Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A Little Solidarity Might Go A Long Way

With the King holiday, yesterday, I couldn't help but think about the power of people working together for a common cause. Yes, people of different races joined forces with African-Americans during the Civil Rights Movement. But, clearly, African-Americans were, and had to be, the core force to initiate and champion the fight for equality in American society.

But, what legacy has truly been passed on to us?

So, many of the very young Black workers that I come across today (the under 25 crowd)really don't seem to believe that workplace racism is a serious issue they have to deal with. Society has surely changed and is more open and sometimes appears to be more tolerant, however, some of our younger brothers and sisters really think that talking about on-the-job racism is akin to talking about dinosaurs--it's a thing of the past.

As I included in a post, last week, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced that they filed the second highest number of complaints EVER for the organization. That is for last year...2009!!!

So, we have this contradiction, where many younger Blacks feel everything is okay, but reality tells us that we are seeing things heading in the wrong direction. If you think about it, the EEOC had their second highest number of complaints filed, but most workers don't file complaints AND not all complaining workers go to the EEOC to make a complaint. You have workers going to other state/county agencies for assistance, such as a local Office of Human Rights agency. And, some workers take their complaints straight to a lawyer. So, the number of race-based complaints may have risen across the board and not just with the EEOC.

What's thought-provoking is the observation that most Black workers don't file any type of complaint. Some of us have a certain level of acceptance with work-place racism. We need our jobs. We don't want to be subjected to retaliation for complaining. We don't want to be seen as complainers and whiners or as someone playing the race card. So, we rely on our support network of Black coworkers, friends, and family to get us through trying times on the job. Because of our turbulent history in this country, we have developed a great capacity to move on from abuse and torment. So, we can often continue to work with those who are tormenting us--even for years. We are survivors! It is amazing how much we, as a people, can put up with!

But, I wonder how we can truly break through in the workplace if we have younger generations coming along who don't believe they are dealing with a serious issue of workplace racism? How do you improve your future if you don't understand your current situation?

I get the feeling that the weight of continuing the fight for workplace equality will fall mostly with the over-30 aged Black workers--and starting at 30 is being very generous.

If we don't fight race-based discrimination, harassment, and retaliation, I'm not sure who will. Can we really count on younger workers realizing that the more things change, the more they stay the same?

I don't know. I'm not sure a light will come on over their heads. We are at a different point in history. Race-relations aren't what they were, so the need to fight against "the man" or "the system," as it used to be called, isn't a pressure that is felt anymore.

But, I do know this...when it comes to workplace racism, a little solidarity might go a long way.

This is a collective fight. It's a fight we make so that each generation has it a bit better than the previous one. Are we passing on a tradition of fighting for equality? Or have we become an "it's all good" race of Black folks?

What do you think? Post a comment!


Blogger StephenAG said...

I have been thinking about your post all day today. I believe that a lot of people have been suckered by the "appearance" of tolerance. But as I think about your post, I become more and more convinced that most of us do not know our employee rights under state and federal law. And that knowledge is woefully lacking within our support networks, I believe. It's hard to fight for something if you don't know what or how.

Now that my daughters are out of college and into the workforce they are seeing first hand how subtle racism and discriminatory attitudes are working hand in hand to prohibit their career progress. When I talk to them about workplace troubles I constantly remind them of what their rights are and the things they can do to protect them. Since I have been dealing with race and disability based discrimination for the last couple of years (yes it does happen on the "lib'rul" west coast too), I pass my information on to them and anyone else in my circle. I also give out your website since it is such a great source of information.

Sometimes, all you can do is "tell them"! Keep on truckin'!

7:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

First of all, you make me laugh.

If there is any discrimination its toward the whites on the job.

We have to watch what we say and cant even complain about minorities who dont even know their job otherwise were racist.
How many of us give up promotions so they can be handed to unqualified minorities to even the score. Lies and more lies.

2:54 PM  
Blogger melanie said...

I agree with you that this generation has learned to accept racism and discrimination in the workplace. For years, myself and many co-workers refused to make formal complaints against our organization, we just complained amongst ourselves and told each other to keep quiet for fear of retaliation/losing our jobs. I filed a claim with EEOC regarding harrassment from my employer. When I told family and friends, they thought that I lost my mind. They assumed that I should just accept this treatment. I was shocked and very disappointed. Why do we as Black people refuse to move past the belief that we are powerless? I'm praying that there will be a ruling in my favor, and I also pray that we can learn that we MUST fight for our rights in the workplace. Thank you for this forum.

9:45 PM  

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