SAMPLE EXCERPT:

I could certainly see how the suggested behaviors were better in some cases, but if one wished to do so, one could still see them as being racist. So from an employer's point-of-view, it must be awkward. If these aren't steps already taken with every employee, and one takes them just with black employees, won't that reinforce ideas about being coddled and needing special treatment? Understand, I think they're good ideas. But everyone needs this kind of fair treatment, or people will just keep looking at us oddly.

For example, in the case of Fred La Monte, it was suggested that the boss should have made sure he knew to interrupt him (even though Fred himself volunteered the idea that his boss was very, very busy), that the boss go out his way to take time out of his schedule to get Fred to social functions, and to make sure that everyone knew his qualifications. In my very short work history, I already know that these things almost never happen to new employees or new management of any race. It's just like going to a new school, or having a substitute teacher come in. Whenever new management or a new teacher came in, I never saw anyone introducing them to us or all the faculty, and they seldom had any clue what they were doing, and the workers/students generally did get many laughs at their expense till they figured it all out. That seems like the normal progression of a job. So, frankly, does the need to worm ones way into the established office culture. I don't think community is really an African-American value -- it is a value held in most places, I'm guessing. So getting to be a part of the community is important, but is always difficult. Especially if you are fundamentally culturally different. That gets back to the whole concept of "acting black."

If the office doesn't accept people who speak their minds, maybe we should keep our mouths shut more? If it's company policy not to get all up in someone's face and talk them down, then maybe we should respect that. It seems fair to have rules about how people should behave, even if it goes against the grain for blacks who are from a far more open culture. If a lot of tact is necessary for the job, though, we need to have it. On the other hand, if only black people are supposed to be tactful and polite, that's a problem. Having to always be submissive is degrading. It always made me angry when a little white girl could talk back to the teacher and he'd listen to her, but when I talked back it was seen as giving lip or even being aggressive just because of my cultural voice. I was interested to see that one person they quoted said that he hated being asked why he didn't act black (and thus they insinuated that he could, if he wanted) because he just wasn't like that, and someone else said they hated having to not act black. I don't think there's an across the board answer for whether people want to be accepted as a stereotype, or not.

In the end, the chapter was a very positive thing, if only to get people thinking about racism. There's a lot of racism in the workplace, I'm sure, because I saw a lot of it at school. I guess my one critique to the author, but even more to blacks everywhere would be: we needed to decide how we want to be treated, and then address it openly. Do we want to be seen as our color and take pride in it, and "act black" or do we want to fit in? Do we want to be treated as a group, or as individuals? Do we want to act like everyone else, or like ourselves? If we're willing to behave differently than everyone else, are we willing to accept the consequences?

Blank, Renee & Slipp, Sandra. (1994). African-Americans. In Voices of Diversity: Real People Talk About Problems and Solutions in a Workplace Where Everyone Is Not Alike. New York: Amacon.