I’m Not A Racist, But…
After you watch this video I would like to share one of my experiences with you that involve a similar situation. I would love hearing your thoughts, ideas and suggestions. This is the beginning of a series of conversations I would like to have with all who are open-minded enough to join in.
Now after watching this, I’m sure there will be those who will say the socially acceptable thing that makes them appear less of a racist, but how true are you being to yourself.
I’ve personally been in situations of being accused of stealing a wallet out of someone’s purse from a place I use to work. I knew the person and helped them on many occasions on developing an application that made their job easier. On the day of the incident I came to her desk to check to see how everything was going and if I needed to fix any bugs she may have discovered. I remember seeing her purse near her computer, but I never touched it. She left to get a drink from the break-room, just around the corner. So I just talked to the lady who was in the office beside her.
When she returned all was normal, but about three hours later I got a call from H.R. (Human Resources) to come to their office. I was working on something for them too, so that wasn’t suspicious to me. When I walked in there she was with her manager and H.R. All White and looking upset. I asked “what’s up” as I normally did, because I was very casual with all of them. They were co-workers, but I also saw them as friends at the time.
I was being accused of stealing her wallet. I was blown away. I thought I was getting punk’d at first because I’ve joked with all of them and helped each of you on many occasions. But they were serious. So I asked why would I ever steal anything except candy from the candy jar on each of your desks. She explained why she believes I did it. The first thing she said was “I’m not a racist”, and then started with the assumptions. Now I wasn’t thinking about race until she raised it. The fact that they were all White didn’t bother me; the fact that I was the only Black didn’t bother me. I never thought you were a racist unless you’re giving me a reason I should.
After listening to her excuses I asked a simple question, “Why do you think I took your wallet?” Then the H.R. officer’s phone rang. It was another employee who was calling from the break-room to report (the lady who was accusing me) wallet was in the refrigerator. The look on the H.R. reps face said it all. She told us that someone found her wallet, and then she apologized to me for not defending me at first, because she knew that wasn’t like me. She then told us that (the lady who was accusing me) obviously left her wallet in the refrigerator. She stopped to think and said that she had it with her when she got her drink this morning.
The damage was already done and they knew it. She tried to apologize, but I had nothing to say to her. Later that day her manager came to my office to apologize and I didn’t have much to say to her either. I told her that’s what I get for being concerned about others I guess. I was just checking on her to see if the application was running smoothly for her and I am looked at as a thief. I wonder why.
My long-term response may have been wrong, but I rarely offered any assistance to that department, except when I had to and said very little to the lady and her manager. When you assume the worse about someone you may soon realize how wrong you were.
Consider others. Don’t be so afraid of speaking about race, but don’t assume that you’re not a racist, just because you say you’re not. We all have biases and harbor gross misconceptions about those who we have not taken the opportunity to get to know.