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.
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”!