Before we get started, I will say that there are plenty of my corporate colleagues who are not racists. Some of them are perfectly lovely people whom I count among my close friends. This post does not apply to them. My musing of the day applies to the quasi undercover racists who make offensive comments that many of us feel that we have to ignore and/or absorb angrily (because hitting someone in the head with a stapler is a quick route to arrest and firing. Ain’t nobody got time for that)
Having been in corporate America for a while, I’ve encountered many of the archetypes of corporate racists. Instead of just dealing with their remarks quietly, I enjoy finding ways to apply my inappropriate sense of humor to . . . well . . . fuck with them in much the same passive aggressive manner that they employ (or aggressive aggressive, depending on my mood).
That said, if you’ve stumbled across this blog and you are an undercover (or overt) corporate racist, I’m here to keep you from being victimized by people like me.
- Eliminate the belief that any black person in the office automatically works in the mail room. You would be much better off asking “Are you the new SVP?” rather than saying “Are you the new girl who works the copy machine?”
- We don’t always look the way you think we should based on how we speak, and there’s no need to call attention to that. For example, staring at me incredulously when we meet face-to-face, after having spoken on the phone, while continuing to say “Wow. You look NOTHING like I thought you would,” only tips your hand that, had you seen me first, you would have assumed that I didn’t understand the proper conjugation of the verb to be. Keep that shit to yourself.
- Per #2, many of us actually speak the Queen’s english. That said, don’t even THINK about referring to any black person as “articulate.”
- Don’t ask too many questions about our hair. In fact, ask no questions at all. The workplace is not a forum for your curiosity about our hairstyle strategies. If you’re so goddamned curious, use your downtime to watch Youtube videos dedicated to the topic and say nothing to us at all. (Warning, touching our hair might make some of us forget that hitting you in the head with a three-hole-punch would get us in trouble. I speak from experience)
- All brown people do not resemble one another. If you screw up and call me by the name of the only other black woman in the office, she and I had better be identical twins. You won’t like it when the retort is “I know . . . we all look alike.” (Again, I speak from experience)
- It is not appropriate to volunteer to fix one of us up with your only other single black friend simply because we’re both unattached and of color. It doesn’t really work that way.
- While I think that Michelle Obama is a beautiful woman, I do not look “just like her.”
- Don’t assume that my predominantly black neighborhood is “the ghetto,” and ask if I “feel safe” there . . . unless you would like for me to inquire about your experiences in the trailer park.
- Don’t violently express your disdain for rap music, and proclaim that it’s “noise.” A) I don’t care, and B) well . . .there really doesn’t need to be a B.
- I’m probably not the right audience for your claims that diversity efforts are unfair for white people who might be “the best person for the job.” In fact, sharing this opinion with me or anyone who looks like me (although not JUST like me, as we covered in #7) will only further our thoughts that you’re an idiot and probably not the right person for any job.
- The office is not the place for your paltry attempts at urban colloquialisms. You don’t get extra points with me by saying that something is “the bomb.” In fact, your use of slang is only an indication that any card-carrying black person should remove it from the vocab.
- Here’s a bonus tip: I realize that holiday season is approaching. It is completely inappropriate for you to have 3 glasses of wine and 7 healthy pours of scotch at the Christmas party and, at around midnight, wax endlessly about your secret physical attractions to black people. Guys, it isn’t as though any of the women are going to find your slurry words and excessive drooling to be sexy and complimentary, or reciprocate the sentiment. Ladies, your fate will likely result in providing gratuitous parking lot oral to the man whom you’ve previously mistaken for the janitor (per #10, you’re clearly the right person for this brand of job). In any case, those of us who look alike will get a great laugh out of it in the office the next day.
I hope I’ve been of assistance. Now carry on, and remember . . .if you think it might be offensive, it probably is.