top of page

We Take Racism Very Seriously
by Miranda McClellan

Please circle your answers to these questions regarding our workplace climate. 
                                                           ________________________

Monday morning at work, there is a 

               A. panel 
               B. town hall 
               C. corporate all-hands 
               D. community listening session

for diversity and inclusion led in response to 

               A. the killing of a black man by police 
               B. the killing of a black woman by police 
               C. Wow! You thought they would call a meeting over a “women’s issue?” The answer is A.

I arrived late because 

               A. I would rather not have come.
               B. I took advantage of the empty office to cry at my desk instead of in the bathroom. 
               C. Black people just don’t know how to act professionally.
               D. I wanted to take a quick poop at work.

I am a Black woman, so everyone here assumes I care the most. I do not. What would make me care more? If everyone stopped sending me texts that say, “I hope you’re OK <3.”

I am not “OK.” 

The white people in the room make way for me. This is the one time of the year when 

               A. Karen
               B. Becky
               C. Brad (my boss) 
               D. Chad (Brad’s uncle and his boss) 


makes space for me, and (for the first few minutes, at least) tries not to  

               ​A. interrupt me 
               B. take credit for my work
               C. ask me how my hair grew so much. Gee-wiz! 15 inches over the weekend!
               D. accidentally call me “Sharon”

because I have “already faced enough struggles being…” *whisper* “…Black.” It’s OK for them to say that word, right? I can see we are all on edge today. I tell them “It’s OK.”

The event starts with an address by the chair of the board:

“Dear employees, we are gathered here today because 

               A. a survey
               B. the employee turnover rate
               C. the spike in harassment cases reviewed by HR

has demonstrated that we have an issue with

               A. the racial climate in America.”
               B. respecting authority.”
               C. structural racism.” 
               D. ungrateful employees.”

Never fear, a white man who looks like Captain America is here to fix it because he 

               A. finally bothered to find some industry experts
               ​B. is the designated guy who signs off on initiatives like this
               C. googled “industry best practices to avoid making any lasting change” 
               D. asked his only Black friend what to do

and subsequently put together this event. He feels confident organizing an event to address racism because he

               A. is part Native American
               B. is Jewish
               C. is gay 
               D. has a Black friend (the same Black friend from the option above)

and understands what it means to be #oppressed. Should we trust this man? I do not, but 

               A. Karen
               B. Becky
               C. Brad (my boss) 
               D. Chad (Brad’s uncle and boss) 

does. This is part of the problem. 

“It is truly despicable that such a tragedy occurred in our backyards. We take racism very seriously. Instances like this are un-

               A. American.
               B. just.
               C. worthy of the time I have to spend away from the golf course but keep coming up.

I want you all to know that our 

               A. university
               B. company
               C. corporate family

is doing everything in our power to 

               A. address injustice in the world.”
               ​B. save our asses from liability.”
               C. produce a semi-credible PR release for tomorrow in which we will forget to capitalize the word “Black.”
               D. figure out a way to profit off this opportunity.”

My white coworkers whole-heartedly agree this is the optimal next step in line with
 
               A. industry standards.
               B. posts made within their Facebook bubble.
               ​C. a brief Google search conducted this morning while on the toilet.
               D. a deep understanding of American history.
               E. a Black person’s opinion (the same Black friend from the options above).

“We really value our 

               ​A. diverse employees
               B. highest performers
               C. shareholders
               D. boss’s growing number of gainfully employed family members. 

We dare you to find a workplace with a more inclusive culture! We pride ourselves on the fact that our employees enjoy the best 

               A. free coffee.”
               B. maternity leave.”
               C. opportunity for internal mobility and growth.”
               D. view of their boss’s office that has an actual window, unlike their cubicle.” 

I have not enjoyed any of these things. Instead, we all just enjoyed another year without a cost of living adjustment to 

               A. offset costs of expanding facilities in India.
               B. make up for stock losses after our PR blunder about this same issue last year.
               C. make us feel grateful for not being one of the 40 people let go recently.
               D. help Chad’s cousin finally afford his dream yacht with his new raise.

“In fact, we just hired a Chief Diversity officer!” The white man is very proud. I feel like I’ve seen him before. I think this is Chad’s cousin, Dave. 

There is a single brave soul in the audience, The Black Man (not the same as above) from accounting. I don’t know his name because I avoid his area, so people won’t ask 

               A. if we’re dating/married.
               B. if he is single.
               C. if he is into Asian women.
               D. if we are enough Black people to finally fill the Affirmative Action quotas.

Most days, I am too tired to find the fun in fucking with white people by giving the wrong answer. 

The Black Man asks a question: “So…we have one diversity officer to manage centuries of injustice for this whole group of 2500 people?” Provocative! I make a note to learn his name.

His question is followed by 

               A. awkward silence.
               B. a slow clap initiated by the other Black woman in the office, Sharon (my best friend at work).
               C. a hasty response from upper management.

“Interesting that you brought that up! We have big plans to answer your question! We need to 

               A. hire an Associate Diversity Officer.
               C. institute a special task force for diversity and inclusion.
               D. conduct a new workplace climate survey.
               E. actually address systematic racism in our organization.
 
And we’re looking for volunteers!”

Sharon and I share an annoyed eyebrow raise. Everyone else is looking at 

               A. me. 
               B. Sharon 
               C. Sharon (but thinking that she is me).
               D. The Black Man.
               E. their coworker turned friend-with-benefits seated across the room.
               F. their bank balances and wondering if the extra work comes with a pay increase.
               G. inside themselves to question their own racist upbringings, for once. 
               H. their phones. There was another school shooting just now. 

The extra work does not come with a pay increase. Upper management once again proves that they expect us to be 

               A. happy corporate slaves 
               B. free consultants

for their white savior dreams. I am tired of 400 years of empty promises. I am tired of working in this “culture.”

I decide to leave this meeting early because 

               A. I would rather not have come.
               B. I want to take advantage of the empty office to cry at my desk instead of in the bathroom. 
               C. Black people just don’t know how to act professionally.
               ​D. I want to take a quick poop at work.

One World, Or None
 by Allison Whittenberg 
*Series Editors' Hybrid Pick

Mama, how come you never told me about
the A-bomb?
 
Were we too busy
running from the men
with pillowcases and sheets
to duck and cover?
 
How come there’s never
any of us in those
public service announcements?
 
They claim we can’t get
a suntan, but are we also
immune to gamma rays?
 
Is it like flesh colored
crayons, something that
was created without
us in mind?
 
There weren’t
whites only signs
on the air raid shelters
so I guess
they would
have
cracked
open
the door,
if we knocked
hard enough,
right?
 
We would have been
one
big,
at last,
happy family,
at the end of the world,
wouldn’t we?

bottom of page