Racial Jokes on the Job
Racial jokes are probably something you should avoid at work. But sometimes funny racial stuff comes up at the office. When that happens, you can either ignore it, joke a little bit or cross the line.
I was compiling profile pictures of my coworkers for the company website last month. The pictures were made to look like drawings on a sheet of paper, so you kind of had to guess who each person was. My coworker, Katherine, came over to my computer and started guessing who was in each picture. She guessed a few of them, then she stopped to look at the profile of a young Asian woman. “Well,” she said,
“that could only be Michelle or Kim, I can tell because of the…”
She stopped herself before she said, “eyes,” as to not seem racist. The funny thing was that I waited close to 3 seconds before I said, “Yeah, it’s Michelle;” Katherine just stopped at “the”, like “eyes” was some kind of cliffhanger. But we kept it moving. We ignored it.
Joke a Little Bit
Amanda was telling the coworkers about a new diet she’s on.
“I can’t eat anything bleached, all whole grain and wheat. No white food.”
Then one of the White coworkers was like,
“Can you eat Black food? Ha!”
And that was it. Everyone laughed a little bit and moved on. It would have been a much different situation if that White person went further with the joke.
Crossing the Line
“Can you eat Black food? Ha! Like, are you on a diet of fried chicken & Kool-Aid? Ha!”
Yeah, that’d be crossing the line. My girlfriend just witnessed her coworkers crossing the line last week. One of my girlfriend’s White coworkers, Carol, was asked if her black pants were Dickie’s. Carol replied,
“no, if they were my black Dickie’s, they’d be a little bit longer.”
Then another White coworker said,
“the black Dickie’s are always longer…”
Yeah, I’m not gonna continue with that one, but you get where they were going. The “well-endowed” stereotype of Black men is not one that you will see me contest very often. As a Black man who wears a size 13 1/2 shoe, I’ve spread quite a few stereotypes in that regard…
That being said, imagine if one of my coworkers was like, “we have a knew employee coming on board. Her name is Becky Peterson and she’s very knowledgeable”. Imagine if I responded,
“Her name is Becky? She can definitely drop the knowledge.”
For those not privy, Becky is a common White-girl name that was tainted by Florida rapper, Plies, when he made a song entitled “Becky” which expressed his appreciation for fellatio. Plies’ grandfather couldn’t even look at a White girl back in his day.
But yeah, that’d be some inappropriate shit. Racial topics are bound to come up at work; at some jobs more than others. But when a conversation at work is racially centralized, you don’t want to be the person looking like a racist jerk. Be aware, be appropriate and definitely don’t cross the line.