I Worked For A Racist Company
The time I wish I’d spoken up
There are two times in my life where I stood by and watched as something terrible happened because I was afraid of what would happen to me. The first was when I had just entered the workforce. I was cleaning the lobby when a woman flagged me over. I thought she’d have a question or ask me to bring her a refill, but instead, she was unhappy with the Barbie doll her child had received in her happy meal. She could have just said that she wanted a new one, but she decided to refer to the doll as the n-word instead. I was shocked, dumbfounded, and disgusted, but I got her a new doll. Looking back, I wish I had told my manager about the situation, but the only person I told was a maintenance man that I had befriended. I didn’t know how to process what had happened, but he did. He said that her behavior was nothing new to him, but for me it was the first of many times I’d witnessed someone using what I’ll refer to as ‘casual racism’.
Casual racism is when you meet someone who believes you hold the same views as them, so they just let trash spew out of their mouths. It’s when someone tells you that they refuse to work with someone of a certain color or make subtle remarks that let you know they don’t like someone because they’re a different race. It’s the same type of thing I had to deal with at one of my jobs, which brings me to the next time I sat idly by as I watched ‘casual racism’ unfold before me.
I’m not going to name this company since I have no desire to ruin them or be sued, but I’ve written about this company before. The company itself has a small breakroom that only seats four people, but that number was lowered to two during the pandemic. On the weekends, the company usually buys Raising Canes or cheap pizza for the associates, which means the breakroom fills up quickly.
The breakroom was already full when I was told to go to lunch, so I decided to take my break in the training room. The training room wasn’t much better, but people usually didn’t take their breaks in there unless they wanted to use the computers. I figured that I’d have time to work on my writing during my hour-long break, but I was wrong. Not long after I entered, a manager and two team leads entered the room. The team leads were women whom I didn’t like. They were rude, lazy, and worst of all, bullies. They’d done things to me in the past like taking the remote from my hands because I was watching ‘nerd shit’ or paging me while I was working to get me to do a simple task that they could have completed. They went out of their way to give terrible customer service just to annoy me, but on this day, I wasn’t their target.
They ran into the room, yelling and pointing out a woman on the security feed. The expressions on their faces were smug as if they were proud of their actions. They were pointing to a woman on the security monitor. I didn’t glance up, but from their dialog, I learned that the woman was black. The reason they gave for suspecting her of stealing was that she had forgotten her phone and left the store only to reenter a few minutes later. I thought her actions were normal, I’d even done the same thing a few days ago, but my coworkers seemed to have an issue with her. They didn’t present the manager with any evidence that she was stealing, and she appeared to be shopping like any other customer. They watched her until she checked out, and then the manager told them that there was no proof that she was stealing.
I felt uncomfortable watching the ordeal, but another thought slowly crept into my mind: the woman didn’t know there was surveillance on her. She had no idea that these people claimed she was stealing. She probably wouldn’t have spent her money with the company if she had known. I was disgusted, and I wish I had said something, but I was afraid of losing my job. At the time, the job was the best paying that I’d ever had. It was also the most miserable job I’d ever had, but I held onto it for dear life. I was afraid I’d become homeless if I lost my job.
A few weeks later, a coworker informed me that there was a Facebook post online accusing the company of being racist. I watched as one of the managers defended the post, claiming that it couldn’t possibly be racist because the people involved were stealing.
Another few or so passed, and I noticed my coworker saying the n-word online. This was the same coworker who’d harassed me when he learned I didn’t want to date him. I reported him, only to be told that his online life was protected. They didn’t care what his cruel tweets said, they only wanted me to shut up about them. They also tried to force me to be around him. It didn’t matter that he was harassing me. I didn’t stay with the company much longer after that.