Denial and Silence to Racism is Consent

Desmond Tutu said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. 

Verizon denied that my co-worker who made the ‘monkey see, monkey do’ remark about Black football players kneeling during the national anthem to protest racial discrimination and police brutality was racially insensitive.

They denied having knowledge of a racial slurs being made against me. And they denied that the work environment was hostile for me. One of my co-worker (white) was the only person who spoke out about the pervasive racism in the office. He was also let go after they terminated me.  These messages are between that co-worker and I between October 25th through November 4th 2017. 

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Mystery at 100 Forest Pl. Apt. 1305

100 Forest Place apt. 1305 city removed

I do not now live, nor have I lived at 100 Forest Place. Apt. 1305 since December 30, 2018. However, per my request for an early lease termination, I officially moved out and turned in the keys on April 4th 2018. I repeat…

In the last month – I find myself having to explain several times over that I do not live at 100 Forest Place. Apt. 1305 – forcing me to explain my very short marriage and divorce that started and ended in an apartment on the the 13th floor.

Things took a mysterious turn when my PhD. diploma was mailed to 100 Forest Place Apt. 1305. and a month later it was still not delivered. I filed a report with the post office. The first person with whom I spoke first verified that I had a Change of Address (COA) form was on file and informed me that the carrier would be notified to keep watch for my diploma. In the meantime, I picked up a copy from the university – but was concerned that the mailed copy was still out there. It wasn’t the first time that my mail had gone missing. It was happening when I lived at 100 Forest Place. Apt. 1305.

I received an email response from the post office regarding the report I filed on my lost diploma. The email stated that a Change of Address (COA) form could not be located in the system – which was odd because the post office have been forwarding mail to my new address for months. I called and spoke with the person who sent the email. He said that it was sent in error and that my COA form was in the system. I asked him to send me an email confirmation. He refused.

I reported the incident again and requested that a copy of the COA form be provide to me. A second postal worker sent me an email that a ‘forward was on file for me until 2019’ and asked if I could submit another form. A forward of what? I responded to her vague email specifically detailing that she provide me with information of the change of address form that I submitted on April 4, 2018. She responded that she ‘could not see the form in their system.’ I emailed her a copy of the ‘official Change of Address confirmation letter’ that I received from the post office when I moved out of 100 Forest Place. Apt. 1305 – coffee stains and all. I also requested a formal investigation into the matter to determine what the hell is going on.

Many people I know would not have moved into an apartment on the 13th Floor. But being of a free-spirited, nature-loving, adventurous kind – I cared more about the breath-taking view of the Chicago city skyline and watching the sunrise that would most mornings, paint the sky in the most pristine blend of colors. In Spring of 2016, I gave up my suburban apartment – my absolute freedom and independence from poor relationship decisions that had adversely impacted my life for many years. I moved into 100 Forest Place. Apt. 1305 high-rise with my new boyfriend. I thought that what we had was love. We marry in April of 2017 and by December 30th of that same year, life in apt. 1305 had turned into a grim and terrifying reality. I packed a bag and left. That was the last time I called Apt. 1305 home – and that was the last time I saw my now, ex-husband. I gave notice to terminate our lease early and filed for divorce. By end of March 2018, I moved into a new apartment on a street named, Pleasant (that turned out to be everything but) and on April 4th, I surrendered my keys and concluded life in Apt. 1305 – or so I thought. I am still not a superstitious person – but I doubt that I will ever move into another 13th floor apartment.

On speaking out against racial discrimination especially in the workforce

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Photo by Dazzle Jam on Pexels.com

A compelling argument can be made that there is a lot of fear among Blacks when it comes to standing up and speaking out against racial discrimination and injustice, especially in the workplace. This may be due in part to the fact that Blacks are highest among the unemployed and underemployed – and are lowest among wage earners. Therefore, many choose to look the other way and keep silent to protect their little piece of the pie – no matter how meager. They fail to realize that their silence weakens Black progress. And makes them an active participant in their own oppression. Their silence perpetuates and help to preserve white hierarchy. 

For those who dare to speak out, it becomes a one man fight against a system that is designed to protect and preserve the status quo. This is tragic because if we stand together and fight against racial injustice- we would be a powerful, unbeatable force with the collective strength to break down walls and force the reforms necessary to effect sustainable change toward a more equitable future for everyone.

Addressing Racially divisive and Insensitive Remarks in the Workplace: A Response from HR

I filed a complaint with HR about a co-worker, who in expressing his dislike for Black football players who kneel to protest racial discrimination and police brutality against Black people, referred to those kneeling as ‘monkey see, monkey do’… I was fired few months later. The co-worker who made the comment was kept on staff. This was one of the first responses from the HR department at the local office: hashtag#footballplayers, hashtag#brutality, hashtag#racialdiscrimination
jorge diaz. response to race discrimination complaint

White Privilege and Black Struggles

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In a discussion in which I argued that racial discrimination is preserved and perpetuated in the cultivation of societal patriarchy – one opposing argument made by a white person is that too much emphasis is placed on race. “Everyone experience struggles in their lives. All lives matter,” she said.

The response is not uncommon among whites who take offense when Blacks speak against racism, challenge racial biases and assert their ethnic value. That Blacks – in demanding fair treatment, dignity and respect is perceived as an attack on white people’s value is perplexing. Blacks have been fighting against a white ideology of superiority throughout history, yet nowhere is it documented -past or present – that Blacks have argued for a position of superiority over whites.

One cannot help but wonder when confronted with these surface-level responses just how vast is our disconnect that many whites do not understand why Blacks fight against racial injustice? And are we even talking about the same struggles?  It is hard to conceive that one can remain ignorant in a climate so thick with racial discord. But conceptually speaking, can whites truly relate to the intersectional factors around race, sex, and class issues with which Blacks struggle? How many whites have ever ventured far enough outside the safe space that white privilege allows them to conceive of a reality in which Black boys and men are gunned in droves like animals – or locked away behind bars – sometimes-  for years for the same infraction for which a white man will walk free? Can whites whose world of privilege protect them from having a life in which their children do not have access to decent education understand the scant resources available to many inner-city Black kids?  Or being confined on a large scale in neighborhoods that are stripped of resources that are crucial to improving their lives – trapping them in a perpetual state of oppression one generation after the next?

The disconnect is real and it is vast. One can argue that while many whites will claim that they are not racist – few will acknowledge that their whiteness has for generations provided them with privileges that many Blacks cannot conceive. Understanding this element is essential in the way researchers, scholars and race theorists approach addressing  racism. To move forward as an equal and just society requires a collective mindset that we are strengthened by our diversity – that all men, women, and nationalities no matter their ethnic background deserve equal rights, justice, opportunities and fair representation. Fundamentally, what fraction of whites are willing to acknowledge that their white skin has provided them with privileges that many Blacks are denied? And what fraction of that group cares enough about the collective advancement to venture out of their safe space and get involved in bridging the vast racial divide?

There is profound hope that a large enough segment of the white population does care – and there is profound hope that those individuals will begin to ask questions that will allow for a more expansive and inclusive discourse. But there will also be – as James Baldwin alludes in his work –  those who will choose and will insist on remaining in a state of innocence long after that innocence is dead.

But as a starkly under-represented group – Blacks must continue to invest in advancing the population. And no – white and Blacks do not face the same struggles particularly around socio-economic, race, class, sex and gender issues.