I don’t know if I’ve never confronted racism at work, or if I just didn’t recognize it as racism. As a brown woman in white-dominant professional spaces, I think I subconsciously sold myself stories of equal opportunity and advancement. I sold myself on the idea that our worth was weighed in expertise, creative level, and professional potential. I didn’t know my skin color would be used against me by men in higher places who are so racist, they don’t even realize it. I thought I was seen as operating on the same level as my white colleagues. And while the world is evolving, I wouldn’t imagine that in my 30’s, I’d have to experience racism in the workplace.
Last summer, I was working as an editor for a magazine focused on young women’s interests. The founder and CEO of the magazine was hosting a summer event at the magazine’s two-story, East LA office. To better execute the event planning process, she brought in her husband who was a retired, successful event planner in Los Angeles. During our walk-through (mind you, I was hired as an editor — one who edits, not plans events) one of my colleagues suggested extending the invitation to the surrounding neighbors, to avoid noise complaints. In a display of complete ignorance and disgust, the event planner, my CEO’s husband, said: “I don’t want Jose and his fourteen kids mingling with my guests.”
In a room full of 5 women, three of them women of color, one of them who identified as part of LGBTQ community, this rich, white man made a racist remark during one of the most turbulent moments in history and if he thought it would go unnoticed (as I’m sure it has in the past) this time, he was very much mistaken.
The remark hurt me but I knew that in order for the impact of the remark to affect not only me but all present when it was said, I had to handle the racism in a smart and strategic way: