Black Women's Empowerment

Question of the Week: “My Workplace is Surrounded By Bigots–What Should I Do?”

I’m a poor college student who’s barely making ends meet, my family is even struggling to pay bills, and the only work experience i possess is in the food/restaurant industry. Well the place I work at now is full of racists.

It’s so hard for me to deal with that I just want to cry and scream all at the same time. It has even gotten so bad that one day I had ran to the bathroom to cry without anyone hardly noticing due to their insensitive words. Well when there’s a black customer one of them will yell “oh it’s a black man!” one time one of the shift managers joked “oh he looks like that black man from family guy!”. Another co-worker mentioned a tv show called the wire to another co-worker which made him respond about how he doesn’t care about the black plight. Whatever that means. Another co-worker joked about Martin Luther King Jr. and it just hurts my heart to hear them stereotype black women. One of my co-workers even made fun of an overweight black woman when she was leaving out of the door. I can only hope that she didn’t hear his ignorance. I can only imagine the vile things they are saying behind my back when i’m not around. Today there was a catering order that they had forgotten to make so they made it last minute with our day old bread instead of fresh bread because they ran out. One of our female shift managers at the time mentioned how the woman over the phone was black as if that had anything to do with her food order. Then she started mimicking a stereotypical voice even though the black woman in person sounded nothing like that at all. Then on top of that I overheard them talking about how you can’t tell the difference between a ghetto black woman and a business woman. I hate this so much and I want to scream. It’s strange because most of the racism is coming from the white-hispanics but the full on whites aren’t any better.

I know you’re wondering why I haven’t said anything yet but I’m so shocked to hear everything that they’re saying in the first place (even though I shouldn’t be) BWE has given me the heads up in so many parts of my life that has prepared me. But I am an extremely non-confrontational kind of person. I want to quit but it isn’t easy finding a job, especially for a woman like me. I don’t fit in with blacks on the south side if chicago which is where i’m from, i can’t deal with whites racism, and most blacks that are like me up north of chicago are almost hard to find unless I play desperate stalker and that still isn’t enough to fully know where someone head lies. Please help me! What should I do? I am at my wits end. How to handle this situation.

Dear M,

First things first, thank God in Heaven you are in school–otherwise you’d be like many of the underclass who perpetually struggle to make ends meet, and instead of choosing their jobs, they simply have to take what they can get. A by-product and characteristic of the underclass is the need to feel superior to others. The fact that your co-workers are deliberately going out of their way to point out the blackness of a customer is evidence of a need to believe that no matter how poor, uneducated, or uncouth they are, their “whiteness” automatically makes them better. The “white Hispanics” are in even more of a tenuous position, because they are overcompensating because they are “passing as white.”

These people are to be pitied. But really, it is you who are in the superior position. Not only is education your ticket to enter better career options, it’s your ticket out of being forced to work with underclass bigots who only have their skin color to make them feel good about themselves.  My advice? Be stealthy. Don’t quit your job until you can find another one, but up and until then keep your nose clean and make your money. If someone does something deliberately and blatantly bigoted take the advice of Peggy Post:

If you yourself belong to a minority group under attack, you have two courses. One, you can ignore it, registering in your mind that these are people to be avoided in the future. Or two, you can teach them a lesson that may temper their prejudice in the future. Just say, “You must be talking about me. I’m a [whatever it is].” Their shocked embarrassment will be almost as rewarding as their limp effort to make amends.

If you weren’t in college and if this weren’t just a college job, I’d give you some different advice. But suing their arses will take away too much of your study time.

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