Monday, November 08, 2010

Labels and Stereotypes - You Getting on My Last Nerve!

As promised, the next (and last) racially-based label and stereotype we will examine is…

You’re Being Difficult

When a Black employee gets the “being difficult” label, one of four things is likely happening:

· The Black person is asking too many questions, which is resented; or

· The Black person is asking for/demanding something that a White person thinks they shouldn’t have or isn’t in the mood to provide them with at that time; or

· The Black person won’t take “no” for an answer to a request they’ve made of someone White (where there is no reasonable justification for receiving a negative response); or

· An African American refuses to tolerate unprofessional non-responsiveness or evasiveness from someone White.

“Being difficult” is often nothing more than a race-neutral way to let a Black worker know that they are stepping out of line and need to fall back in step with the way the company expects and demands they behave.

While, Blacks can’t be whipped in the workplace, like we were whipped in the fields during slavery, we can certainly be whipped/reprimanded/punished through negative implications about our personalities that can be used to justify mistreatment, abuse, and other illegal behaviors by employers and their agents.

Black employees are often told they are “being difficult” by the same employers who:

--tolerate White workers routinely making demands and threats about their work, work environment, etc.; and

--accept Whites shouting, yelling, and engaging in all manner of acting out in the office; and

--ignore Whites who regularly disrespect the chains of command, company protocol, written policies and practices, and rules and standards of professional ethics, etc.

Those behaviors would reasonably qualify someone as “being difficult,” in my estimation.

Well, that pretty much wraps up some of the most common labels I’ve heard used against Blacks in my years of employment. We’ve looked at:

--You’re angry and defensive
--You can’t take criticism
--You’re not a team player
--It looks/sounds like you’re having a party in here
--You’re unapproachable
--You’re too literal
--You’re being difficult

Stay tuned for new posts. I'm back from vacation!


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