Don't Let Whites In The Workplace Tell You How You Should Feel!
This isn’t about opinion. No, this is about White workers literally telling a Black person they should or shouldn’t feel a certain way about racially insensitive comments, actions, etc. For instance, let’s say a White worker makes a racist and insensitive comment. Black workers complain and are told by Whites that they, “…shouldn’t feel that way (or take it that way).” Or, they may be told outright, to “not be so sensitive.” This completely disregards the feelings of the Black workers and actually marginalizes the workers with the assumption that they aren’t even smart enough to interpret routine day-to-day communication, standard English (normally their first language), and racist insults or actions.
I’ve experienced this myself—more than once. For instance, I’ve been told (by an HR rep and 2 supervisors) that the only reason I took racist actions “that way” was because I was an emotional person and that I was overreacting to the situation based on my “state.” I was also told that I had a high level of stress. I was told that my stress—and not the actions—were causing problems for EVERYONE at work.
So, not only was I being told that I couldn’t I understand how I felt, but I was told my feelings were faulty from the get go! Not only that, but my feelings were causing issues for Whites throughout the company! I even received the lowest ratings on my performance evaluation for upsetting the chain of command with my alleged hysterics.
Well, that trick only works on the weak minded. I know how I feel. I know that I’m not a sensitive person. I know that I wasn’t jumping to any conclusions. And, I know that an initial probe of my allegations, by an outside State agency, revealed at least 2 incidents of illegal misconduct against me. The investigation is still currently ongoing.
So, my advice to every Black reader is to remember that YOU KNOW WHEN YOU ARE EXPERIENCING RACISM! So, don’t let other people tell you how you should feel about:
--being called by a racial slur;
--being compared to a jungle beast or some other creature;
--being on the receiving end of racially insensitive remarks or comments;
--being disrespected, demeaned and ignored or marginalized based on race or race-based stereotypes;
--receiving extra scrutiny and criticism because of your race; or
-- having someone White using employment actions to harass you and to create a hostile work environment because of your race.
Some people come right out and say what's on their minds--no matter how negative or offensive the comments are. But, others are more covert. Nevertheless, your powers of observation, your listening skills, and your life experiences let you know when a person is behaving a certain way—universally (regardless of race)—and when they only behave a certain way, when dealing with Black workers. For instance, there may be a White worker that is only extremely rude and demeaning, when they must work with Blacks. Any other time, this person is the post card version of a socially acceptable and professional employee.
Or, you have a manager that goes out of their way to get training opportunities for White subordinates, to fight for great assignments for White subordinates, to fight for promotions for White subordinates, and to fight for big salary increases for White subordinates. The only problem is that this same White manager will do NONE of those things for their Black subordinates. In fact, this manager may go out of his/her way to criticize their Black subordinates, to keep them performing the same work at the same responsibility level, etc. The only employees this White manager champions for are those that are the same race as him/her! And, in this example, that’s all you would need to know to see there’s an issue on your job.
And, that gets back to my point. You know how a comment or action makes you feel, how it has changed your work environment, how it has impacted your career, salary, etc. So, don’t let people impose a false reality on you. Don’t allow someone to tell you what you must think or must feel about something. Your feelings may be dead on and this person may be simply trying to protect themselves, a coworker, a person in authority or the company—as a whole.
Everyone thinks in lawsuit terms these days. Unfortunately, many White workers will defend a White perpetrator, will say they don’t know anything about an incident to avoid involvement, may lie to protect the company or engage in other behavior that serves to protect their own interests. People have families. They are usually not going to lay down their careers for someone, especially someone of another race. That can be said about many of us!
I just want to drill home the point that a White coworker could have any number of motives for trying to dictate how you should feel about a race-based incident (company loyalty, sympathizing with the perpetrator, seeking reward/benefit for their actions, etc.)
When a White person is telling you how you should feel, what is it really based on? They haven’t experienced the trials and tribulations of being Black in America. They can relate to you as a person, with certain general and shared experiences, but they can’t relate to you on race. So, how can a White person dictate to you how you should feel or respond to a race-based incident? They can’t!! Whether they agree with your position about racism at work or not isn’t the issue. They can empathize with you, but a White person can never cry your tears or feel your pain because of race-based trauma caused at work.
So, don’t enable a White person to potentially talk you out of pursuing a race-based issue at work. I don’t care how cool this White person seems to be, I don’t care if they date Blacks or other minorities, I don’t care if they have Black adopted siblings, if they seem to have your best interests at heart/seem sincere, etc. You shouldn’t be getting input on how you should feel about a race-based issue—one way or another—from someone White! But, if you do have that conversation, keep it in proper perspective.
Don’t let someone cover up possibly illegal behavior. If you want to ignore an incident or comment or personnel action, that’s up to you. Just don’t pretend it’s not what it is!
You’re an adult. You’ve been Black all your life. Your red flags will go up, when you’re dealing with suspected race-based issues. Don’t ignore the cues. Racists at work only continue with their behavior because so many Black workers will allow some White worker or manager to talk us out of our legitimate feelings, will tell us we’re overreacting, will tell us we are sensitive, will convince us to ignore warning signs or will tell us they’ll deal with an issue “behind the scenes” or will speak to the racist individual “privately.”
You know how you feel. But, you should also know the guidelines in the personnel manual for employee conduct and for preventing and correcting problem behavior—active racism being one of them. You should also stay informed about Federal laws regarding misconduct, discrimination, harassment, etc. Only by knowing your rights will you know whether your feelings are signs of a much bigger issue at work!