Working While Black: 10 Racial Microaggressions Experienced in the Workplace

working while black

I have worked, on and off, since I was fifteen years old.  My summer office job financed the name brand school clothes my mother couldn’t afford and grounded me in the work ethic I learned from watching the women in my family go to work from sun up to sun down cleaning houses, dismembering chickens, doing customer service or janitorial work, bookkeeping, caregiving, answering phones.  I watched them get up early and come home late, carpool with other working women, and barter with each other to make sure every day needs were met.  They smiled when they were tired and went to work when they were sick because they understood that they constantly had something to prove on their job (as black folk).  They also knew that showing their humanity jeopardized their jobs.  They had to be superwomen, they had to compartmentalize their emotions, they had to separate the work they did from the people they were.  I learned from them that my work does not define me, I define myself.  So even though my aunt cleaned other folks’ houses she was never a maid.  And even though my grandmother kept other folks’ children she was never a mammy.  And even though I was college-educated and ambitious in my twenties, I was never privileged.  Working while black, regardless of your circumstances, carries with it the weight of blatant or casual racism.

Talking with a friend I likened being black and successful in the workplace to being a so-called model minority.  Model minorities know their place and don’t stand out or shine.  Model minorities grin and bear micro and macroaggressions and call them coincidences.  Model minorities on the job are mediocre minorities who live out minority stereotypes.

I was not taught to be a model minority.  Instead I was taught to have a strong work ethic, to be prepared to work twice as hard to get half as far, and to maintain my dignity and self-respect in the face of all forms of discrimination.  These were my instructions for survival as a blackgirl in a racist, classist, capitalistic and patriarchal culture.  These were my safeguards as a blackgirl working.  I was taught that as a black woman oppression would be an inevitable part of my life but that I did not have to be defined by mistreatment.  My mother and othermothers taught me that I could defy misconceptions and handle my business.  They helped me understand that an acknowledgment of oppression is not acquiescence.

I remember listening to the working women in my community complain about being treated badly on their jobs but refusing to react or respond to the injustices they experienced out of fear of being fired.  Instead, they woke up early enough to bathe, pull sponge rollers from their hair, apply make up and lipstick, and put on professionally laundered uniforms and comfortable shoes so that they could walk into their places of employment with their heads held high and their dignity in check.  They refused to be shamed.  They refused to be silenced.  They refused to be stereotyped.  It didn’t matter that they would never make more than ends meet.  It didn’t matter that they were told, repeatedly, that they were replaceable, and talked to in harsh tones for any mistake or air of arrogance or self-respect, and threatened with sanction for missing work to care for sick children.  They took pride in their work, even when the people they worked for, or with, worked against them.  They saw their jobs as necessary but they rebelled against the discrimination by refusing to be defined by what they did for a living.  I watched women and men of color resist and critique workplace discrimination in ways that were possible for them.  Resistance cannot always be visible (working-class folk literally “need” their jobs to survive, and middle-class folk are generally one or two paychecks from poverty), and rejection is not always audible, but we can still resist and reject the harmful effects of workplace discrimination.

As a university professor I have the luxury (that my forebears did not) of defining myself by my occupation because it is seen as prestigious, but my job does not protect me (or others, see this article and this book) from racism and sexism.  Having a Ph.D. did not keep two students, during my first year teaching, from saying to a colleague, “We are sure she’s smart…but it does not come across in the classroom.”

Racial microaggressions are real and while they are sometimes felt and experienced tangentially, folk of color are marginalized in similar ways simply because they are of color.  Prestige of position is not protection.

Based on conversations, observations and personal experiences I have compiled a list of racial microaggressions that people of color often experience in the workplace.  This list is not exhaustive and is not intended to be wholly representative.  I recognize that factors such as occupation, generation, education, income/social class, gender identity and performance, sex, sexuality, ability, and age impact how and to what degree these things are experienced.

The list is presented in second person in an attempt to encourage the reader to “experience” the experience and consider its impact.


10 Realities and Racial Microaggressions People of Color Experience in the Workplace

  1. You are expected to speak for and on behalf of people of color everywhere.  You are sometimes expected to be the barometer of racism.  If there is a conscience in the workplace, you are it.  You carry the burden of calling out discrimination when you see/experience it with the risk of retaliation which can be anything from being overlooked for a promotion, to losing your job altogether for creating a “hostile” environment.  If/when you don’t call out racism, you emotional turmoil and guilt, feeling like a sell out for not standing up for yourself or others.
  2. You are routinely accused of being hostile, aggressive, difficult and/or angry.  You are told that your colleagues/students/co-workers/customers are intimidated by you and are afraid to approach you.    You are encouraged in evaluations to “smile more,” and “be more friendly.”  You practice a fake ass smile in the mirror on your way out the door and practice all the way to work.  You fear that your resting face pose makes people think you are mean.
  3. You are required to be the diversity on committees and in meetings because black is the only diversity that matters.  Your blackness makes it easy to “see” that a diversity quota has been met.
  4. You feel unappreciated, undercompensated and overworked.  You are afraid to ask for compensation, a promotion, praise or affirmation.  You have been socialized to be satisfied that you have a job.  You feel guilty for not feeling grateful.
  5. You are regularly nominated for or assigned extra tasks and responsibilities for things no one else wants to do (especially things involving other POC).  You are encouraged to work with other people of color, join people of color groups, attend people of color activities, etc.
  6. Your absence (at work, at meetings, at parties) stands out with no regard to how exhausting it is to be the only black person in the room.  You are encouraged to not think of yourself as black when you are the only black person in the room.
  7. You are often vilified and/or criticized for doing your work (too early or on time, well or not good enough).  You are labeled as either an overachiever or a slacker, as too ambitious or lazy.  You struggle to find the balance between these things.
  8. You feel that no matter what you do or how hard you work, you need to do more (or sometimes less).  Nothing is ever (good) enough.
  9. You feel the need to constantly prove yourself worthy of your job or opportunity.  You know that some people assume you got your job, promotion, award, or special recognition, not because you worked your ass off or deserve it, but because you are black (there goes that damn black privilege again, cause you know affirmative action causes folk to get jobs they are unqualified for and shit <insert sideye>).
  10. You feel isolated, misunderstood, misrecognized, misrepresented, and missing in action.  You wonder how you can feel invisible and hypervisible at the same time.

Okay, fam, what are some other racial micro or macroaggressions you have experienced in the workplace?

37 thoughts on “Working While Black: 10 Racial Microaggressions Experienced in the Workplace

  1. It is interesting as I read through the list of microaggressions, I could relate to all of them as an undergraduate student at a PWI. But sitting here at work I thankfully cannot relate to any of them. Does this mean I work in a color blind meritocracy? Absolutely not. But does it mean that my firm is doing something right where as a women of color, I don’t feel like a women of color all of time? I think so.

    While I acknowledge that I do suffer from implicit basis and passive racism and sexism in the workplace – it is refreshing that at the moment I do feel like an individual contributor and not a model minority.

  2. once again my privilege hits home and I feel it in my gut. I work in a large, mostly white, state institution. a coworker and I (she is black/straight and I am white/lesbian) regularly discuss our collective diversity. #3, second sentence, is powerful as we are both sought out to speak for our different identities, but one is visible and one is not. she and I occasionally compare/contrast our experiences, and this list reminds me of my constant privilege. I have the privilege of wearing my identity or keeping it concealed.

  3. If two or more of us are together, a white person will surely appear seemingly out of nowhere and insert themselves into the conversation with a “what are you guys up to/talking about?” You can cut the inherent unease they subconsciously project with a knife!

    1. How is asking “What are you guys up to?” a bad thing?

      Maybe they simply want to fraternize with and get to know co workers?

      YOU are projecting unease if you treat their attempt at socialization as something you would rather avoid and maybe you make it abundantly clear with your body language that he/she is not welcome to “pop up out of nowhere” again and dare have the audacity to attempt to interact on an even playing field.

      Chosen segregation is a HUGE problem. I am a black woman (I feel I must add this even though it really should not matter) from the suburbs so I have always been accused of “acting” white or not being “real” by some of my coworkers in various jobs.

      I have seen too many white folks keep to themselves and I learned they did so because they felt we were unapproachable and did not want them around. They were afraid of saying the wrong thing, making eye contact and having that taken the wrong way and rather than risk conflict they remained apart.

      Well, we do the same thing and I also witnessed many of color who self segregated because they didn’t want to have a conversation with the white workers for a litany of reasons. In a lot of cases it was this feeling that we needed to stick together as if they all were out to take us down.

      I did not fit with my own color because as I was told I was a “suburb sista” and the white and asian coworkers didnt see me this way so they kept away for the aforementioned reasons.

      We are ALL guilty of microaggression.

      The best thing we can do is pop up out of nowhere and break up this self segregation and share our differences. We may not have everything in common but we could all appreciate our differences and learn something while soon realizing that we share many of the same hopes and fears.

      1. You are being very dismissive of what SOME people have experienced. I, as a Black female physician and lawyer can out suburban you any time. There are many instances were people feel uneasy with Black coworkers congregating and interacting. It happens every day. It has happened to me. I was blatantly told by a director of a medical office that I needed to stop talking to other Black employees, despite the fact that ALL the other employees were either Black or Latino and it wasn’t like I had much time to talk to anyone, but patients. Some of you Black folk have an excessive need for WHITE validation and exceptance to the point of ridiculousness. These things happen every day. YOU don’t get to negate anyone else’s experience.

  4. Wow, numbers 7 and 8 resonated for me. I was once told by my supervisor that I was doing too much work and making other people look. I was then told that I needed to do less work because because what would I do next year if I didn’t pace myself now? This same supervisor also told me that I took my job too seriously.” Whose boss has problem with a productive employee? It eventually lead to several conversations in which after finally getting that the problem wasn’t my work, but her feelings about me, I let her know that I wasn’t going to be mediocre for anyone and that even when I was right, I was wrong with her. I ended up leaving after 4 years I left feeling resentful and traumatized.

  5. Wow, numbers 7 and 8 resonated for me. I was once told by my supervisor that I was doing too much work and making other people look bad. I was then told that I needed to do less work because because what would I do next year if I didn’t pace myself now? This same supervisor also told me that I took my job too seriously.” Whose boss has a problem with a productive employee? It eventually lead to several conversations in which after finally getting that the problem wasn’t my work, but her feelings about me, I let her know that I wasn’t going to be mediocre for anyone and that even when I was right, I was wrong with her. I ended up leaving after 4 years feeling resentful and traumatized.

  6. Hits too close to home. At a previous job this year, there were 4 white people promoted within my small department, while me and two other black people were laid off. Then they brought in two more black people to replace us, as we were the only minorities in the department. Prior to the layoff, I was worked to the bone, told things such as I wasn’t qualified to be promoted to such and such position, while the white persons promoted had positions created for them. I was always so afraid to stand up for myself while there. Thankfully, I now work in a place that appreciates me fully.

  7. The one black co-worker I had in an all white department left after one month. She was accused of being too “aggressive” and people began to talk behind her back about how she “wasn’t going to make it.” Yet the reason she was upset was because people would talk about her behind her back! She felt like she always had to watch what she said or did because others would take it the wrong way. When she quit my previous boss (I do not work there anymore) pulled us all into a meeting and commented that she only got the job because the higher-ups insisted (hinting that it was affirmative action). After all the drama I met with my co-worker for lunch, and she told me the boss would have these one on one meetings with her asking her why she didn’t “look her in the eye” and would say things like “I can’t seem to figure you out.” Christ…. this was in a social work agency. What a damn joke. I don’t think this can qualify as a microaggression, it was so damn blatant and yet these white social workers were so blind to it. We’d have diversity trainings where “everyone else” was a racist, but “not us.” And yet we were unable to keep people of color in our department.

    White liberals are some of the worst when it comes to blindness. They think being liberal shields them from being racist.

    1. “White liberals are some of the worst when it comes to blindness. They think being liberal shields them from being racist.” #YES #YES #YES

  8. Thank you for this! It made me laugh, smile, remember and feel not so alone anymore. I am now a tenured professor at a large state PWI and within the last year my ability to keep calm and not let it get to me has become nearly impossible. Although numbers 1-10 all hit home, the one that resonates with me the most is number 2. However, in my case, the word that was used was “passionate” and that not everyone has such a thick skin. Translation: your aggression is not productive or welcome. And the exhaustion of the fake ass smile and holding back most of what I want to say in faculty meetings is enough to make anyone want to take a nap. Ah, academia.

  9. Thank You! Unfortunately they all resonated with me. But what is most unsettling for me is that I also witness these “workplace” microaggressions as they are transgressed against the incarcerated Black and Latino male adolescents with whom i work as a social work clinician.

  10. Thank you so much, I just got this, and I’m at work in my office like “DAMN”. I work at a non-profit and I am currently the only black male on staff. More often than not I feel all these things have taken place in my work space in some form or another, I just good to know that I am not crazy…

  11. So true!! I can relate to many of these as a professor of AA heritage in a largely majority venue. I just completed a book chapter regarding microaggressions, which underscored the “question of intelligence” issue that you mentioned in your narrative. It’s maddening that no matter what you do, and how well (or not) you do it, the knowledge that one is being judged remains salient. That stereotype threat can be overwhelming. Kudos for drawing this up!!!!

  12. There is a lot y’all live that I do not, but I still feel very much the same as expressed in this article. Maybe it’s because I’m a woman, and know that it’s got to be way worse being a black woman, but it’s not a whole pile better being a white woman at work.

  13. Great article, insightful as usual… but… being the contrarian I tend to be, a few observations:

    1. “Having a Ph.D. did not keep two students, during my first year teaching, from saying to a colleague, ‘We are sure she’s smart…but it does not come across in the classroom.'”

    — First, why should you possessing a Ph.D. prevent students from commenting on your teaching abilities? The number/types of degrees one holds is often mutually exclusive to their teaching ability. I have had countless professors through undergraduate and graduate courses who were smart as heck, and couldn’t teach a lick. A few come to mind… Mechanical Engineering Professor Reed (aka “The Rocket”), Physics Professor Rector (aka “Vector Rector”), and Electrical Engineering Professor Burns (aka “Burnsie”)… one Harvard Ph.D., and two MIT Ph.D.’s. Guess what all three had in common… they were all older white men, they all wore their hair like Albert Einstein, they all wore bowties, and they all sucked at teaching. A Doctor of Philosophy is more accurately described as a doctor of wisdom, not necessarily a doctor of pedagogy. Very few college professors have taken any pedagogy courses, or completed any student teaching during their undergraduate and graduate studies. The two students may have been actually commenting on your teaching abilities, not making assumptions of your competency based on your race. Are you sure you’re not racially hypersensitive?

    2. “Prestige of position is not protection.”

    — Why should it be? Healthy workplace meritocracy is blind to “prestige by position” and heavy on actual contribution. This is why streamlined and efficient private sector companies innovate, and also why the government produces $500 hammers and $2000 toilets; it’s why UPS and FedEx are profitable, and the USPS continues to flirt with bankruptcy; it’s why Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs dropped out of college, but were never looked down upon for not having “prestigious degrees”. I’ve worked with far too many engineers and software developers who came to the workplace with the expectancy of respect based on certifications or degrees… in the private sector, your produce or perish… can you design or can’t you… can you code or can’t you… in the private sector, the biggest color that matters is not black or white, it’s green. Of course my perspective is heavily influenced from having worked for decades in STEM fields as a designer/engineer… academia, government work, social fields, etc. likely have a different cultures. Having transitioned into K-12 STEM education in an urban school as a second career, and observing many of my fellow public school minority math/science teacher’s ineffective teaching and lack of basic comprehension of the concepts they are teaching, I proffer that the education field focuses too much on prestige as protection (as in protection of union-provided tenure and due-process) and not enough on workplace meritocracy. Studies of minority teachers performance and passing rates on the Praxis tests (certification tests required to teach) capture objectively what I witness on a daily basis subjectively. Google it if you want to review the studies. Are you sure you’re not racially hypersensitive?

    3. “You feel unappreciated, undercompensated and overworked”, and “You feel that no matter what you do or how hard you work, you need to do more.”

    — These are not always racial issues, often times it’s the organizational culture established by leadership. I’ve had a few bosses, and so have my sisters, and so have my parents, that have made us feel “underappreciated, undercompensated, and overworked”, and made us feel the we “need to do more”. I’m white, my sisters are white, my parents are white, and the bosses that made us feel that way were predominately white. Sh*tty leadership comes in all colors. Are you sure you’re not racially hypersensitive?

    I’m not blind inequities in our society, nor to the fact that racial microagressions exist… however, I do often wonder where the fine line is between racial microagression, and racial hypersensitivity. Sometimes things are about black and white… but sometimes they’re not.

    1. “Are you sure you’re not racially hypersensitive?”

      – Do you realize that statement is the reason for this article? Yes micro aggressions absolutely do exist and you just proved it. Yes I definitely agree that there are some very highly educated individuals who are horrible in the classroom and yes there are horrible managers of all nationalities and ethnicities. However, it is difficult to understand what it is like to be consistenely vilified throughout your entire existence for simply being or exhibiting what you can not control or change. This article is full of observations of reality not someone’s introspection for personal gain or satisfaction. This article is not saying “look at me I’m a black woman and this is what I go through,” rather it is saying “you are already looking at me because I’m a black woman and this is what you see.”

      1. “Do you realize that statement is the reason for this article?”

        No, actually I believe the reason for the article was best stated in Dr. Crunk’s intro: ‘The list (of microagressions) is presented in second person in an attempt to encourage the reader to “experience” the experience and consider its impact.’ The article never actually discusses the difference between a racially based microagression, and racially based hypersensitivity. Both exist, and they are not mutually exclusive. A person of color can experience racially based microagression, and also at times misconstrue reality and suffer from racially based hypersensitivity. It’s not binary, it’s not either-or… the human experience is layered, complex, multi-dimensional. Same applies to microagressions and hypersensitivities based on class, gender, age, sexual orientation, etc.

        “Yes micro aggressions absolutely do exist and you just proved it.”

        That assumes you know my heart, or my conscious or sub-conscious thoughts. Perhaps you are right, or perhaps I am opening up the dialogue on this blog so readers can ask the hard question… “is the person I’m interacting with exhibiting a racial (or class, gender, sexual orientation, age) microagression, or do I have “me” issues?” Like I said above, human interactions are complex. I never stated microagressions don’t exist, I actually acknowledged they do exist in my original comment.

        “It is difficult to understand what it is like to be consistently vilified throughout your entire existence for simply being or exhibiting what you can not control or change.”

        You assume that African Americans are the only group of people in America that could possibly feel persecution, judgment, etc., and by default assume race is the only factor by which one could be persecuted or judged. One of my son’s college classmates is the son of Hispanic migrant farmers… I’m the son and grandson of poor white foundry workers and ice cutters… many of the commenters on this article are white women in the workplace… you think AA’s have the market cornered on being persecuted and judged? The danger in that type of thought is it limits the ability to believe that others may be sympathetic or empathetic to your walk in life, and the end result is the assumption that everything negative that happens is life is automatically perceived to be racially based.

        “This article is not saying “look at me I’m a black woman and this is what I go through,” rather it is saying “you are already looking at me because I’m a black woman and this is what you see.””

        I think the article says more than that, and creates more questions. Yes, it lists typical racial microagressions and engages the reader to “experience the experience”. But it does not deal with the nuances and subtleties of human interaction. As I mentioned above, the danger in assuming “you are already looking at me because I’m a black woman and this is what you see” is that you assume to know another person’s heart. Let’s use the example of her two students commenting on her teaching ability as a first year Assistant Professor [since the author brought it up as a blatant example of a racial microagression she had personally experienced]… if she is like most first year Assistant Professors, she had little or no pedagogy classes, human growth and development or educational psychology classes, or student teaching… and if she is like most first year K-12 educators or Assistant Professors, she was in the first year of an approximately 5 year trajectory to optimizing her teaching talents. If she is like most people in her occupation, she may not have been a very good teacher that first year. If her two students simply commented on her actual teaching ability, they weren’t looking at her as a black woman with preconceived notions of who/what she was… they simply were saying she wasn’t very good at teaching. They could have been saying, “I am looking at you because you’re a black woman and this is what I see”, or they alternately could have been saying “I am looking at you because you’re my professor whose job it is to educate me and this is what I see”.

        I’m not discounting the substance of the article, it’s very insightful. I’m just asking if there is more depth to the discussion….

      2. Rabiia,

        Your absolute confidence in your opinion doesn’t make it fact; the occasion that you are a woman of color doesn’t make your opinion fact; your unwillingness to engage in deeper discussion and summarily dismiss others thoughts doesn’t make your opinion fact; your sureness that some constructs exist while others are imaginary constructs doesn’t make your opinion fact. There are many ways to view the human experience, I’m just expressing mine and trying to further the dialog.

    2. David, you are so very obviously a white man, with white privilege to blind you from HOW THIS SHIT FEELS on a daily basis. It is not hypersensitivity, it is lived experience that people like you have a hard time understanding because you don’t experience it. This is a bullshit comment and you’ve missed the point entirely. Stop making everything about you and try to open up to people’s stories. Your experience does not dictate what other people’s systemic experiences are, you do not get to be judge and jury over this issue. YOU ARE NOT QUALIFIED.

      1. David,

        You will never be able to understand the point of view of someone who has personally experienced racism, trying to intellectually argue the point with long winded answers to every question does not make that less evident.

        If you wanted to answer the question from both sides, choose sides that are equal in measure. Racial hypersensitivity is a social construct that only exists to make people who are guilty of racism feel better about themselves, whereas racial micro aggressions are used as a definition of a social issue that actually exits.

        Your last response again proved all of the information in this article is completely valid.

      2. Unfortunately, you sound a bit like Vinita Hedgwood.

        Let me give you an example of the danger in people talking “at” each other, and not “with” each other, an example where the emotions of the “isms” (racism, classism, agism, etc.) get in the way of actually promoting deeper understanding.

        Take the Trayvon Martin tragedy… a sad moment for America… the emotions were understandably so deep across the nation, but so many Americans failed to take a step back and rationally and logically analyze all factors. One of the great tragedies of the Trayvon Martin trial was that a major criminal injustice was put on display for all America to see, and so much emotion blinded American’s to the teachable moment. If you ask Americans about the Trayvon Martin case, they may make some generic comment about Skittles and Iced Tea, or George Zimmerman being a vigilante, or racial profiling. But what most Americans didn’t glean from the tragedy was the injustice of Angela Corey’s prosecutor’s office not only in the George Zimmerman trial, but against hundreds of poor black and brown men and women in her Florida circuit over her many years in office via illegal discovery process shenanigans; what most Americans didn’t glean from the tragedy was the subtleties of the Castle Doctrine and Stand Your Ground Laws, and what needs to be done to change them; what most Americans didn’t glean from the tragedy was Mark O’Mara’s insight regarding criminal injustices rampant in the Florida judicial system from his 30+ years as a criminal defense attorney mostly defending poor black and brown young men. Those teachable moments whizzed right by most American’s because individuals so high on emotion and sure of their worldview looked at their fellow American, and said with malice in their heart, “YOU ARE NOT QUALIFIED”.

      3. The “emperor’s new clothes” of racial politics in the 21st century: “YOU are not qualified . . . .” Very much like the arguments for religion: you must have FAITH. You cannot reason. Also, I cannot be questioned or challenged–my delicate psyche can’t survive that. Give me an echo chamber. I cannot make it all about ME, but don’t try to make it about YOU. (Not that he was.)

    3. “perhaps I am opening up the dialogue on this blog so readers can ask the hard question… “is the person I’m interacting with exhibiting a racial (or class, gender, sexual orientation, age) microagression, or do I have “me” issues?””

      How generous of you, to come here and make the effort to open up this blog to the dialogue of: “are you experiencing what you think you’re experiencing, or are you really just overreacting and blind to your own flaws?”

      I know you’ve been taught as a white dude that your opinion is intensely relevant at all times and that your participation is a blessing whatever the context. But, man, if you don’t step back, you’re going to find yourself–as you are here–making a stand that racism isn’t really so bad and black people would have better experiences if they were just more competent and friendlier. Is that really what you want?

      1. Dear David,

        What makes what I’m saying fact is the psychological and empirical research that I have that validates my statements.

        Never did I personally attack your heart or your intention…what I disagree with is your approach. When did I say I’m a woman of color? Or did you assume that because I am passionate about my position?

        Trying to encourage dialogue does not include making blanket assumptions about issues, then stating what someone else is saying is not based in fact. When in fact you have no clue either way. An intellectual conversation includes debate, are you suggesting that since I’m not including citations and spewing mass media driven examples that I’m not qualified to have this discussion with you? Could it be because you think I’m a woman of color?

        Since you seem to like making blanket opinionated statements about media driven topics that have absolutely nothing to do with this particular subject, let me let you in on a little tidbit of valuable information…are you ready?

        People who often deliver covert racism, which includes racial micro aggressions often do not consider themselves racist. Your “all I’m trying to do” statements remind me of a statement I have heard so many times, “I can’t be racist I have black friends.”

        But I wouldn’t want to assume anything about you, that would be wrong, non-factual, and opinionated. Definitely not how a woman of color is supposed to conduct herself.


        The not so Angry, Educated Black Woman

      2. How the hell do you get from what David actually said to your rant? “Racism isn’t really so bad”? No. He never said that.

    4. David, while you may not be ‘blind [to the] inequities in our society, you appear to overlook the structures, policies and practices that faithfully produce inequality. Your argument seems to be predicated on a 19th-century notion of the ‘self-made man’ (see Henry Clay). While this is all well and good (an attractive libertarian formulation) your claim suggests the domain in which the self is made is neutral and fair. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Though you are accurate in your statement about poor leadership, the negative affect of poor leadership on non-male and non-white male bodies is disproportionate. The article is just one of those of stories; just because it’s not your story, doesn’t mean that it’s untrue or subject to suspicion in the name of ‘opening a dialogue’ which, by the way, is a form of mircroaggression (see Michael Kimmel, Invisible Masculinity, 2005).

      1. Of course! Opening a dialogue is a form of microaggression!! Because only we know what we’re talking about. Don’t question. Don’t discuss. Don’t ask. We’re not strong enough to speak for ourselves. So we avoid anything but echo chambers where we chatter on about “microaggressions” in a contest for who is the most butthurt.

  14. Black Male Stay at Home Dad here. Yup yup yup and more yups. For me the most frustrating thing is since I am a parent, people are welcome to bring their microaggressions into my home, since that is my office. We go to a predominantly white church , and young adult group leader asked my nine year old to emcee a talent show without asking me first. My daughter is beautiful and brilliant, but also a disabled little brown girl, and so is always highly in demand to be used to showcase diversity. I sent this group leader, a fervent soapbox liberal, an extensive list of reasons why I always say no to theses requests on my nine year old’s time. She called me up to talk, not getting the point of the long list and when I asked her if there was a part of the list she didn’t understand, she literally used the phrase “I read all of the words that you wrote” and then sighed and left an expectant pause…. Classic disappointed liberal microaggression! Thanks for the reminder that we’re in this together!

    1. Wow–how insulting–your child is asked to be a leader. Good thing you assumed it was racist/ablist and protected her from that horrible experience.

  15. oh wow. this totally describes so many aspects of my work life. to the point where I am constantly playing a drinking game in my head for every time I go through the following:

    – someone asks a question about something in my field
    – I answer them based on facts that I know or based on an informed opinion (that I am more than qualified to have)
    – I see the look of doubt creeping to the corners of their eye, and them looking frantically around for someone to save them from having to acknowledge this information I just gave them
    – not to worry, I am used to this, so of course I remember exactly where they can find the information. I let them know the article/book/white male that I got it from
    – they look at me a little skeptically
    – I give them my best innocent, sorta dumb “I am not clever enough to make this up” look
    – they accept the information – they can always look it up later – and sigh gladly that all is still *normal* with the world
    – my soul dies a little

    yes I am quite drunk with sadness by the time that check comes around.

  16. Wow!
    Thank-you all for your comments – I must say I usually avoid comment threads because they often make me mad – but I have very much appreciated the comments that people have written (especially the responses to the comments that usually make me mad). I get angry, because I struggle to find the words to articulate what I am feeling and what I believe is truly going on.

    Thanks for providing me some language. It is so very liberating and so very helpful.

    Thank-you folks!

  17. I have to slightly agree more with David on this. Sometimes criticism from others has more to do with them than you and taking their criticisms personally invite the smearing of other people’s foo issues and other accumulated crap onto you. We are not the only oppressed, marginalized, discriminated against group on the planet. Maybe if we really did make an effort to talk and understand and empathize we would be moved beyond our comfort zone and personal prejudices at how much we really do share with others. We can never fully know what another person thinks or believes, why not carry ourselves in such a way that we invite them to see the individual and unique beauty that is our true selves because we offer that first in our interactions with them.

  18. Wow! I can’t believe some of the subjective comments from your supervisors, which to me, sounds tantamount to bullying. Maybe because I work in the education sector in the UK the criteria used for appraisals is objective though I’ve had bosses try to pull subjective stuff in because they can’t fault my work. I always challenge that crap about my attitude and ask how does it relate to my work and the progress of students.

    The point is that probably everyone in the workplace experience slights/undermining but we know as Black people we experience them more because of subconscious and conscious racism.That’s what the article is saying. Anyone who doesn’t want to acknowledge that racism exists really should spend some time getting educated.
    But not on my time.

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