Friday, October 29, 2010

Labels and Stereotypes Decoded!

For this post about labels and stereotypes at work, I am not saying that there aren’t any African Americans who don’t fall into these categories. There are. But, probably to a lesser degree than their White counterparts—based on sheer numbers and history.

African Americans grow up under racism. It doesn’t mean we walk around as victims. Our history in this country shows great amounts of courage, perseverance, and triumph. But, it does mean that have learned how to assimilate into “mainstream” society and part of that assimilation means learning how to cooperate with those in authority, particularly those in a position to affect your livelihood and cause you financial harm. We completely understand living under double-standards and act accordingly, so as not to jeopardize our existence.

So, let’s take a look at a few of the labels and stereotypes and how they are used against African Americans in the workplace.

You’re Angry and Defensive

Being labeled “angry and defensive” seems to be the catchall phrase for Whites who don’t know what to do with a Black person--legitimately. You see, they can’t criticize your work or they would simply do so. Therefore, they resort to criticizing your ability to contribute to a so-called collegial and friendly atmosphere at work. They can’t say you’re a bad worker, so they’ll just say you’re a “personality problem.”

When you’ve gotten this label, somehow, you’ve caused Whites to think that you can’t be controlled or there is a need for Whites to control some aspect of your employment that presents “an issue.” Whatever the reason for this label, you’re now the Nat Turner of the workforce and they must put a stop to you.

If you are a hard worker, pay attention to detail, and are excelling at your job—and you’ve been called angry and defensive—you may have done something right, such as:

· telling someone not to be disrespectful to you and to treat you in a fair manner;

· asking too many questions, which someone couldn’t answer or just resented you asking;

· correcting a misimpression made by a White person, such as the true reason a problem was caused on a project;

· asking for a raise or promotion based on your work output and performance;

· professionally confronting someone who was making false statements about you, such as blaming you for something you didn’t do;

· standing up to racism on the job;

· complaining to authorities about mistreatment or misconduct (Human Resources, etc.); or

· saying “no” to a White coworker.

Once you do any of these things, you should be on your guard. The name-calling will begin!! Even if you don’t hear about it to your face, a campaign to slander your reputation may be underway. But, people in the workplace are much slicker than they used to be. When people put enough forethought into their stereotype-driven allegations, they can avoid the racially loaded label of calling you names like “angry and defensive” by, instead, calling you:

· irate
· pissed
· confrontational
· sensitive
· touchy
· snooty
· moody
· not nice
· rude
· unable to take constructive criticism

Have you ever been called one of these names? If so, how many Whites have done the same thing you did or said the same thing you said? Did any of those people get called into a meeting or labeled as having negative personality traits?

Didn’t think so!

The next post, about the Black Factor in the workplace, will deal with the stereotype that Blacks can’t take constructive criticism.


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Going Away...for a Little While!

Well, the time is finally here for my Southern Caribbean cruise. I've got some great ports of call and simply can't wait! I won't have any original posts from Friday until November 8th.

While I'm gone, I'll have some reprints of previous posts just to keep the blog going.

Until November, take care and stay strong. Peace and Blessings!

Monday, October 25, 2010

This is non-work related but vitally important. So much damage can be done to if Obama loses the House & Senate. Don't sit this out--FIGHT & VOTE!
We have to turn out at the polls on Nov 4th. So much is at stake. Your income & healthcare may be at risk! What will you lose? Listen to the issues & stand up!
GET OUT & VOTE in mid-term elections. Republicans are talking about lowering minimum wage, repealing health care & other madness. The results impact your life!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Color Discrimination


Title VII prohibits employment discrimination because of “color” as a basis separately listed in the statute. The statute does not define “color.” The courts and the Commission read “color” to have its commonly understood meaning – pigmentation, complexion, or skin shade or tone. Thus, color discrimination occurs when a person is discriminated against based on the lightness, darkness, or other color characteristic of the person. Even though race and color clearly overlap, they are not synonymous. Thus, color discrimination can occur between persons of different races or ethnicities, or between persons of the same race or ethnicity.


James, a light-complexioned African American, has worked as a waiter at a restaurant for over a year. His manager, a brown-complexioned African American, has frequently made offensive comments and jokes about James’s skin color, causing him to lose sleep and dread coming in to work. James’s requests that the conduct stop only intensified the abuse. James has been subjected to harassment in the form of a hostile work environment, based on his color.


Melanie, a brown-complexioned Latina, works as a sales clerk for a major department store. She applies for a promotion to be the Counter Manager for a major line of beauty products, but the employer denies her the promotion because the vendor prefers a “light skinned representative” to manage its product line at this particular location. The employer has unlawfully discriminated on the basis of color.

More race based discrimination cases are filed with the EEOC than color discrimination claims.


Thursday, October 21, 2010

What is Race Discrimination?

Title VII prohibits employer actions that discriminate, by motivation or impact, against persons because of race. Title VII does not contain a definition of “race,” nor has the Commission adopted one. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has provided the following five racial categories: American Indian or Alaska Native; Asian; Black or African American; Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander; and White; and one ethnicity category, Hispanic or Latino. OMB has made clear that these categories are “social-political constructs . . . and should not be interpreted as being genetic, biological, or anthropological in nature.”

Title VII’s prohibition of race discrimination generally encompasses:

Ancestry: Employment discrimination because of racial or ethnic ancestry. Discrimination against a person because of his or her ancestry can violate Title VII’s prohibition against race discrimination. Note that there can be considerable overlap between “race” and “national origin,” but they are not identical. For example, discrimination against a Chinese American might be targeted at her Asian ancestry and not her Chinese national origin. In that case, she would have a claim of discrimination based on race, not national origin.

Physical Characteristics: Employment discrimination based on a person’s physical characteristics associated with race, such as a person’s color, hair, facial features, height and weight.

Race-linked Illness: Discrimination based on race-linked illnesses. For example, sickle cell anemia is a genetically-transmitted disease that affects primarily persons of African descent. Other diseases, while not linked directly to race or ethnicity, may nevertheless have a disproportionate impact. For example, Native Hawaiians have a disproportionately high incidence of diabetes. If the employer applies facially neutral standards to exclude treatment for conditions or risks that disproportionately affect employees on the basis of race or ethnicity, the employer must show that the standards are based on generally accepted medical criteria.

Culture: Employment discrimination because of cultural characteristics related to race or ethnicity. Title VII prohibits employment discrimination against a person because of cultural characteristics often linked to race or ethnicity, such as a person’s name, cultural dress and grooming practices, or accent or manner of speech. For example, an employment decision based on a person having a so-called “Black accent,” or “sounding White,” violates Title VII if the accent or manner of speech does not materially interfere with the ability to perform job duties.

Perception: Employment discrimination against an individual based on a belief that the individual is a member of a particular racial group, regardless of how the individual identifies himself. Discrimination against an individual based on a perception of his or her race violates Title VII even if that perception is wrong.

Association: Employment discrimination against an individual because of his/her association with someone of a particular race. For example, it is unlawful to discriminate against a White person because he or she is married to an African American or has a multiracial child, or because he or she maintains friendships or otherwise associates with persons of a certain race.

Subgroup or “Race Plus”: Title VII prohibits discrimination against a subgroup of persons in a racial group because they have certain attributes in addition to their race. Thus, for example, it would violate Title VII for an employer to reject Black women with preschool age children, while not rejecting other women with preschool age children.

“Reverse” Race Discrimination: Title VII prohibits race discrimination against all persons, including Caucasians. A plaintiff may prove a claim of discrimination through direct or circumstantial evidence. Some courts, however, take the position that if a White person relies on circumstantial evidence to establish a reverse discrimination claim, he or she must meet a heightened standard of proof. The Commission, in contrast, applies the same standard of proof to all race discrimination claims, regardless of the victim’s race or the type of evidence used. In either case, the ultimate burden of persuasion remains always on the plaintiff.


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

LEGAL BRIEF: Austin Foam Plastics Pays $600,000 To Settle EEOC Harassment Suit

Managers Engaged in Race and Female-on-Male Sex Harassment, Then Fired One Employee for Complaining, Federal Agency Charged

AUSTIN - Austin Foam Plastics, Inc., a producer and distributor of corrugated box and cushion packaging, will pay $600,000 to settle a racial harassment, sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced on October 15th.

The EEOC's lawsuit (Civil Action No. A-09-CA-180-LY) charged Austin Foam with violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by subjecting African-American employees to a racially hostile work environment, subjecting two male employees to a sexually hostile work environment and discharging one employee for opposing and reporting the misconduct.

The EEOC said that the harassment included black employees being routinely subjected to discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, insults, racially offensive comments and jokes, cartoons and images which denigrated African-Americans. The EEOC also charged that a female manager sexually harassed male employees by subjecting them to unwelcome sexual comments and unsolicited physical contact of a sexual nature and that she conditioned more favorable terms of employment on acquiescence to her sexual advances and overtures.

Sexual harassment, racial harassment and retaliation all violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement. The remedies sought by the EEOC include back pay, compensatory damages, and punitive damages for the victims, as well as injunctive relief.

“The law requires employers to take reasonable steps to prevent and to correct racial and sexual harassment,” said David Rivela, senior trial attorney for the EEOC's San Antonio Field Office. “In addition, the law requires that employers refrain from retaliating against employees who oppose discriminatory conduct. The EEOC will continue to aggressively prosecute cases where employees are subjected to this kind of unlawful treatment in the workplace.”

Judith G. Taylor, supervisory trial attorney of the EEOC's San Antonio Field Office, added, “The EEOC is pleased that AFP has agreed to adopt and implement measures, such as training, to prevent future incidents of racial and sexual harassment.”

Race discrimination has been the most frequent type of charge filed with the EEOC since the agency's opening in 1965. In fiscal year 2009, more than 33,000 charges of race discrimination were filed with EEOC offices nationwide. Further, there were over 1,500 sexual harassment charges filed by males in fiscal year 2009.

The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination. Further information is available at


Monday, October 18, 2010

Got caught in the NY hailstorm last week & feel like I'm on death's door--each day worse than the one before. Will post tomorrow. Have a blessed day!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

LEGAL BRIEF: Settlement in Case of Retaliation for Complaining of a Racially Hostile Work Environment

Mike Enyart & Sons Will Pay $87,205 to Settle EEOC Race Discrimination and Retaliation Lawsuit

Construction Company Fired Black Employee Because He Complained About Racial Harassment, Federal Agency Charged

BECKLEY, W.V. – A South Point, Ohio-based construction company will pay $87,205 in lost wages and punitive damages and furnish significant remedial relief to settle a federal race discrimination and retaliation lawsuit, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced on October 6th. The EEOC had charged that Mike Enyart & Sons, Inc. discharged Mareo R. Allen in retaliation for his complaints about a racially hostile work environment.

The EEOC contended that a foreman and co-workers repeatedly used racially offensive epithets and slurs to Allen and other black persons when Allen worked for the company on a sewer line installation project in White Sulphur Springs, W.V. The harassment included physically threatening and intimidating actions, such as cutting Allen’s belt with a knife while Allen was wearing it and showing him a swastika that had been spray-painted onto company equipment, the EEOC said in its lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia, Civil Action No. 5:09-CV-00921. The EEOC also alleged that Allen was terminated in retaliation for his opposition to the racial harassment.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits harassment based on race. Title VII also prohibits employers from retaliating against an employee who opposes racial harassment or discrimination. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement out of court through its conciliation process.

In addition to the $87,205 in monetary relief to Allen, the five-year consent decree resolving the lawsuit enjoins Mike Enyart & Sons from engaging in discrimination or harassment based on race or retaliation in violation of the Title VII. The company will offer to hire Allen as a laborer for the first available position after the consent decree takes effect. The consent decree mandates that Mike Enyart & Sons will implement and disseminate policies prohibiting discrimination, harassment and retaliation and set up procedures for receiving and investigating discrimination complaints. The company must provide training on Title VII to all supervisors and managers and an additional eight hours of training on investigating and taking corrective action regarding discrimination complaints to all employees with those job responsibilities. The company is required to report to the EEOC about the company’s response to any complaints of alleged harassment or discrimination and post a remedial notice.

“We commend Mike Enyart & Sons for working cooperatively with the EEOC to reach a speedy and satisfactory resolution to this lawsuit,” said Regional Attorney Debra Lawrence of the EEOC’s Philadelphia District Office, which oversees Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Delaware, Maryland, and parts of New Jersey and Ohio. “The consent decree includes significant equitable relief that will benefit all company employees.”

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

LEGAL BRIEF: Lord! They Even Discriminate At the Booty Bar!

Papermoon Strip Club to Pay $95,000 to Settle EEOC Race Discrimination Lawsuit

Black Employees Subjected to Racism; White Co-Workers Punished for Complaining, Federal Agency Charged

MIAMI – The owners/operators of a Stuart, Fla., strip club will pay $95,000 and furnish other relief to settle a race discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced on October 7th. The EEOC had charged that Papermoon-Stuart, Inc., and Imaginary Images, Inc., a Richmond, Va., parent corporation, violated federal law when they subjected two black doormen to racial harassment, segregation, and differing terms and conditions of employment. The company also retaliated against white employees who complained, the EEOC said.

According to the EEOC’s suit, managers at the Papermoon club in Stuart referred to black employees using offensive racial slurs, forced black employees to work in the back of the club instead of at the club entrance, and complained that “black music makes the club look bad.” According to the suit, company managers did not stop the harassment, but instead either forced out or fired white employees who opposed the abusive conduct.

In addition to monetary damages in the amount of $95,000, the 30-month consent decree resolving the case (EEOC v. Papermoon-Stuart, Inc. and Imaginary Images, Inc., d/b/a Papermoon, Case No. 0:09-cv-14316-Martinez/Lynch, filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, Ft. Pierce Division) includes injunctive relief enjoining the company from engaging in further race discrimination; requires the posting of a notice about the settlement; and obligates the company to conduct training and to report information about race discrimination complaints it receives to the EEOC for monitoring.

“It is important for employers to recognize that this type of racial discrimination has no place in the modern workplace,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Robert Weisberg. “Employers must treat employees of all races with dignity.”

EEOC Trial Attorney Kaleb Kasperson said, “Employers must take swift action to assure that their workplace is free from racially offensive conduct. The law requires that the workplace be free from this type of blatant racism and segregation.”

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Always take opportunities to truthfully & professionally discuss sensitive issues. Provide examples so you're not making blanket statements. Discuss the impact!
Had a meeting at work to discuss concerns about managers. Coworkers were very honest & corporate wasn't defensive. Step 1! Now we need fixes or replacements!!!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Working overtime this week--really really long days. Too tired to think today. Will post something tomorrow. Thanks for your patience & understanding! SMW

Friday, October 08, 2010

Stripped of Assignments - The Sequel

Here are the rest of the tips for how to handle being stripped of your assignments because of racial targeting, in order to subject you to a hostile work environment or to retaliate against you for complaining of abuse. This follows tips 1-6 in yesterday’s post:

7) See if you can get your hands on departmental work assignment sheets or budgets/charts for your department's projects. These budgets/charts could show the total hours of work available, per contract or client. And, they can prove that there is work for you to do. Even if you can't get your hands on a budget due to access problems, see if you can get a task assignment list. This list may contain staff names and hours per project/client.

8) Keep a copy of all your current timesheets. This is especially helpful if you have to be billable and have to charge hours to specific clients/projects on your timesheets. The breakdown of hours will make it painfully clear that you have had a dramatic change in your work load.

9) If you are asked to use your personal leave or sick leave because your company doesn’t have anything for you to do and you must be billable to a client contract, document your use of leave and document that you had an employer request to use it for that purpose. Send an email to your supervisor saying that you are being instructed to use your personal/sick leave due to a lack of work and not because you are taking leave or are ill.

10) Contact HR. Get documentation of this issue outside of your department. HR should assist your efforts, provide you with guidance/policies, and should have answers to your questions. Get everything with HR in writing. Request an initial meeting in writing and include that you have a sudden lack of work in the subject line of the email or within the body of the email. Express that it is unprecedented for you not to have assignments, if you normally have a full work load. Think of what you will need to have documented so that any third party (e.g., an outside investigating agency or lawyer) will see that you expressed the seriousness of the issue with the proper authorities at your company--in writing.

11) Get a copy of any personnel policies regarding find work and/or a lack of work. My employer added a section to the personnel manual stating that only an employee was responsible for finding work and that management was not required to provide assistance. This was, of course, after they targeted a Black supervisor by taking her work away. They changed the personnel manual to cover their a**es just in case an investigator asked why she wasn’t assisted by management in finding assignments. See if there are any written policies like this at your company.

12) Start a job search, if you feel that you will definitely be let go and this is not just a ploy to superficially threaten your job security. Get written letters of reference, while people may be willing to give you one.

13) If you are going to be laid-off, etc. get the reason for the lay-off in writing. Try to get the specifics of that employment action in writing, even if that means emailing HR staff to get them to commit something to writing that you will later need as evidence. Prepare your official response outlining the fallacies of your employer’s defense of the personnel action.

14) Contact a lawyer, EEOC, etc. regarding your situation.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Have Your Assignments Been Taken Away?

If you’ve become a target at work and/or if you’ve complained of any sort of race-based mistreatment, you may notice that your employers have begun to “circle the wagons around you,” as higher-ups at my former place of employment used to joke.

Often, when a supervisor or a company, as a whole, want to rid themselves of a nuisance employee they will find legitimate means to accomplish the task. The legitimate reason must come across as not having any connection to race or retaliation (e.g., for complaining of mistreatment or inequities in the workplace). They need a pretext without racial overtones.

One of the best excuses, which would appear to be a legitimate issue, is for an employer to accuse a worker of not having enough work to support their position. This lack of work can be the justification for getting rid of the worker through outright firing of the worker, calling the action a “lay-off,” or calling the action a “reduction in force (RIF).” This action presents a good cover story to an external investigator or lawyer. It’s like, “No, we didn’t target her or retaliate against her. We just didn’t have anything for her to do!”

Yeah, right!

The other benefit of targeting an employee with a hostile environment, such as giving them menial tasks and stripping them of their work, is that the employee could feel completely defeated, find another job (or not), and resign. This, along with other factors, could qualify as constructive termination, where any reasonable person would feel the need to leave a job in which their mistreatment became unbearable.

I’ve had a coworker who was stripped of her work and I’ve been targeted in this fashion myself. In fact, after my sudden lack of work, I had a supervisor tell me she was scared for me because “you know how they do with lay-offs.”

Here are some tips for anyone who suddenly finds they have nothing to do and an employer breathing down their neck about their lack of work:

1) Document your sudden lack of work! Send your supervisor and the director of your department/unit regular emails documenting that you are looking for work. Yes, your employer could use the email to support their false contention that you had nothing to do and they were forced to get rid of you. But, for your sake, and for evidence to provide to an outside agency (e.g., EEOC, OHR, etc.) or a lawyer, you will need documentation that shows that you suddenly had a lack of work and that you notified your management about the issue.

2) Document your previous workload! Collect your timesheets, staff work schedules, etc. that will show that you had a steady work load prior to being targeted or filing a complaint. This will present evidence supporting your argument that after being targeted, you were punished/retaliated against by having your assignments taken away. Collect timesheets for the past couple of years, if you can. You want to show a long-term history of having work to do.

3)Document the work load of other staff! This includes documenting the work load of your supervisor’s other subordinates and documenting the work load of other staff throughout the company, who are in the same or similar jobs to the position you hold. Ask around. See if anyone else is out of work. If everyone else is working and you aren’t, it supports your case that you are being isolated and targeted for abuse.

4) Take extensive notes at departmental meetings! Many employees must attend weekly staff meetings. Work assignments are often discussed, everyone takes a turn talking about what they are doing, new or anticipated projects are described, etc. Take note of how much work is available in your department and contrast that with the fact that you are being told there’s nothing for you to work on. Take notes about what other staff say they are currently working on.

5) Request assignments at these weekly meetings to create a group of witnesses to substantiate your claims that you were actively seeking work! If you don’t have weekly meetings, ask your supervisor for work in the presence of other staff. Create a list of who was present, when you’ve requested work, and present this witness list as evidence.

6) Find your own work and document your efforts to do so! Contact managers/staff in other departments to see if they have assignments you can work on. If your supervisor, HR or anyone else with authority in the company takes you off these new assignments, you will have more evidence that there is an orchestrated effort to keep you from having work. Finding your own assignments also shows that your supervisor, etc. could have found you work…if they really wanted to do so!

If you are coming across a lot of people who have a full work load and can share work with you, that can be evidence of a wider campaign to isolate you and run you out of your job. This is especially true if these people are of the same level/classification as you.

If you are running across a network of managers claiming they don’t have any extra work in their departments, you may also be able to use this as an example of how you are being shut down on a company-wide level.

One of my coworkers could not get a single higher-up or manager at our company to respond to her requests for work because the word had been spread by HR and management that she wasn’t to receive any assistance from anywhere in the company. This lack of response was used as evidence against our employer, who was later found guilty of retaliating against her by the Office of Human Rights.

More tips on Friday!

LEGAL BRIEF: You're a "Welfare Mother"

La Quinta And Best Western Sued For Harassment

EEOC Says Manager Verbally Abused Female Employees for Reasons of Race, Sex, Pregnancy and Religion

SEATTLE — Hotel group Pacific Hospitality violated federal law when it permitted a general manager to harass a group of female employees working at La Quinta-Federal Way and Best Western Tacoma Dome, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it announced today.

The federal agency alleged the general manager ridiculed employees, made demeaning comments about women in general and at least one African-American mother in particular and belittled employees for their faith in God. For example, he called Jennifer Watson, an African-American employed as a front desk clerk at La Quinta-Federal Way, a ‘welfare mother’ and implied that she should abort her pregnancy, according to the EEOC. Operations Manager Dana Miller and other female employees at the Best Western Tacoma Dome faced inappropriate comments about their physical appearance and personal lives, as wells as intimidation through yelling, fist pounding and graphic threats of physical violence. Many employees at both hotels felt they had no option but to quit, the EEOC said.

Harassment of employees based on their race, sex, pregnancy or religion violates Title VII of Civil Rights Act of 1964. After first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement through conciliation, the EEOC filed the lawsuit (EEOC v. Pacific Hospitality, LLC, formerly d/b/a La Quinta Inn Federal Way and Seasons Hotel, d/b/a Best Western Tacoma Dome Hotel, CV-10-5715-BHS) in U.S. District Court for the District of Washington, and seeks monetary damages on behalf of Watson, Miller and other female victims, training on anti-discrimination laws, posting of notices at the work site and other injunctive relief.

“This manager’s unchecked abuse of power devastated the lives of workers in two workplaces, and interfered with their ability to provide for themselves and their families,” said Luis Lucero, director for the EEOC’s Seattle Field Office, which investigated this case. “ By law, employers must protect their workers and take responsibility for the actions of their management.”

“No one should be forced to choose between personal dignity and their livelihood,” said EEOC San Francisco Regional Attorney William R. Tamayo, whose office has jurisdiction over Washington State. “The EEOC will vigorously champion the right of all workers to a workplace free from discrimination and harassment.”

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Additional information about the EEOC is available on its web site at


Monday, October 04, 2010

QUICK TIP: If you're under attack at work, control your mood by surrounding yourself with pics of your family, art from your kids or whatever makes you smile.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Labels and Stereotypes - There's a Party Over Here!

The last post, which continued our examination of workplace labels and stereotypes, dealt with the accusation against some Blacks that we are not team players. As promised, the next racist stereotype and label we will discuss is…

It Looks/Sounds like You’re Having a Party in Here

A Black person can be writing on a flip chart, sitting with handouts in their lap, have papers spread across the floor, and clearly be conversing about work, HOWEVER, if they are in a meeting with one or more other African Americans, someone White will inevitably say…

It looks or sounds like you’re having a party in here!

Apparently, if you’re in the office and you hear Black folks talking about budgets, conferences, proposals, reports, project specifics, work-related travel, etc., just go ahead and break out the latest CD by Drake. ‘Cause the Negroes are fixin’ to party up in hiz-ere.

Conversely, when white workers are standing in the hallway or in someone’s office hootin’ and hollering about True Blood…it’s all about business. It’s just teambuilding and the fostering of a collegial environment! Evidently, the longer Whites stand around chit-chatting and gossiping, the stronger the company becomes.

I’ll never forget being in a meeting, in my office (my nerve!), with an African American coworker. The door was open. My coworker was seated by the door. She was asking for my help on a budget for a conference. We were talking about what costs I would need, where she could track down the figures, what vendors could give her estimates, etc. She’d never had to pull together a budget before and I was walking her through the process.

I see a White coworker walking to my office door every 5 minutes and turning around with this pissed expression every time she saw this coworker still seated in my office. My meeting with this person lasted about 30 minutes. So, when it’s done, the White coworker comes back and asks me if I could keep my “personal conversations” relegated to my lunch hour because she was repeatedly trying to get my help.

Yes, she did.

If there was a caption over my head, it would have read, “Heifer, if you don’t get your butt up out of my office…” Instead, I simply informed my coworker that I was “discussing project work and I’m pretty sure you heard the conversation every time you came to my door.” What was her response?

“Oh, but you were laughing.”

So, I looked at her like she was crazy and asked what that meant. Her response?

“Well, it just seemed like you were having such a good time.”

So, I asked, “So, because I get along with my coworkers and my coworkers get along with me and we can work in a way that we have a pleasant and friendly environment, you think we’re having a personal conversation and aren’t doing work—even though you can hear the conversation?” She didn’t respond.

So, I asked “Well, what did you want?” And, she said, “It’s not important. I already had what I was looking for.” Yes, she did. After all that, and accusing me of having a good time, when I was actually working, which is a knock against my reputation, the “woman” found what she misplaced! Instead of being angry that she lost something in her own office, she wanted to pervert the issue into me being unavailable to help her and to use it as an opportunity to say that I was engaged in a long, non-work-related chit-chat/party.

This is the way the workplace game goes. This racist let her preconceived ideas dictate a false reality, which this same person later shared with my supervisor. I barely had much interaction with this person, but she just had to share, based on this one encounter, that I have too many chit-chats in my office. Of course, I was accused of being too conversational. “This is work.” “You need to focus.” All based on the word of one White woman making an accusation. I asked who else was accusing me of this behavior. Blank face…no response. I showed my supervisor the budget notes from the meeting…didn’t matter. A White woman had spoken and my supervisor had picked a side and she wasn’t going to change her mind.

This is a harsh reality for many Black workers. Congregating with other colored people will often bring all sorts of negative connotations that can hamper your career and impact your performance reviews.

The next label and stereotype we will examine is…

You’re “Unapproachable”

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