When casual acts of racism become serial they serve to be instructive.
I’ve amused myself by staying 3 steps ahead while feigning ignorance to their machinations, especially in the workplace.
As a Black man who has existed in a host of corporate environments, more often than not I’m compelled to adapt, learning to smile deftly when I’ve surmised efforts to minimize my humanity – is an essential survival strategy.
A common slight would often come in the form of the person who would casually pull me to the side after a meeting to ask:
“… Shun, who helped you write that report, where did you get that quote from?”Why is it a stretch of the imagination?
The blank stare that envelopes my face when I tell them:
“I read it.”
Often does the trick, but for the more shallow types it takes my repeating their words back as an echo chamber of sorts:
“Who… Helped… Me. Write that report? You do know, I have a background in journalism?Those microaggressions in the workplace.
I don’t follow? Why would you ask me that, I’m confused, can you help me to understand?
Nervous laughter usually ensues, but by then I have a baseline for how deeply ingrained their racism is. It doesn’t bother me – I’ve accepted it as the cost of doing business here on Earth.
What was the most instructive instance of racism in the workplace for you?
Now… That is an interesting question.
I recall one environment that truly gave me pause – as one of the defining moments of my time there featured a clueless duplicity that I had seldom seen in another human being.
One afternoon this colleague had returned from a lunch meeting and due to their loss of inhibition – tipped off by what smelled to be a wee too much gin. They stood inches away from me in the hallway and they began to spell out how they truly felt about me as the unquote “Black guy”…
“Chiiicccaaagggoooo. You’re probably from the suburbs,” they sneered… I was surprised at first, but I quickly recovered and played along. “You are reading me like a book, my goodness… Hey, let’s sit down over here.”They would often come back to the office trashed…
Over the next couple of minutes I relished pulling out an unadulterated account of where their heart and inclinations truly were. I smiled and chuckled while asking open ended questions as I was mindful that couldn’t help themselves (gin really made them sin that day) and in a closing act they implicated others in their treachery.
I love drunk folks! A valuable Life Lesson?
Don’t EVER talk to a writer when inebriated, it never ends well.
They punctuated their ignorance as we walked back to our desks by pointing at a photograph in my cubicle – using a racial trope as a clumsy joke.
I gave them an icy stare…
“But… They aren’t B.. Black.”
It was at that point that I disengaged my shield and I dryly observed:
“That’s my niece, I’ll make sure to run that by her. That speaks volumes about how I am discussed when I’m not around, I thank you for that.”
I watched their eyes widen with fear and took note of the color fading from their face.
“Oh my God Shun, please don’t!”
Later that evening – they referenced their faux pas in a clumsily worded text thread, a bad move on their part, because I remember shit.
By the following day,.
They had sobered up and forgot everything that they had spewed to me not even 24 hours ago, looking at me, bewildered, not understanding why they were on the receiving end of a hollow stare …”
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