An angry black lady

I think that what we read below is mainly a case of misattribution.  There are plenty of occasions where a white boss fires a white employee so the lady writing below is wrong to think it does not happen.  

Her belief that a white boss will go out of his way not to fire a fellow white is evidence of how bad  race-consciousness has become in America.  The instances she relates  probably did occur but why they occurred is the issue.  She gets a glimmering of what was really happening when she says that:

"These white men went to kindergarten, middle school, college, and university together. They play sports together. Their families intermarry"

So it is a shared social background that is at work, not skin  colour. 
"Old boy" networks do exist and she has encountered one.  To ensure that their sons are part of such a network is the principal reason why parents send their kids to private schools.  But if you are not part of that network  too bad.  Just having a white skin will not replace it.  I have never been part of such a network and I was once fired by a white boss.

So what the lady below complains about was personal, not racial

A few years ago, I worked with a white male colleague who was underperforming. For years, he was allowed to carry on, not delivering on his objectives and as a result, other members of the team had to do his work for him. I observed this in stupor. As a Black woman, I know I’d never be able to get away with doing this, but hey, white privilege is real. White men get to sit around and do nothing, and the company will just let them.

So in the case of my colleague that I’ll call Richard for privacy reasons, it had become a common understanding within the team that we couldn’t count on him. If you had any project where he was involved, you knew you’d have to do it all alone.

It irked me that Richard didn’t do a damn thing but as a Black person in corporate, I knew that if I complained about him, one or several of his white buddies would leap to his defense and I’d become the woman to kill. So you know what, I just kept quiet. Years went by, and nothing changed. At one point I found out that Richard was making over a million dollars — base pay and the incentive per year. I was shocked beyond words but still kept quiet.

One day, a new white boss joined the team. He disliked Richard and decided to fire him. What happened next was right out of the white privilege gamebook. The new boss, Kyle, told Richard he was going to fire him but, catch this, gave him 24 months to find a new job. To make sure that he did secure a new job, he wrote him a brilliant reference letter and even introduced him to his network. It was mind-boggling. Here was an underperforming employee, but all the same he was seeing to it that he found a job. This nonsensical situation was too much for me to comprehend so I asked the new boss why he was doing this. His response:

“Well, Richard has mouths to feed. Even if he’s underperformed, it is my role to make sure he doesn’t end up unemployed. Could you imagine what that would do to his pride?”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I had heard about many Black people that had been fired from the same company with nothing much as a “goodbye”. Here my white boss was seeing to it that my white underperforming colleague could find a job elsewhere no matter what.

This whole situation really had me thinking about how comfortable life is for white men. The latitude of things that they can get away with in the workplace and in life, in general, is incredible. The white boys club is always there in the background waiting to catch them when they misbehave or fall. That must be a rather convenient life. Some of us out here i.e. Black women, have to hustle to get a job, shut up to keep it, and have anxiety about how we’ll find our next ones. We live in a completely different world from white men who have the comfort of knowing they’ll always be someone there to catch them.

I witnessed another similar situation a few years later. This time, a racist white male colleague was asked to report to a Black man. From the start, all of us in the team could feel the tension. I personally thought the white guy would learn to accept his new boss, but his lack of respect for him made the situation worse.

After years of this toxic situation where this white male constantly criticized his Black boss to others and sought to ruin his reputation, things came to a head. I expected the white male to be fired because he had clearly undermined his Black boss repeatedly. Again, the white boys club came to the rescue. The white male was offered a transition role in another team for a few months while the network secured a new job for him. Again, it was a matter of saving his white pride because you see, he had a family.

In all my career, I have never witnessed the same allowance being made for Black or brown people for that matter. When we underperform, we are kicked out. There is no underground network looking out for you. That is what being white gets you — a network of white people in white institutions that will cater to your white fragility and to your livelihood. As a Black woman, can I have that too?

The fact of the matter is that this network of white men is an institution. These white men went to kindergarten, middle school, college, and university together. They play sports together. Their families intermarry. Their strength lies in that they have been around forever. They are powerful. They have each other’s backs. When Black people talk about feeling out of place in corporate, this is one of the reasons why. They aren’t card-holding members of this white privilege, white boy clan and as such, they don’t have that safety net.

At the end of the day, however, it is important that people realize that these powerful networks exist. When we talk about diversity, equity, and inclusion in organizations, we need to realize that not everyone has the same privilege, and as a result, special attention needs to be paid to the “equity” part of the equation. I think that it is important to address this if organizations truly want to build environments where all employees, regardless of their ethnicity feel that they are on a level playing field with their white counterparts.


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