When I read your article I noticed that even though I’ve never been through something as horrifying myself, I do see the parallels with abusive management I’ve encountered occasionally over the years. Never as bad or direct as you, I have to admit that yes, being a tall white male made a massive difference in my favor.
When I was a kid at school I was a year younger than the rest, and abusive kids would make use of that. It didn’t matter to them how they hurt you. If you were smaller, had glasses, an atheist… anything that they could use. Until I would completely lose it and start a huge fight with that kid. I would get scolded, but the end result would be that the kid knew that there was a price to pay for their actions. But in our rational, adult world the sad thing is that we’ve made sure that the abuse can happen, but there is no socially acceptable way to rage back like you can when you’re a kid.
And that’s where I think the deeper tragedy lies. The racism and sexism are expressions of a deeper problem: there are evil, abusive people who have power over others, and will find ways to hurt others. I’m pretty sure that if you were not black Kelly would have found something else instead of the black chair episode. As long as she could hurt you.
My biggest hint of this deeper problem is that you wrote: “I never forgot that meeting. I’d had terrible managers in the past, but this was another level. Unfortunately, this type of behavior and unprofessionalism wasn’t uncommon at Squarespace.”. As a process consultant (Agile) I have found this, and the resulting culture of fear and abuse to be the great killer of… basically everything, really. So it’s something I work really hard to address wherever I come.
Amelie, I hope you have found the self-esteem and respect you deserve, and that you’ll find a way to push back against the bullies of the corporate playground. I’ll try to do my part on the other side of the pond.