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Thread: Racial tension in the workplace

  1. #1
    Site Caretaker Dave A's Avatar
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    Racial tension in the workplace

    Did I ever have one today. At times I wonder if we're getting better or worse on the racial tension front. Here's the story that got this going.

    On Friday one of my (white) colleagues was sealing the deal on a service we were to provide. We had already done some work on the Thursday and this was a request for additional work. Somewhere along the line, the customer asks who will be coming out to do the service, to which my colleague responds "The two black guys who did the work for you yesterday."

    It so happens that one of these fine (black) servicemen happened to overhear the conversation and took serious offense. Had an allergic reaction, no less.

    So this morning I get the pleasure of dealing with two very unhappy members of staff.

    My white colleague can't see what the fuss is about.
    My black colleague is absolutely incensed.

    Ho boy!

    Add to the mix a comment I heard on the radio this morning accusing liberals of being too detached and not getting involved

    My view is that my white colleague was thoughtless and my black colleague over-reactive, and pretty well said as much.

    Why does this make you so angry?
    Why did you use "black" when it really wasn't relevant?

    So am I being too detached and uninvolved?
    The trouble with opportunity is it normally comes dressed up as work.

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    Moderator IanF's Avatar
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    Don't you wish we could just say grow up when employees act like this, to both of them. Anyway sometimes just asking them in front of each other with a good lecture about working together beforehand some times works.
    Only stress when you can change the outcome!

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    Email problem Alta Murray's Avatar
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    I get it, I understand. But then I am also very vocal about racism when I am the victim of this ignorance, so I don't see it from only one perspective. I think that black should be dropped from vocab in the work place, and in the same breath so should white. Unless you are looking for a criminal where it is sort of important to know what the person looks like, I don;t think race has anything to do with it, and let me tell you something Dave, people are very perceptive. If you do have a little racism flavour to you, people will respond negatively to the word 'black' or 'white'.

    The one guy might have been merely descriptive like saying the blond girl that was there yesterday, as clients don't always remember names. Would I have been upset about that? How about if he said the white girl? Duh!

    I am tired of walking a mine field, if you are white, you are white, if you are black, you are black. I don't see the difference between the two and I don't think the world should either. The two can actually have a personality clash, they might not like each other as human beings, so this happened in a 'racial' context, which is usually not the case.

    I refuse to respond to an incident as racial, I just see two human beings who might not get along, or who misunderstood each other. So I don't even touch on the racial aspect at all.

    My advise is deal with the human being, and leave the very thin skin colour out of it. My track would have been : Have you found this person insensitive to you before? Do you really know this person? Do you have a good working relationship with him? Have you had misunderstandings before? blah,blah....

    In the final analysis don't we see people of the same race taking exception to what the other one said? Don't we respond by tackling the real issue which remains human relations then? What about one person saying : No, the fat one that was there yesterday. Yikes! Some people are not socially refined.

    I deduce that you are a liberal(?) I am apolitical, but ever since I was little I couldn't understand the racial issue at all. My friend and I used to sneak off on a Sunday to play soccer and smoke with boys who most certainly looked different from us, but hey, they were the greatest fun ever. As far as I could see they were the same as us, even if the world forbade us to mix.

    Even if the two in question respond in a racial way, don;t get sucked in. Treat the human issue and refuse to respond to racism. you need to respect every one in the work place.

    My heart goes out to the chap who actually had a physical allergic reaction, and I do wonder what his life has been like up until now. I just feel like giving him a hug and telling him that it will be okay. Perhaps he could share some of that with the other chap, we all understand pain, and they might become the biggest chums ever who can grab a beer after work! Sorry this has had to happen to you, but I firmly believe that everything happens for a reason, and that as long as we learn something from it, it is all good.

    I have seen something similar happen to a school in the North, instead of the teacher(s) responding to two kids brawling, as they are wont to do, it was turned into a racial incident. At our local high school, the teachers respond to the children! and not the race, so all is harmony. You focus on the behaviour : You called another kid a black(insert mean word) but don't we teach you at school to have respect for your fellow learners and name calling is not allowed?

    Just live what you believe, and it will all be okay in the end. This has worked for me, and I am not assuming that I have all the answers, nor that you reacted in the wrong way at all. I think you handled it very well.

    Good luck!

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    I do no see this as being your problem. I salute your being liberal. You do not really have to be 'involved' in what appears to be an oversight on your colleague's part.

    An insult should always be dealt with as such. It may be one of the '.ist's' that perpertually crop up. Just a few days ago - The Obama sweetie thing! Phew! It is a quagmire out there.

    Here in the UK people are not permitted to say that and it has forced people not to insult each other. If it's not BLACK , then it could be GEORDIE, SCOUSER, CHAV etc. not that we dp not insult each other anywhere else.

    We just do not do it in the workplace and at strangers! I am black and have this pommie irritant for a friend. His daughter thinks I am as ugly as Morgan Freeman! BUT bottom line is we are close enough to know each other that well.

    In the workplace where professionalism is expected then it should not be allowed.

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    Site Caretaker Dave A's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alta Murray View Post
    and let me tell you something Dave, people are very perceptive. If you do have a little racism flavour to you, people will respond negatively to the word 'black' or 'white'.
    Bingo! Part of the problem and why solving it is not as simple as cracking heads.
    Quote Originally Posted by Alta Murray View Post
    I deduce that you are a liberal(?) I am apolitical,
    Well actually, I think I'm apolitical too. However, when I stack up the "evidence" it turns out on balance my views might be considered "liberal" by "normal" definitions - whatever that may be. So I'm exploring recategorising myself

    Do any of us really sit on the fence? Even the most open of us have our views - they just aren't married to a particular dogma. But sometimes they match it anyway.
    The trouble with opportunity is it normally comes dressed up as work.

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    Email problem Alta Murray's Avatar
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    As ugly as Morgan Freeman? Boy that is one huge compliment, women across board will line up to just catch a glimpse of you! He is stunning.

    Yes, I agree that social interaction with your friends should be different, my son and BJ have been friends for years now, and they still call each other by the n-word, something that makes us shudder, but they are completely natural about it, and for them it denotes the brotherhood that they have found in their friendship, it is really a soul connection. Both sets of parents have decided to leave them be, as we feel that we don't want our history to rub off on them.

    The problem that I see in the work place is that the lines are not that well defined. Life is a hunt for time, so I see more and more social behaviour creeping into the work place. Most of the friends are made during office hours etc.

    Ignorance has always been with us, but I choose to embrace humanity.
    Loads of African sunshine I send thee!

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    Email problem Alta Murray's Avatar
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    Geez, I am going to look up the word, perhaps unbeknowns to me I might be a liberal too. Or perhaps we don't need a label, and our actions should speak for themselves.

    I do know that the one label I am comfortable with is humanitarian. And don't you think that racism is like the fairy tale of the emporer without any clothes on? Perhaps those of us who can see, should set more of an example, be more vocal, be the voice in the crowd.

    My interest in 'politics' waned very quickly and early in life. It stands to reason that the powers that be can not have total transparency in their policies, they say they do, but if that was true it would have been mayhem in the streets. I refuse to make decisions based on the crumbs of info that I am fed, and I refuse to be conned into believing that I am 'participating.' Just check out history and see the masses following like mindless streams. That's why I am apolitical.

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    Moderator IanF's Avatar
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    My feelings are rather than elevate this to a big issue. It should be treated like someone upsetting another by calling them fat. If we always tread wearily on the race issue we will never resolve it. I know it is not easy but I feel it is the ideal we should aim for. It is much easier with a small staff.
    Only stress when you can change the outcome!

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    Site Caretaker Dave A's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by IanF View Post
    It should be treated like someone upsetting another by calling them fat.
    Hmm. That might just sum up the way I did deal with it rather nicely. Hence the "liberal detachment" part in the first post.

    This is more me looking for perspective on just how serious an issue this really is.
    The trouble with opportunity is it normally comes dressed up as work.

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    Diamond Member wynn's Avatar
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    Is there such a catergory as an "Oppositionist" ?
    I see myself there, whatever party ist or ism in power is, vote for the Opposition.
    If the Opposition is strong, whether you agree with them or not, it is the only guarentee that the powers that be will do their job.
    If the Opposition get into power, vote for their Opposition.


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