Friday, January 29, 2010

I struggle with thinking this way about race...

Particularly, MY race.
Being black (or my bad, African American... that's an ENTIRELY different post) I find myself thinking sometimes that *my* actions dictate how others see other black people.
For instance, I know there are very few black accountants in the corporation I work for.... so I think, well, I *have* to prove myself, on behalf of my race. After all, I represent my race, right?
I kick ass at what I do and I'm proud of that. I put in that extra mile to prove myself, but really, am I doing myself justice? My name justice? My RACE justice?
I find myself holding my breath sometimes watching the news thinking 'whoever did what violent/bad/horrific crime, Lord PLEASE don't let them be black'.... they are? DAMN.
Yes, I know, its a bad thing to think Its a bad thing to catch yourself thinking it.


I like the fact I'm pretty well known at work. As the only Cost Accountant for a huge location, I go between being a corporate bean counter, to a homie with the guys that work production. I'm cool with the guy who sweeps the floors, all the way up to the President. I'm also in good with the receptionist (which most folks can tell you is GREAT, because the receptionist damn near knows it all!)....
About a week ago, the receptionist invites a handful of folks to preview the new office products for 2010. Aw shoot! I love me some office products! I notice there are 2 other black people on the list, one administrative assistant and one mailroom clerk. I know them both well, helped them both with their Accounting homework and statistics (both are in school) and well over 4o....
So lunchtime rolls around, we all go into the conference room where the office supply reps have provided lunch.... here we go...
1) I consider FREE lunch something that is a luxury. If you aren't paying, then most of the time, you have NO SAY as to what will be provided, no say if you get extra cheese, extra bacon, your fajitas WELL DONE instead of medium,... etc..... so when the rest of the folks invited to the presentation help themselves and rejoice in the free lunch, the 2 black women get to smacking their lips and complaining. The food doesn't have enough seasoning, the meat is not well done, the plates aren't big enough.

How about you take some FREE lunch and shut your damn mouth? How about you DON'T act like you have NEVER eaten before and PILE your plate with so much food it SPILLS off?

2) When people are giving presentations, they typically ask questions that rhetorical. 'Do you have problems printing labels straight?' 'Do you put something aside to file and have problems finding it later?' 'Have you ever thought about color coding your files?'.... most folks nod or shake their head, as these questions are posed to the group, not to YOU individually. So no, you REALLY don't have to UH HUH and YES to the person giving the presentation DIRECTLY. I heard yes, UH HUH, OH YES with a MOUTHFUL of food the ENTIRE hour we were in the presentation. Guess who was doing it? Yes, those 2 black women.

3) Door prizes. Each person got a ticket and like most raffles, one end is yours, the other goes into the hat. At the end of the hour, numbers are drawn for 'prizes'. Oh okay, great. So everyone starts winning the pens, pencils, folders and labels. At the end of it, 3 people didn't have prices... so they gather those tickets and just say 'here, xxx, take this prize if your number was 33'... it was a PEN. Black woman #2 has her face all twisted up and gets LOUD talking about how 33 was HER number and thats HER pen! Excuse me, its a damn PEN... not insulin... not a new car... not a 3 week vacation to Cabo. A PEN. Not a mont.blanc. pen. A office supply ballpoint pen.
What the hell? Shut the HELL up and take your ghetto ass back over to the next building.

When the presentation and lunch and door prize fun was finally over, who do you think STILL wanted more freebies? Yes, those 2. One of them even had the nerve to say outloud they were going to take the sticky notes HOME with them because they didn't wanna buy some.


I realize some folks just don't know better. They don't care what others think or how they represent themselves. But I also know that in a Corporate environment you are judged by how you act, how you interact with others, how others see you. It's the way its always been, it will always be this way as long as appearances matter.
When it was all said and done, I was embarrassed for them and for us. I was embarrassed that people were staring, embarrassed that they were loud and impolite and had no table manners. I found myself thinking, damn, I bet those 2 set the tone for the entire presentation. Not those of us that carried our professionalism into lunch and beyond. Not those of us who really were there to check out the products as an FYI, not as our home office supply hookup.

Yes, I believe that one bad apple ruins the entire bunch. I try not to think about that being literal but honestly, think about what you remember the most... the BAD act, the person who engraves themselves on your brain is the one who shows their ass, not the one who is well behaved.

It's just something thats been on my mind.

1 comment:

  1. I read a similar post on 'us' over at Assertive Wit.. I think you would like her. Tell her Ms Jones sent you: She touched on shopping with 'us' as opposed to patronizing the businesses of other races and in both cases, I just have to shake my head sometimes. It's like, you know there are a world full of uncouth people who have never been taught proper manners and office etiquette or have never been taught professionalism. It's a learned skill, for some.

    It's just that... you kind of hope that there aren't people out there that are fulfilling the stereotypes about 'us'. And when we find them, we're embarassed for our entire race, because we spend so much time fighting those stereotypes and trying to get other races to not see us as one blanket definition.

    And sometimes people see conforming to professionalism or the norms of polite society as 'being white'... nothing could be further from the truth! It's called sounding educated and informed and like you don't live in an area where people don't know any better. Grown adults should know better.