Institutional Racism at Work

I’ve learned a few things since I’ve been working.

1. Racism is subtle, but very real in the workplace

2. The corporate/federal plantation is alive and well

3. You can work hard and do everything you’re supposed to do and they’ll still give your job to someone who is less qualified

I work in a place where the majority of the lower level employees are Black, yet those in top positions tend to be white. For example, my supervisor and division head are white. The director of the entire department is white. Basically what we, the lower employees in my division, do is work with customers who want to plan events in public parks, lots etc. They have to apply and we take their applications. We make sure they get the necessary approvals and make sure they’re aware of the regulations etc.  before we issue them a temporary license to go forth with their event.

We deal with the grunt work, we get applications thrown at us all day and we’re responsible for answering the phones.  My coworker and I are the lowest on the totem pole, we’re Black. We work everyday and do the bulk of the work in our office. My coworker, who can be annoying and condescending at times, has been working there longer than the supervisor. The supervisor actually comes to my coworker to ask questions about many things because my coworker has been there longer, yet she’s above my coworker. When my other evil coworker left for not being paid enough, my coworker and I basically had to pick up the slack. He was doing way more than he should have been doing, which may have been part of the reason he was so evil, and now I’ve taken on his workload and started doing far more work than I’m being paid for as is my coworker. Most days we don’t even get lunch, we’re chained to the desk in the office because the phone is always ringing and it must be answered. The minute one of us tries to move to go to lunch , a customer will come in and we end up forgetting about lunch and before we know it, the day is over. All the problems end up coming to our office, even when someone calls the supervisor, somehow it trickles back to our office and we end up fixing or dealing with the problem 9/10 times.

I make ten dollars an hour, that is LESS than I made when I was just doing intern work in college two years ago. HOW am I making LESS money when I’m doing more work and taking on the responsibility of someone else’s job pretty much? On the other hand, there is another woman in our department who is white. Her job is to arrange volunteers to come and work in the parks, lots and research etc. When I first started working there, I remarked to my female coworker how this woman was almost never in the office…to which my coworker responded, “that’s because she doesn’t do anything.” Meaning, she has more freedom in her job, she can come and go as she pleases, she works out in the fields a lot. Yet, she gets paid more than anyone else besides the supervisor in our office and she doesn’t do half as much work as the lower level employees. She gets to walk around relaxed and chill, while we’re chained to the desk and forbidden to leave pretty much. In fact just the other day she came in at the last minute and plopped an application on our desk  for an event she was planning. Never mind the fact that she didn’t respect the requirements for submitting an application for that type of event. She was supposed to come at least 4-6 weeks in advance, but came the week before and then tried to tell my coworker how to do her job  and got in an argument about why she shouldn’t have to follow the rules.

In the mean time, my coworker and I are swamped with work, over-worked and underpaid. Despite the fact that we’re already up to our elbows in applications and other issues, the division chief, who is white, decided to go on vacation right around the busiest time and left us to deal with all the events that were supposed to be his responsibility. We’re getting calls from people shouting at us for things we’re not even supposed to be responsible for and he’s on some island chilling. My coworker hasn’t been on vacation once the entire season because she can’t because there is no one else, other than me, to assist in the office.

It’s sickening the amount of work the lower level employees do compared to the amount of money they make. I’ve learned that the higher up you go, the less work you actually do. To top it off, despite the fact that my coworker has been there longer than the supervisor and advises HER on so many things, she has yet to be promoted and INSTEAD of the supervisor raising her pay and putting her in a higher position, she is bringing someone new in above her. I’M DONE with this.

I am not making enough money and I need to focus on grad school, so I gave my notice and I’ll be finished with that job in two weeks. All the bad experiences, the abuse by coworkers, now the workload increase and the lack of money isn’t worth it…now, looking at how they treat their employees and how hard it is for people to be promoted and move up, no matter how hard they work…it is just NOT WORTH IT! I am done.


Institutional Racism at Work

13 thoughts on “Institutional Racism at Work

  1. Liz says:

    This kind of reminds me of my job I had as a housekeeper at a casino. Let me tell you this, most of the housekeepers were hispanic and black. The supervisors were mixed, indian, white, white hispanic, hispanic, two black (maybe), but the majority was white or non black or non hispanic. Then we have three managers who were 2/3 white. It was very fustrating because in NJ if you don’t have a union, you’re employer can get away with a lot of stuff. But sometimes the unions don’t make it better. But what I came on here to say is that my co-workers and I got mistreated, very often. They would give us a heavy workload of 14 rooms to clean in 8 hrs, expecting it to be a perfect day. But they would do messed up shit like gives us rooms on different floors, party rooms and that all takes time out of our schedule. We have a 30 minute break, and two 15 minute breaks to take during the shift. You’re lucky if you even make it to lunch because no one takes lunch breaks due to the heavy work load. And by NJ workforce law, they can’t keep us over our scheduled time without paying overtime. But we are pretty much forced to complete all of our rooms no matter what. And then they mess up our paychecks, don’t pay us our overtime and act as if it’s not their problem. And when we try to make great suggestions like pairing up or make ways on saving time the managers just never listened to us. Also, when I talked to my co-workers they said that they applied to everywhere else in the casino but the only place they called back for was for housekeeping. I find it kind of funny that most of the better jobs were held by whites at that casino. By the way, that job was a summer job for me, I’m a nursing major but I would take working at mcdonalds making way less than to work at a job that disrespected me, did not listen to me and work me like a horse when it wasn’t worth it. I’m happy for you that you left because from reading your post you did not deserve it.


  2. Mike says:

    That i the most wonderful thing about this country and capitalism. Just as the employer can set a wage, a job applicant can set a wage. If the job doesn’t pay what we feel we are worth, we can turn it down and look elsewhere. If the job is much more (as most jobs are) than described in the interview be quick to voice your unhappiness and move on. Never sell yourself short in any facet of life.


    1. FX says:

      @Mike: The job market sucks. In case you hadn’t noticed there are some areas of the country where people are scrambling for jobs that pay 10/hr. To come in and say that without acknowledging the current job market is disrespectful to a lot of people.


  3. Mike says:

    No matter how bad the job market may be, it is not worth the subjugation of one’s dignity for a dollar. If people choose to be life long wage slaves so be it. Others have more pride and intelligence to look at people around them and seek to serve a need that will make then a few dollars. Sell your talents at a price that you feel is commensurate with those talents.
    To say that I disrespect a lot of people is true. It takes some level of discomfort for people to get off their asses and do somethig for themselves. Stop blaming others for your circumstances. You are not in Rwanda being killed by your neighbors. You are not in a war zone with devastation all around you. You are in a society where everybody has dollars to spend. Who is poor who has a cell phone or computer ? Find a reason for those people to spend their dollars on what you are selling.


    1. FX says:

      @Mike: When children are getting screwed out of educations because their parents are poor and people label them as unable to learn, or undeserving of an educaton (which is what we do every time we favor a tax break over funding the public school system) they wind up in this very same system either in jail, on public assistance, having more kids, or as “wage slaves”. You can’t tell someone who didn’t get an education in an environment which encouraged them to look at the world critically or give them encouragement and reinforcement in regards to their ability to express their opinions and beleifs that they need to let their kids starve so they can maintain their dignity.

      You are completely and totally ignoring the systematic oppressions in place that make it so people don’t have the education, skillsets, or opportunities to pursue the jobs they would like.

      I’m going to recommend a book for you – The Culture of Inequality by Michael Lewis. I’d be curious to hear what you think of it.


  4. Mike says:

    Children get screwed out of an education by their parents lack of interest in what kids are learning and how they are progressing both academically and socially. I have never known an individual whose parents were invested in the child’s education that graduated with a good foundation to make decisions for their future.
    Children do not need to be taught critical thinking until they have at least learned the fundamentals that educatoion wishes to impart (Liberal Arts)
    Malcolm X used to say that if you give a white man and a black man each a million dollars, you will almost alwaysee the white man build a factory and the black man build a church. The factory will create jobs and wages while the church may at best only produce good feelings for a price or donation. He warned that we should all be wary or we may be embracing our oppressors.
    The assault on children usually started by the entertainment companies. They teach kids in what group they belong and how they should act. They glorify the criminal and portray hard working dilligent parents as Jeffers or Rodchesters or Aunt Jemimas. Instead of having role models in their parents, kids see the pimp, or drug dealer or con man, etc as the goal in life.
    It takes work to raise children and steer them in a positive productive direction.
    As Malcolm inferred, beware of those who want to take care of you rather than those who want you to think and do for yourself. The true oppressor is the one who asks nothing of a child or man or woman for that matter, but makes sure they have enough to get by on. The truer oppressor is like the slave owner who has a need to protect his property. The true oppressor like the pimp has the subjugated believing that he loves them and they love him in return. The true oppressor led the riots on the streets burning down and looting black owned businesses in New York, Detroit or where an enclave of the oppressed lived.
    Bill Cosby told people not to look to their oppressors for anything but more oppression. Oppressors and pimps break down a person’s belief in their own value. They dictate what limits are placed upon that people and nothing can be changed. Women are good for nothing but sex and babies, while men are pussy whipped cuckholds.
    There have been other parents who encourage their children to do well in school with the promise of future rewards. These parents teach their children a morality that leads to prosperity and self-identity. These parents make their children feel special and important. These parents find it almost impossible to compete with the media and the societal break down it causes.
    If your and the premise of Mr Lewis were true, there would never have been a CJ Walker, Langston Hughes, Marcus Garvey, WEB DuBois. Adam Clayton Powell, Jr and so many others who were steered in the right direction.
    Condoleeza Rice proclaimed at the RNC that education of minorities is the Civil Rights issue of our time.
    When schools were segregated by gender and were getting good results, the oppressor struck them down as discrimination among the sexes. It may be nice to teach children that there is a difference between boys and girls that give meaning to life and society.


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