I Was Told Racism Shouldn’t Bother Me Because I’m White
I am afraid to write this. I’ve never written anything like this before and I’m not sure that my voice is important enough to share this story, but this is my experience and I felt compelled to share it. In October, I was terminated from a job that can best be described as hell on Earth. I’m not going to sugarcoat it, I hated that job, but this article is not being made with the intent to ruin the company. I’m not even going to name the company, although I’m sure many share my experiences and can guess who this retailer is. The only hint I’ll give is that this isn’t Walmart.
Multiple issues occurred during my employment, including a situation where I was afraid of a coworker physically assaulting me. All these situations were brought to management, who only become angry that I’d used the online system to report them. It costs them forty dollars per complaint. This is the same company where management demands you to get credit apps so that they can receive their bonuses and they might give you a sticker or a face mask for your efforts.
One of the things I used the online system to report was a coworker’s comments. She was a team leader and will probably continue to move up within the company because her values seem to match that of the company. I can’t deny that this woman made life hard for me, she often yelled in my face and treated me like a child. When I reported the way she treated me to management they responded by saying that she hadn’t done anything illegal. “So, I guess it’s the company way?” I responded, shocked that they didn’t care about the way an employee was being treated. I couldn’t help thinking that my very first job working in fast food had treated me better.
I had already spoken to home office about her when I heard her saying racist (or at least what I thought of as racist) things to a coworker. She confessed that she didn’t know why George Floyd was being made into a martyr when he was a drug addict. She also shared her unhappiness about the statues in New Orleans being removed. She then gleefully told this coworker that she was related to Jefferson Davis and that she didn’t think the statues were racist or a big deal. She also said something along the lines of, no one who’s alive today has ever been a slave so the statues shouldn’t upset them.
I had always known she was an awful person, but now I felt that she was also either racist or ignorant. Her words stuck with me, and I knew I had to do something. I ended up emailing the district manager and letting her know what was going on. I got a response a few days later saying that she was going to get with the store manager and figure out what was going on. The store manager was angry, as expected. He didn’t want me going over his head and he probably didn’t want home office/managers who were higher up knowing how he ran the store. I was informed that I could go to him with any issues I had, but this was a lie. Anytime I did go to him he’d brush off my concerns and act as though I was being overdramatic.
I met with many managers in the coming weeks, one of which told me that I shouldn’t have been concerned about ‘racial injustice’ because I was white. She also informed me that it wasn’t racist because it was the team lead’s opinion and it was ok for her to share that on the sales floor. She doubled down by stating that it wasn’t racist since the ‘N word’ hadn’t been used. This is the same woman who said, “You know, whenever a woman reports a man for harassment, they usually take the woman’s side even if it isn’t true.”
I was dumbfounded. I had never reported anything this serious before (the racism and another associate who was sexually harassing me), and I mostly felt disgusted by the way I was being treated by management. While there was no doubt in my mind that I did nothing wrong, I wondered if I should have been the one to speak up about what I heard.
It’s also worth noting that I was having issues with a man who wouldn’t leave me alone at the time. The staff questioned me about his social media, which I had never looked at before. I caught him staring at my breasts, but knew the staff wasn’t going to do anything about it so I never bothered to report it. I viewed his social media for the first time that night and found him saying the ‘N word’. I anonymously reported it to home office and the only thing that came of that report was him deleting his Twitter.
I’m not sure what I plan to accomplish by writing this. I know my former workplace will never change, even if they read this article. Maybe I hope to spark a conversation, but I think I mostly wanted to get it off my chest.