I often hear I quickly build rapport with people and make them feel comfortable. I find that quite funny as I often tell people I don’t speak English. Anyway, I digress, I think I’ve made some of my colleagues feel too comfortable because of the comments they’ve made. Below are some of the things I’ve heard that have left me wondering: if they know I’m black and what they wanted me to say in response.
(1) A white colleague asked me about an ethnic drink that my other colleague (a black man) and I were talking about…….it was rum. I very loudly in my head called them a fantastic b*stard.
(2) The same colleague messaged me asking what to eat in Turtle Bay (a Caribbean inspired restaurant). Why me? Also, it was my day off, so they should have known I only converse with colleagues during periods when I’m paid to do so.
(3) Another white colleague told me they liked me. They then proceeded to tell me they don’t agree with inter-racial relationships as they don’t like the look of them. They added, the sight of a black hand on a white hand makes them uncomfortable. They said when they shared this, they were called racists, which they disagreed with. They said they didn’t feel they were racists because they wouldn’t mind a black person in their home and they’re ‘friends’ with an S.E. Asian colleague.
It was at that moment I realised I was their token black friend; the one black ‘friend’ people use when trying to prove they’re not racist. To be clear: we’re not friends. My mum didn’t give birth to a mug. Also, my ancestors wouldn’t allow it.
(4) Whilst watching The African Cup of Nations in the office, I asked which countries were playing. My white, male colleague said Nigeria and another country that I can’t recall. I told them that the team weren’t wearing the Nigerian colours, so I didn’t believe it was them. They remarked “it says N-i-g-e-r”. I said that isn’t Nigeria, it’s Niger which is a neighbouring country. They said I was lying and I don’t have authority and knowledge of all things African because I’m African.
They added that you could say ‘Niger’ in a different way, so I asked them to tell me as I was unaware. They realised the conversation had to end there otherwise it would have continued with a HR representative.
(5) A hip-hop/pop track was quietly playing in the office, so my white, female colleague said I should “turn it up so we can pretend to be big booty, black b*tches and twerk”. I looked her straight in the eye and reminded her that I was black. She said “you know what I meant”.
(6) Whilst discussing the Sudanese food I was going to bring in the following day, my colleague asked if I would be making curry goat. I explained that it wasn’t a Sudanese dish, but if they wanted to try it, they could go to a Caribbean restaurant. They said they thought I would make it because it’s all the same.
Before I could complete the eye roll of the decade, they said their parents fostered a Nigerian boy when they were younger. Knowing they were lying, I asked what his name was. They started stuttering and said they couldn’t remember.
I don’t believe a black person has even knocked on their door, never mind slept in their home. I don’t think people realise you don’t have to have friends of another race to prove you’re not racist – it’s not by force.
I could write a book on the micro-aggressions I hear in the office, but instead of being angry about it all, I just think about the positives: I work with some pretty cool and amazing people; I’m leaving soon and my payslip.
Anyway, as always, apologies for the typos.
#OfficePolitics / #SundayConfessions