Strange title, huh? I know but it was the best one for the issue. As we enter into this new year, one can only wonder what it has in store. There is still a serious economic recession, a president who has gained a lot of popularity while yet having a ton of promises to still keep, unemployment is at an all time high, real estate is in the worst shape since the depression, and we have still not solved this country’s most fundamental problem. The problem, u ask? Racism…
I know that there are people who will read this and think I am crazy. They will say that we have come a long way in this country in that area. They will point out that there are more minorities than ever in the workplace. This is all very true, but the battle is not complete. Let me give you three examples from the last three months of 2009 to illustrate my point.
First, I am talking with 3 of my co-workers about the job. I will point out for the purpose of this discussion that I am the only “black” member of management in my office. That said, it was me, my boss, the equipment manager, and another logistics manager such as myself. Everyone but me will remain nameless as I do not think it wise to divulge names. Anyway, we were discussing the trucks and how the mechanics we have fix the clutches in them. The log manager says, “I was out there one day and saw him nigger-rig it.” Can you believe it? Well, I couldn’t. I just put my head down and shook it. It seemed like time stopped. The conversation certainly did. My boss then says to me, “did he just say what I think he did?” I just continue to shake my head…
Second, same place but this time the incident was amongst the drivers. Again, one black driver amongst the rest on this particular dock on this shift. There is a traditional water cooler next to the dock door where the black driver delivers and picks up his load. The doors at the docks that they deliver to are roll-up doors so there is a rope tied to each so that they will be able to pull them back down once opened. Anther driver, decided to tie that rope around one of the empty water bottles while it was on the ground and the door was closed, knowing that the black driver would be next to deliver. What happens? The black drivers comes in and opens the door only to find the bottle now strung up and hanging from the door. Does that put anyone else in mind of a hanging?
Third scenario…same job, drivers again. A white driver sitting among other white drivers decides to go on a tirade about his black neighbor at home. “Nigger” was used by him several times and he thought it was funny. When one of the other drivers voiced their displeasure with what he said, he grabbed her shoulders and basically told her that it was no big deal. She thought it was and decided to report it. When he came in to be interviewed by HR, my desk was outside the office where he sat behind closed-door. I could hear everything he said. And he was shocked that someone told on him for saying it in the first place. What?
Now I am not going to get into all of the details that followed each situation, but rather just give you the results. The first one ended with the company asking me what they should do. They wanted to know if I could continue to work with him or should he be terminated. I told them that they are in that position to make those decisions, but I just wanted the best for the company and could handle whatever choice they made. Well, he is still employed there. In the second, the driver made a complaint to HR and the investigation they did said that they couldn’t find “intent” in what he did, so they only wrote him up for what amounts to a slap on the hand for “horseplay.” Was that driver’s complaint a joke? Horseplay? Wow. The third situation did end up in a termination for the driver, but it wasn’t for the racial terms. Rather he was termed for rubbing the lady’s shoulders as a violation of the harassment policy. I know you’re thinking that you must be kidding…but I’m not.
I wrote all of that to say that we still have such a long way to go. Trust me people, this is clearly a battle that has not ended like many believe. I can tell u firsthand that it hurts to be in a position that you have to deal with it firsthand, but I have to continue to let God shine throughout and humble myself to understand that I am placed there for a reason. That reason being to show people that there is someone who will not back down, but will also not engage in childish behavior either. You tell me, what do you think?