideas, but only felt comfortable sharing them with me because he said no one else would listen to him or even consider his idea because of the source—him!! As a result, I had to be the carrier pigeon for his ideas, taking his suggestions to the group as he sat across the room pretending it wasn’t his idea.
The ideas were still shot down. But, that didn’t surprise either of us. I was a higher level, but I was just as Black as he was!