How to deal with racism in the workplace

Race is been the single most divisive and polarizing topic in the United States for better than the last century and a half. From the American Civil war in the 1860s to the Civil Rights Movement back in the 1960s race has always been at the forefront for as long as anyone alive can remember.

More recently, white cops shooting unarmed black men the (useless) trend of statues being taken down and everything in between has once again pushed race relations up the proverbial thermometer in terms of narrative and debate.

One such subject has been in the undercurrent through it all and that’s racism in the workplace. No, you don’t have white people calling black people niggers in the office or calling black males “boy” or anything close to that. We’re talking about racism that carries what’s called plausible deniability which is the card that’s played any time an African American alleges mistreatment based on their race.

There are 3 main brands of racism that occur in the American workplace. Let’s examine what they are, and how to deal with them, provided you want to keep your job, stay out of handcuffs, and/or avoid potential law suit(s).

Covert racism

This is the kind of workplace racism that is the least common. Covert racism in the workplace is carried out by passive aggressive people who are racist but don’t have the balls to say or show it out loud. Rather, they make off handed snide comments just out of earshot soft enough not to be heard but loud enough to be heard by you or take undercover shots at you and/or your work performance. And because they make sure only you can hear these things, it’s your word against theirs should things go to HR or get out of hand…that’s that plausible deniability they operate in and around on the regular.

Another technique passive aggressive racists use is talking about social issues amongst themselves and, again, making sure black people in the area can hear them. They won’t necessarily say “I LOVE Donald Trump!” or “That girl deserved to die in Charlottesville!”. Instead they’ll say things like “Well Colin Kaepernick has every right to talk about and protest social issues but he did it the wrong way.”

I’m not going to debate Kaepernick, Trump, or Charlottesville here but your white co-workers who talk about these things out loud do this for a reason, and that reason is that they want to show their hand without actually showing it in a way that could cause trouble (i.e. losing their job, your rage).

The very best way to deal with this is to ignore it. Passive aggressive racists want nothing more than to see you squirm and see that they’ve visibly rattled your cage. A go to strategy in these situations is to interrupt the conversation with a work related question. If a group of white co-workers are standing within earshot of you talking about how much they adore Donald Trump, simply walk over with paperwork in your hand, pretending you’re reading it, then ask “Hey, do you guys know what we’re supposed to do with this spreadsheet? John was vague in his email this morning.”

What this does is shows them that what they’re doing not only doesn’t bother you, but that you’re not even paying attention. And what good is poking the bear if the bear doesn’t see or feel it? These people are akin to women and younger siblings in that they do shit just to get a reaction out of you. If you don’t give them what they want (a reaction), they’ll stop the behavior.

Overt racism

“Die niggers!!!!”

This brand of workplace racism is less common but prevalent nonetheless. Examples include not promoting you when you’re clearly the best for the job, not hiring you in the first place, or giving you a job you’re way over qualified for. There are many more examples but you get the idea.

One might site the obvious patterns of racism with coworkers who won’t talk to or acknowledge black people in the first place, make racist jokes, and things of that nature but the SJW culture has all but done away with these people. They’re out there but their numbers are dwindling to be sure.

But it’s the supervisors, bosses, and business owners that are now carrying the torch and are using their positions of power to exercise their racist beliefs. There’s no way to know how many or what percentage of bosses out there are doing this (there’s the plausible deniability again) but when you get passed over for a promotion for a white person at your same position, has been with the company for less time, and is less productive than you are, at that point it’s clear to you that the fix is in.

Dealing with this isn’t easy when you’re blindsided but there are things you can do to safeguard yourself from future occurrences like this.  Circulating your resume on a regular basis is one such way. Keeping your name out there with potential future employers is important and creates the all important abundance mentality (which, incidentally enough, also comes in handy when dealing with women).

Keeping your name out there is the best thing a professional can do

Networking with people in your field is another great way to avoid potential disaster when and if it comes to your doorstep. Stay in contact on Linkedin and other networking websites and you’ll always be at or near the top of someone’s list should things go sideways as a result of institutional racism at your job.

Combine those two strategies and sprinkle in a few meetups here and there and you’ll always have options. Been talking to a former co-worker on Linkedin? Invite him out for lunch (on you) and shoot the shit with him. This gives you an opportunity to reiterate your qualifications and showcase your personality and if a position opens up at his company or firm, you’ll likely be one of the first people he contacts.

There’s no way to prove and subsequently do anything about institutional racism in the workplace so the best way is to make sure you’re prepared when and if the above example happens to you.

Compliant racism

Though my main chick’s a white girl, she’s addicted to the HBO show Insecure (She also loves the show Scandal), which has been discussed on this forum in the recent past.

One of the show’s main characters, Lawrence, has an app he’s been working on for years and when he presented it to his new bosses, they nodded their heads and sang their praises. Lawrence thought his app was a shoe in to go to market but a female coworker told him not to count his chickens before they hatch on account of their lack of questions during or after his presentation.

They even went as far as to ask him about his Jordan’s during the presentation and later on in the episode. They were a couple of corny white boys to be sure, but they were also the bosses and when push came to shove they couldn’t tell Lawrence to his face that his app didn’t make the grade.

“Whatchew mean my app wasn’t good enough??”

“White guilt” is the main reason for this treatment along with the SJW trigger happy HR reporting involved. White people don’t feel they can be straight up with black people in the work place and sometimes even compliment them on things that aren’t even work related to give them the impression that they’re welcome….overcompensating more or less.

That’s not to say people are racist in this regard but white people simply do not trust black people as much as they trust their own. When it comes down to it, they’ll hire black people but will only allow them to go so far because of their inherent distrust of people different from them.

Recognizing compliant racism is quite easy. When your white coworkers ask you things like “What’s the hottest hip hop track?” or “Where’d you get those fly ass Js?” or “What do you think of that Charlottesville thing?” that’s compliant racism in action. They’re placating to you to hide their inherent prejudices about you so as to throw you off the scent.

They don’t do this consciously per se but it’s not too far from the front of their minds.  The only way to handle this is to keep your eyes open and decipher which compliments are genuine and which compliments and inquiries are designed to nice you away. No, these people aren’t bad but they can’t be trusted either.

In the end…

…there’s nothing we can do to stop this behavior. Nobody can make anybody do anything and we can’t control the behaviors of others. But when dealing with racism in the workplace it’s best to concentrate on controlling your behavior. It’s the only way to keep yourself and others around you out of serious trouble.

Want more Donovan Sharpe? Visit his website and checkout his podcast The Sharpe Reality on YouTubeSoundcloud, or iTunes.

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About Donovan Sharpe 43 Articles
Donovan is a sexist son of a bitch who objectifies women by keeping them on their toes, their backs, and their knees where they belong.Check out his weekly podcast every Tuesday at The Sharpe Reality.Follow him on Twitter & Facebook.