Friday, April 09, 2010

The Truth About Inaction

People throw around labels about Blacks playing “race cards,” but they just don’t get that so many African Americans don’t and won’t report racially-based issues at work because they don’t want to make waves/trouble that would incur the wrath of a White person on the job. Or, perhaps, they don’t want to incur the wrath of the company, as a whole.

In my work experience, I’ve learned that most Black folks don’t want to make a formal complaint about someone who’s White. Despite not making formal complaints about mistreatment, African Americans will complain to other minority family, friends, and coworkers because we know they will understand our predicament at work. So, we complain to those who are like us and, then, we do nothing!

Doing nothing about an issue isn’t inaction. It’s the exact opposite! Specifically, when we do nothing about mistreatment from White coworkers or supervisors, it’s an active way for us to ensure that:

--We don’t have to fear a negative reaction against us from our supervisor, manager, Human Resources staff, etc. based on our grievance;

--We don’t look like a cry-baby or whiner;

--We don’t look like we’re “playing the race card”;

--We don’t make ourselves more of a target;

--We don’t piss off whoever is already tormenting us;

--We don’t end up having our tormentor forming a group alliance against us that is even more vicious than the attacks coming from a lone perpetrator;

--We don’t look like a troublemaker, like we have a chip on our shoulder, are hypersensitive, are angry, are defensive or that we have no respect for authority, (by reporting a White coworker);

--We don’t hurt our chances to get a fair performance evaluation and salary increase (connected to the troublemaker issue); and that

--We don’t end up in trouble because someone in authority believes that we, and not our tormentor, are the real problem.

So, inaction is a major tool for African Americans at work. For Blacks, the expectation that we will be ignored or marginalized or that we will suffer retaliation at the hands of Whites did not die after the so-called end of the Civil Rights Movement. The fear of retaliation is a strong driving force behind African American inaction, even today. I’ve felt the pressures and have heard coworkers say that a person shouldn’t, “start the White people up!”

So, I know why there is often marked hesitation at the very idea of reporting a White person in the workplace. I have heard all of the reasons listed above as the justification not to do anything about mistreatment, even illegal mistreatment, at work. I’ve had these reasons creep into my own psyche.

Unfortunately, it’s a rational fear to have. Blacks know this fear is legitimate because we’ve seen what happens to outspoken African Americans at work. We’ve heard the name-calling and have seen how this type of Black person has become a target at work, has been isolated, has received poor performance evaluations and salary increases (justified by allegations they have a “bad attitude”), and has been passed over for opportunities. These “types” of African Americans may even have been laid off for false reasons (lack of work) or fired for false reasons (insubordination). Point blank, it’s often safer to stay quiet because it can be career suicide to be labeled as the “militant” at your job.

But, the reality is…they can’t lynch you! If that’s what it takes to get the courage to report mistreatment, then remind yourself of that every day. This is not the day of physical lynchings! Yes, people on your job can make life difficult for you, but that’s a burden and challenge our ancestors faced, head on, every day. The fight for equal rights is a fight that still needs to be fought.

We can make a difference. But, we can’t change a damn thing if we suffer in silence!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your blog has been a comfort over the last several years I have spent as an exec in corporate America dealing with the usual underhanded business you write about so eloquently.
I spoke up to HR at one job and chose not to do so at my current job for exactly the reasons you outlined.
I am in the middle of a legal grievance I filed for what we can call a wrongful termination and I kept wondering what stopped me from reporting my boss and if, in retrospect, it was a wise move to say nothing to HR.
You made my day with this post as you articulated what I couldn't quite say to myself.
What some people don't realize is that as you grow in positions of authority so does the racist garbage, the challenges to your authority, the constant need to find fault and blow tiny things out of proportion. The pettiness is so profound.
Thnak you so much - your blog has given me much advice and clarity over the years; especially when I most needed it.
God Bless us all!

5:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have made your blog a link on my FB so others may read and be encouraged to take action. I have two ongoing cases against a federal agency and I have suffered tremendously at the hands of blacks and whites. Tackling the issues of such a gray area for me has been hard. The feds have a long arm and a hand in all aspects of my life (medical, education, employment, communications, etc.). Thank you for this blog

3:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Listen. Like it or not, this is a white country. And if you aren't white, you will ever be the outsider. Deal with it, or leave. I don't care how many generations you have been here. I don't care how much your ancestors suffered. Human nature and American society is not going to change overnight, and it won't even change that much over our lifetimes.

You have to understand this is why people are leery of hiring black employees. Massive chips on their shoulders. Confrontational attitudes and blowing up small things into big ones. Unwilling to go the extra mile. Work sucks for everyone and everyone has to deal with his share of people he doesn't like at work. But for blacks, they leap to assume that it is racial in cause.

I'll tell you that the blacks who have ascended to the highest levels of their careers aren't whiners. Everything I said above they agree entirely and I have come to my views by talking with such people and trying to understand them.

I don't know that I want to do you the favor of letting you in on this secret, because whiners like you annoy me, and I want to see you fail with your losers' attitudes. It's the only way you will learn.

Have you made any assumptions about my race?

A petty and small minded person like you could never guess correctly.

10:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To the Anonymous Post at 10:18:

Wow! What an angry retort. Initially, I was going to write a thoughtful response to your post with the hopes of teaching you a few things. But then I thought, “Why bother, “you people” will never get it. You are not worth the time. And I can tell you exactly what your race is – you are a member of the ignorant race. Just like vermin, our society will never be rid of your kind.


11:29 AM  
Blogger Fighter said...

To Anonymous who posted at 10:18am: You need therapy & I don’t care what race you are. You don’t belong here. Why are you here? GET LOST!

2:06 AM  
Anonymous John Papers said...

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1:53 AM  

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