Tough Reality About Racism in the Workplace
You only have to talk to Black workers to realize how many of us feel that our careers are often intentionally stifled by those we work with. Sometimes I wonder exactly how many African Americans have been held back, railroaded, and marginalized simply because of our race. I think the answer is far more people than we will ever know. I mean, how do you calculate the number of White managers or supervisors that have not promoted Black staff or given Black staff the same consideration and benefits that White workers routinely receive?
Some Whites would probably say, “That’s sounds like a cop out. Maybe some Blacks just don’t work hard to get what they want.” But, that’s what I expect someone to say when they are the beneficiary of White privilege.
White privilege is the polar opposite of The Black Factor. White privilege is a positive. The Black Factor is a negative. And, much of what goes on in corporate America has to do with these shallow and inappropriate ways of handling issues, evaluating people, examining situations, and making decisions.
White privilege allows you to believe that anyone who hasn’t achieved a certain level of success didn’t do so because they had no desire to succeed and, therefore, really didn’t try hard enough. White privilege allows you to tell someone, with a straight face, that all they have to do is work harder and longer hours than anyone else and that everything else will fall into place. White privilege allows you to not be truthful to yourself or others about the reality of preferential treatment.
Preferential treatment comes from those in power to those they designate as recipients of that power. Far too often, those recipients typically don’t come with a Black face. People choose to associate with those that are like themselves or those who they believe will “fit in.” In corporate America, when all things are equal, nothing is ever equal. So, when someone’s up for a promotion and a White manager has to choose between a White employee and an African American employee, and all things are equal regarding qualifications, years of experience, technical expertise, etc., many White managers are going to select the White employee for the promotion. They’d have to fight human nature, and any personal biases they may have or stereotypes they believe, in order to do the opposite.
Some White people don’t seem to get or want to accept the reality that there are different sets of rules for different people. But that’s the privilege of White privilege. White privilege allows you to believe that everyone has an equal shot to succeed in this country, despite this country’s horrid racial history and current social and economic issues that impact minorities living in America today.
White privilege allows you to become the judge, jury, and, should you choose it, the executioner, of others. White privilege allows you to provide conflicting reasons for your words and actions and to expect that others will accept the contradictions without question. White privilege is the ultimate privilege, hence bliss, because it is the cornerstone that keeps your world afloat—this belief that you are innately superior to everyone around you.
I’ll give you an example of White privilege in action. I’ve worked in Human Resources on a couple of jobs. More than once, I’ve been told that we were placing employment ads, but only as legality. If I received any applications or resumes, I was told to place them in a file with a copy of the employment ad and to tuck them away in a file cabinet. No one was going to be interviewed because someone had already been picked for the position. And, it was usually a friend or the friend of a friend of someone currently working at the company. Yes, they were always White. These people had the job before walking in the door. The interview was a mere formality. Repeat this in how many workplaces and tell me how many other applicants ever had a crack at employment?
It must be nice to have a system rally around your effort to find gainful employment. Most of us wouldn’t know anything about that. Nevertheless, many Americans actually question why affirmative action has been needed in America. They can brag about the system hooking them up, in one breath, and then argue that African Americans and other minorities should have to earn their way into the system, in the next breath. This is despite the free pass that many of them have used and despite systematic racism and other social factors.
For African Americans, hard work, experience, intelligence and other factors don’t automatically translate into success. The Black Factor prevents many African Americans from becoming mid-level managers, executives or even entrepreneurs. People pretend there’s no such thing as White privilege and preferential treatment. But, we all know—deep down—that lots of things people receive (from jobs to qualifying for home and business loans) were acquired because they just happened to be the right color or class.
What’s my point?
Never! That’s what the racist wants. So, don’t give them that victory.
The point is that it’s not always about you. It’s often about other people’s bullshit and baggage. The Black Factor is their issue. It’s an issue people force on you…another standard they hold you to. It’s tempting to wonder what you’re doing wrong. It’s tempting to think that other people are inherently superior to you, that they’re always smarter than you are.
But, it’s important to remember that everything people receive, they didn’t always earn. They didn’t necessarily get “it” because they were smarter than you or more talented than you. They didn’t necessarily get something because they played the game better than you.
Sometimes people are just lucky, sometimes they had that hook-up, and sometimes they were the “right” color. Regardless of whatever lines are fed to you about some shortcoming on your part, keep working hard, find ways to improve, and keep striving to do better—for you!
Don’t internalize other people’s bullshit.
Don’t beat yourself up.
You’re not inferior.
Control what is within your power to control.
Fight for what you’ve earned and...
Don’t give it away by giving people ammunition to use against you!