I heard this from a co-worker:
“Sometimes I’ll talk to someone I don’t know on the phone. Later when I meet them they say ‘you don’t sound Black.’ I answer, ‘what does Black sound like?”
A long time ago when I was a student at Dalhousie, one of my professors brought in a guest lecturer for one of his classes. He was a graduate student and he was Black. He gave a great lecture and he acted very friendly and cool with the students.
A week or so later I had to go see my professor about something, so I went to his office. When I went in to his building the professor wasn’t there, but the graduate student was. I smiled when I saw him and said “hey, what’s up?” as though I was speaking to a friend. He gave me a cold stare and said “can I help you.” I mumbled I was looking for my professor but I’d come back later.
He made me feel a bit stupid, but good on him. I thought about it after and realized I probably wouldn’t have talked to him like that if he hadn’t been Black. When I talked to other lecturers I was more polite without even really thinking about it.
My team member, a tech who is Black, was working at an office after hours–in uniform and with company identified equipment. The janitor came in to clean, and when he saw my Black employee he dodged around and refused to respond to a “hello.”
When my crew was leaving 15 minutes later 3 cars with 8 guys came into the parking lot and a voice called out, “hey you, we want to talk to you.” My tech was by himself in a dark business park and afraid for his safety. He left his equipment on the curb, jumped in the car and drove to the police department and made a report. The police did not follow up with me or the client office.
I reported this to the client by voicemail and email immediately and called the next morning. They called the janitorial company and it was discovered as a “misunderstanding”–the janitor had been surprised and called his boss, and a gang came over to rescue him.
I asked to meet with them to talk about it and to get an apology but they wanted to sweep it under the carpet and wouldn’t meet. My tech was angry and felt vulnerable. People didn’t see the uniform or the company equipment. They didn’t ask the basic question of how he got the security access to be there. All they saw was a big Black man, although no one would use the words.
I worked for a government agency for 10 years from 1989-1999. I was met daily with racial slurs, anti-Black literature on the hallway walls. Accosted by a co-worker in front of the manager and ended up with a bloody nose. Threats of violence towards me daily and this caused the ruination of my family.
After going to the Employee Assistance Program counsellor and mediation twice (which cost 20 thousand dollars each time) nothing was solved. One day my wife called to say she was dropping of the kids at work since she worked in the same establishment. I came back from lunch to find an entire month’s supply of stock waiting for me. I went ballistic and said some unsavoury things. This was my demise as someone overheard me and ran to the manager.
I worked for a large employer in Halifax since 1971. In the 1980’s I had this supervisor who was a bully and everyone was afraid of her. She started picking on me and I stood up for my rights. It was so bad that I started nodding of at work and she had co-workers following me to the washroom. I was suspended for sleeping on the job. I then got tested and was diagnosed with narcolepsy.
After the diagnosis the suspension was taken off my employment record and I was given one week’s pay. During that time harassment in the workplace came into being. All employees were given the intro. I stayed behind and asked the people if what I was going through would be considered harassment and they said yes.They took my case and the two supervisors had to write me a letter of apology. My immediate supervisor did not, and she was on sick leave and did not return.
It was like I was blacklisted after that because I was not able to work until my 30 years to receive a full pension. I took my case to federal Human Rights and won, but they were not able to give me financial compensation. I am still suffering from the treatment that was done to me, and no one had to pay for it.
A student came into my class and told me another teacher had made stereotypical comments about Black students to her whole class. There was only one Black student in the class at the time. The student said she tried to say something but it was hard to know what to say because it was the teacher.
I was so angry. I told our supervisor, even though the other teacher is my colleague. He said he’d deal with it. I don’t really know what he did. I don’t know if the other teacher apologized to the class, or even brought it up again. I imagine not. Now all those other kids will be able to hold those stereotypes about Black students because their teacher validated them.
I think the other teacher suspects that I’m the one who brought the issue to the supervisor. I don’t care.