Today I will share a story I was told recently. It was told to me by someone currently working in a large nursing facility in Florida – nursing home with assisted living, skilled unit, and independent living townhomes. In an effort to become more racially sensitive and responsive to the housekeeping, facilities and certified nurse aid staff the management team has solicited improvement suggestions.
An email was sent to the management team by the facilities director. His email asked for feedback from the rest of the management team on two changes:
Now, when I first heard this, I thought – well this is pretty low level stuff that no employee actually suggested. But what unfolded next was mind boggling. What ensued was a flood of emails from the management team that ranged from: “Why do we want to change the name of the bedroom, it’s what I grew up?”, to “What about the doctors, they may not like being considered team members?” Needless to say, the email thread went off the tracks and crashed. It went all the way to folks on the management team not understanding why anyone would find “Master Bedroom” to be offensive while others recounted the “Black friends” that they ate dinner with several nights a week growing up.
My friend finally had enough. As one of only three Black mangers on the team, he felt it necessary to step in and drop some knowledge on the knuckle headed coworkers. He explained to them that the term “Master” has been used as a title as in Master Craftsman (i.e. plumber, mechanic, etc.), Head Master as it relates to education and so forth. This can be considered gender offensive in that these titles were historically given to white males. The other aspect is the use as the master of the house or the master of the plantation. Clearly this would be considered racially offensive. So this change could be viewed as a positive for the mostly female, African-American housekeeping staff that enter the residences on a daily or weekly basis at the facility.
Next came the thanks and appreciation for his insights and clarifications. As everyone wanted to double down on their complements, he started to get the ‘heart felt’ stories as they recounted their experiences with Black “friends”. The final takeaway for him was that the entire management team needed culture sensitivity training before that could even begin to work on implementing changes in this new environment/conversation concerning race in American.
Now, I’ll give you my take on this steaming pile of horseshit.
I am convinced that white people engage in the use of racial stereotyping and epithets on a regular basis when talking with close friends and family. I have been told this by some white folks I know that are being “honest” after a degree of trust has been established. The need to teach white people about how some of their cultural customs impact Black folks is a waste of time. The first thing required is for them to care and feel something about the lives of Black people. We are dismissed as inconsequential to the lives of white people unless they need something. They, generally speaking, don’t give a second thought to the actual daily lives of Black folks. We, on the other hand, can’t get through a single day without being impacted by what white folks think, want, or believe because of the power and cultural dynamics. In short, white folks have to first really give a dam about the lives that Black folks lead.
Second, I don’t buy the idea that those employees prioritized name changes over more significant changes like - safety measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19, better healthcare coverage, and a higher minimum wage for the housekeeper and certified nurse aid positions. I know for a fact that the premiums for employees are extremely low, less than $100 a month at that facility. If they add a spouse or want a family plan, the premium jumps to almost $1,000 a month. For most of these staff people, they barely net over $1,800 a month. This prevents them from getting health coverage for their dependents even though they work full time and have health benefits. This corporate tap dance is performed at many private corporations all over the country. Culture change is good but why not address the true issues that impact the lives of your employees and endear them to the organization resulting in lower turnover and organizational commitment and promotion.
Lastly, Stop playing.
White people. Stop acting like you don’t understand why Black people are outraged, angry, terrorized and demoralized by the box they have been kept in by American society. We have millions of African-Americans in positions at the highest levels of publicly traded corporations, federal and state government, and in the military service. Yet the minute they are not in the office, removed their professional attire, and are out in the real world – they are considered a threat and a criminal.
When white citizens encounter someone Black that they do not personally know, they consider them to be a threat. No matter how many intelligent, thoughtful, responsible and engaging Black people you meet and interact with in a controlled environment (i.e. workplace, DMV, mechanic, grocery store clerk, etc.), the minute it becomes a random encounter – alarm bells go off and there is a flight or fight response however subtle. White people. Stop acting like you don’t understand why Black people are outraged, angry, terrorized and demoralized by the box they have been kept in by American society. Stop playing, its horseshit and you know it.
The Angry Man
We all know an angry man. It seems he always speaks with passion even when the words appear