How would YOU react if you overheard the following, particularly in an office setting?
Scene: An office setting. Two White women,(whom I’ll call “Veronica” and “Betty“) are in their early to upper-30’s, talking. “Veronica” is the manager; “Betty”an employee of near-to-equal status of Veronica. Both are in the manager’s office whose door is wide open; both are using their “inside whisper voices”. However, on this particular day, activity around that office was quiet so a good ear in-passing could hear every word spoken.
Betty: (talking to Veronica) “The receptionist said Mr. ‘X’ is here for that 2 o’clock appointment with you regarding that issue he emailed us about.”
Veronica: “Oh, I know. He wants to talk about issue (X). I didn’t answer the email he sent so I guess he decided to see me personally.”
Betty: “Well, his complaint seems valid. Let’s hear what he has to say and we’ll go from there.”
Veronica: “Ok, but not alone! I’ll need you to sit in on the meeting with me, you know… just in case he gets belligerent….”
Betty: (interrupts Veronica) “Belligerent? About what? We know this man; I don’t get that from him. He’s not…”
Veronica: (interrupting Betty) “Just stay here, just in case. I’m not gonna be in this room with that nigger by myself! Those people are always complaining about something and always seem to have some kind of issue they’re mad or upset about!”
FACT 1: I could have made this up (which I didn’t) but even if I did, it wouldn’t matter. SOMEBODY out there will say that they either know of or have been witness to, a scenario exactly like or similar to this.
FACT 2: It is 2012. White women have been working, partying, dating AND sleeping with Black men for years! When they see us on TV or the big screen, they even seem to also admire us. Yet many (not all) are STILL scared or fearful of us (Black men) no matter how well or how NON-threatening we may look or how professional we may present ourselves! For some strange reason, the “innate fear of the Black man” still resides within them. “Veronica” and “Betty” give their sisters a bad rep!
FACT 3: Since joining the civilian work force after the Navy, I have discovered that in some settings, many White women (and some White men too), will hardly ever be found in a room or office ALONE, in an one-on-one meeting with a Black man (or other person of color) to discuss any issues of a direct personal or work-related, or business-providing nature. If the primary person having such a meeting is White, nine times out of ten, (at least in my experience) the other person “just sitting in” is always going to be…White.
FACT 4: Expecting a Black man (or any other person of color) to meet alone with Person 1 is rarely, ever going to happen (again, I’m speaking in some settings), as Person 1 would always give one of the following top three “reasons” (aka, lies) for why Person 2 is also in on the meeting:
(a) Person 2 is there “in training”;
(b) Person 2 is there to make sure the meeting is being conducted in a “professional manner”; or
(c) the issue concerns Person 2’s “area of responsibility”.
While there may some truth to any of these “reasons” for Person 2’s presence, the client/co-worker/subject still has a right to meet one-on-one with Person 1 if he or she feels it necessary. However, certain White persons I know are, or at least seem to be, intimidated by Black men (and Black women) in the corporate setting. Based on my experience, some of them will use – and have used – the words “belligerent” or “militant” to describe almost any Black person’s expressed concerns or views about a situation. They will say that particular Black person “has a bad attitude” or that he (or she) was “being belligerent in the meeting”. If they know the person served in the armed forces, they will accuse him (in such an inaccurate application of the word) of being a “militant”, especially if he happens to disagree with an issue or intelligently (and respectfully) expresses an adverse opinion. At least TWO college degree-holding managers I know have actually said that my “negative attitude was the result of having served in the military for such a long time that it made me a militant.” I laugh each time I hear this! It is unfortunate that honorable Black men such as I cannot reasonably express a complaint, dispute, or legitimate concern without certain people still feeling the need to “protect” themselves from us with the presence of some other person nearby as they jump to the automatic conclusion that I/we Black men might somehow get “belligerent” on them…EVEN THOUGH THERE IS NO PRIOR OR SUFFICIENT EVIDENCE TO SUPPORT THEIR PERCEPTION!
Normally, I am NOT one to pull the “race card”, but that doesn’t mean I don’t see, hear or learn from others, the things that are said and/or done in workplaces, stores, schools, etc. No one can EVER convince me that racism, bigotry, and hatred is “dying a fast death” or that it “no longer exists” in America! Such may be dying in SOME parts of America but, like a cancer, it has its own of staying and/or hiding where it is or spreading to places one might least expect. Only the “radiation” of KNOWLEDGE, UNDERSTANDING and RESPECT FOR THE DIFFERENCE OF OTHERS in our society, capped with SOCIAL ACCEPTANCE will eradicate this cancer of racism, racist remarks, and bigotry. Until then, anyone who thinks otherwise I shall call “fool” straight to their face, as I continue to LIVE with the stigma of the “angry Black man” every day of my life! There’s still more to come on this issue. Stand by!