Commentary

Report Your Microaggressions

Oct 17, 2016

One of the unexpected perks of this gig is hearing from you about your work, your lives and what’s missing from your professional tool boxes. Since many of the topics we cover are personal, and occasionally painful, it’s wonderful to hear that this coverage is resonating. Thanks, and keep writing.

Here are four things that raceAhead readers have asked me to think about that I’ll be turning into stories:

  • Many of you have written asking me for an update about what I’ve been learning about race and work in the last six months of reporting, so look for a “state of race in the workplace” piece in the next few weeks.
  • The unique struggles of over-fifty executives of color who are either looking for work or facing a precipitous narrowing of professional opportunities.
  • Microaggressions in the workplace - those casual, often inadvertent slights and dismissals that can demean others and erode a sense of trust and inclusion. We all hate them, but they’re a fact of life. And we’re all guilty, occasionally. What best practices are companies adopting? Are there unintended consequences of “policing speech?”
  • And finally, empathy. It’s become the emotional centerpiece for much of the diversity and inclusion work you’re embracing. Can it be taught? What are the components? How can it scale through organizations? What is the business world learning about measuring its bottom-line impact?

So, I’ve got my marching orders.

Here are yours. Send me your choicest examples of the microaggressions that have been lobbed your way, or, if you’re brave, that you’ve accidentally said to someone else. (This is an inclusive request. It doesn't have to be about race.)

To get you started, here are some from different categories of my life:

  • When I was single: “You can cook? Wow. I pictured your refrigerator with, like a yogurt and a stalk of celery or something.” (Speaker: boss.)
  • On being mixed race: “You’re what? Why don’t you just tell people you’re Brazilian? It’s so much more exotic.” (Speaker: federal judge.)
  • On asking for a raise: “You should definitely wear something silky and flowy. It will throw him off.” (Speaker: male mentor.)
  • Guest on a panel: “Your "hair" (she used air quotes) doesn’t work for a business show. Our viewers absolutely will not accept it.” (Speaker: television producer.)
  • On my home town: “Wait. You’re from New York? But you’re so clean!” (Speaker: At least ten different people. I had no idea what it meant and didn’t ask.)
  • To a Native American colleague who was running late: “Don’t worry, I’ll hold down the fort!” (Speaker: me. My face still burns with shame.)

Wishing you a microaggression free Monday.

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TED

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