While working as an operations manager for a large tech company, I led an interview panel for a new unit manager to be hired internally. One of the candidates, a smart, personable and well-liked young Black man, had applied, along with several whites. Since he had the most experience and education, and had given the best interview, the panel recommended he be hired, and I concurred. As I was processing the paperwork to hire him, I received a call from Head Office and was told he shouldn’t be hired. When I inquired, as to why, the person hesitated, then said, “Well we think he’s too young.” When I told them that he was older than all of the other candidates, and that age discrimination was illegal, I was then told that the decision was final. I told him, and we went to the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission and filed a complaint, which was an absolutely useless process.

Careless Courtroom Crown

The first time I was representing a client in a criminal proceeding, I asked my client to wear a dress shirt, as he had no suit and tie. The day of the trial, he and I arrived early, and took our seats at the Defense council table. The Crown Prosecutor, being a white guy, came over to our table, stuck out his hand for my client and said, “So, you must be the new Legal Aid Lawyer. Nice to meet you.” Meantime, I’m sitting there in a 3-piece suit, with the Criminal Code, and other legal texts, in front of me but, still, he assumed my white client was the lawyer, and I was the accused.

For here or to go?

I was at a conference last week in the health sector. During lunch I was sitting with another Black woman. There were only a few Black people there out of about 150 attendees. A white woman got up and made her way to my table, passing by other tables with white people. She said “oh isn’t the food great?” We replied that yes, it was (in fact the conference had done a good job getting racialized vendors to provide the food). The white woman then said “there’s so much food, did you bring your Tupperware containers? You can take the food with you.” The other Black woman and I looked at each other and told her that we were OK, but she kept reiterating that we could take the food home and said, “I just wanted to let you know because it will all go in the garbage.” Then she left.
She didn’t address the white person at our table about this, or anyone else that was white at the conference. why would she approach us without even knowing us and assume that we would be the ones to take the food home?

Lowered expectations

I used to work in government. In my years there, it became clear that expectations for my work were lower than those for my white colleagues. I knew that I was capable of doing better work, but sometimes I would just coast along. It’s as if the bar was always set lower.

I’m not your mammy

20141207_080337This lady, emailed me this picture that her client insisted was her.  She went in to work that day, and her elderly client said to her, “Why didn’t you tell me you were famous, why didn’t you tell me that you were in the paper?!”  The
African woman said back, “what are you talking about?”  The client then goes to bring out the paper/magazine from here, and says “see, this is you!  You didn’t tell me”  The African woman says back to her, “that is not me Mrs. Smith”, the client insists that it is her, and says “are you saying that I’m lying?”  The African-Nova Scotian woman just said she just gave up…but when speaking with me, she said,  “there are so many other African people in magazines, she didn’t think I was Oprah or Beyonce. Why a woman that could pass for a slave?”


Would you say this if a Black person were here?

Sometimes I hear co-workers criticize black people in supervisory positions in our field. Often in these discussions people will roll their eyes and say “equity hire” in reference to these people, i.e. implying that they only have their position because they’re black. I know lots of white people in supervisory positions, though, who perform just as badly in their job, yet when criticizing them no one says their position has anything to do with their race or ethnicity, as if white people don’t get any benefits for being white.

I’m white and don’t always know what to say in these situations, but I’ve tried to say something of late.

Stereotyped as a crook

I own a construction company.  I’ve worked very hard at building a good reputation.  I’ve gone to people’s houses to give a quote on a job, and been greeted with a frown.  Then followed with a statement that asks if I’m from another Black community that has gotten a bad rap for cutting corners and taking money. (Even if it’s a sterotype)  I have to defend that I’m not from that community, even though I have friends from there because they won’t give me the job.  The first thing out of their mouth is: “are you from _______?”   I never win a bid with the corporate industry, or city bids. It’s always the same companies.

Caregiving while Black

I work for a health care provider company.  I normally have a set schedule with many different clients, but they are consistent. Recently I got a new client who I went and did the home visit for, but by the following care day, I got a call from the agency saying my client has been moved off my roster.  I asked why was my client moved from my list, and they couldn’t give a reason except to say it didn’t work.

I work for a health care agency, and attend home visits daily.  Some clients verbally tell me that I cannot touch them with my Black skin. They refuse care, and make nasty comments. If I tell my employer I would just lose my job.

High-class racism

I was invited to join a community health board, on arrival it was obvious that I was the only person of colour on the board.  Before the meeting begun people began to talk small talk.  One woman was talking about her upcoming vacation to Jamaica and her excitement of the trip.  She then proceeded to say “can you imagine how dark I’ll get, no one will want to see me!”  At that moment, everyone looked at me in shame.  Some laughed.  I felt silenced, and alone.  Yet in the silence, no voice of others would comfort me in resistance.

So the rest of the meeting went on, and I couldn’t hear anything but the pumping of blood in my ears.  It wasn’t until after the meeting, that I approached the lady about what she had said.  She listened to me attentively. I asked her to think about what she meant by “being too dark that they WOULDN’T want to see me” as if being dark is ugly or invisible.  She apologized profusely and said that she  couldn’t believe she had said that, considering she’s a diversity trainer.  She agreed that the group needed diversity training.  I then approached the other lady that looked at me from across the table in shame, and asked her what she thought about the statement.  She responded by saying, “I know can you believe what she said?!” I then asked her,  then why didn’t you say anything?

White folks always leave the person of colour to defend for ourselves as if our voice is huge and powerful enough to rain over them all.