Just a suggestion?

At one store where I worked, a superior asked, in what she thought was a very casual way, if I would cut my dreads so I’d look more “clean-cut.” I was like “no, that’s not an option for me, and I don’t think it’s very professional of you to bring that conversation to me.” She said “oh don’t take it the wrong way, I’m just making a suggestion.” I had to explain that I couldn’t understand why this wouldn’t be something sensitive to me. It takes a long time to grow and maintain, and it’s a part of my heritage. I don’t think it was a conversation she felt equipped to have, and it created a fractious relationship with her.
I complained to HR and took a week off. When I came back, they assigned me to another store and had some new people assess me, to try to find ways I was inadequate at my job. It didn’t work, I did fine. But at the end of the day, I quit. It wasn’t the kind of place I wanted to work. I’ve spoken to other black people who’ve had similar situations and they’ve had situations that HR didn’t take seriously.

 

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Can I speak to the manager?

Where I work, people always ask me if they can speak to the manager. I love to just turn around and be like “I’m here!” They give you that look. Sometimes I even go up to people because another co-worker has called for me, and I say “how can I help you?” and they’re like, “oh, I’m waiting for the manager.” Sometimes they’ll say I look too young to be a manager, or I don’t ‘look like’ a manager. What is a manager supposed to look like? They all look different to me. I know a lot of the managers in my mall: they’re all different and they’re all pretty young.

 

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Not Taken Seriously

Following a racial incident that happened to me at work, I made a complaint to management. They sent out a very general e-mail to all staff about racial sensitivity. It was OK with me that they kept it general, since I didn’t want to have to confront the person involved in the incident directly. Later, though, I overheard two white co-workers talking about it. “What’s this the manager sent out about race sensitivity?” one of them said dismissively. “Oh, it must have been so-and-so, she must have been in the back running her mouth again,” pinning it on another Black co-worker who they don’t really like. I spoke up and said that in fact, it had been me who had made the complaint, that I had heard something the day before in the back room that was very disrespectful. They were like “oh, ok.” To this day though, no one knows what the original incident was. The manager put the onus on me, telling me I could take it to HR if I wanted anything more done about it.

 

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Is that a joke?

A few weeks ago I was on break with a few people at work. I walked in on a conversation where 2 people people, “Betty” and “Anne” were talking about a new staff worker, “Jenn.” Betty is white and has been in an interracial relationship for a long time; her children are black. She mentioned that when her daughter had come by work recently Jenn had looked at her funny. Betty said she was sure it was because of racial tension.

Anne said “you must see racism a lot, being in an interracial relationship.” Betty agreed. Anne then added “yeah, ’cause you’re a nigger-lover, right?”

Betty then said “oh I remember that.” It turns out Anne was quoting a client they had both dealt with before, who was quite racist and who had used that word. Anne said that another co-worker had found that client funny.

I said that it wasn’t funny at all. There was nothing funny about it. It put me in a shell. She shouldn’t have repeated the client’s comment. It was insensitive to say that kind of thing in the first place, whether you’re repeating what someone else had said or not. This after being the same person who says “you must experience so much racism”!

 

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