So much has been made of what straight and able-bodied white people should refrain from saying to others; what they shouldn’t say to their co-workers of different races and nationality. However, the matter is not completely addressed when we overlook white folks and do not give a damn about what colleagues say to them in their workplaces.
If you are white and you have got a white colleague, it is important you know things you can or cannot say to him or her to maintain a healthy working relationship. This article keeps you from harsh generalization and mindless stereotyping. White people are humans too and believe it, or not many of them can and do champion diversity. Below, we look at some of the things you should never say to a white colleague.
“You do not belong here” Or “why are you, a white person, doing this?”
People frequently speak of this in whispers and murmurs especially about white individuals who work in the diversity industry. They are called carpet-baggers among other names and are accused of working only for the money. Let us be realistic. What is that saying about making your passion your profession? Okay, I just said it. It is terrible to feel that just because a person is white, they do not have good intents in working at a diversity friendly company. The sooner people realize that many white people have genuine interests in the diversity industry. So do not just lump all of them into one and say they do not belong. That would be unfeeling.
“You are white; there is no way you will understand.”
That does not advance the cause of diversity. You can not expect your white colleague to try and understand, and at the same time, you cover them with the garment of the ignorant oppressor. Instead, work towards developing common interests and share ideas.
It is true that the white person may not have the experience of waking up in your shoes, but saying they do not understand treats them like people who do not have the sense to be aware of culture and diversity issues. It belittles their good intentions and sets the discussion back.
White men are automatically part of the “corporate inner circle,” well because they are whites
Now that is just sad. Being removed from the inner circle is not only reserved for executives who are Black, Latino or Asian American or women. In fact, most white men feel the same way with people of other races that they work with. They also feel like they are being left out of the loop sometimes. Being in the inner circle does not have to do with race in America.
Generalizing a white as a “typical white person.”
Generalization does not get any more general than this. Referring to your colleague as a typical white person means that all whites are the same. So when one of them behaves nastily, you go “yeah I said it, there you go.” That is so wrong. Characterizing people based on a presupposed behavior of a group—probably because some of them behave that way—is bad. It is offensive to the whites just as attributing any questionable behavior to other races are for them. Again, it swallows up good intentions.
“You are just racist.”
Do not always think or assume that a prejudiced comment is the result of a thought process based on stereotyping.
Most decisions people make are not correctly made because they have bad intentions, but because they can not help it, they fail to see how prejudiced the decisions are because they do not have any such intent in the first place. Cut them some slack.
Before you reply that comment which you deem prejudicial, ask yourself if you are not responding that way because you think the comment is made by a white who is like “all white people.”
“You comment about us behind our backs.”
When you are in the majority group, you have little concern about race issues and fear of racial dominance. So most times, whites are not talking about you when you are not there; they are not plotting on you or calling you names. They are just oblivious to the situation and while you may want a little bit of concern, being unaware does not make one a bad person.
“You have all the money.”
This assumption is a terrible one. The generalization that as long as you are white, you have it all is a very misleading one. The majority of poor people in America are whites and renders the assumption as not well thought out.
“I dislike white people.”
Hello, how many white people do you know? Hanging on to that hatred gives off vibes even in the presence of well-meaning white people. Of course, the hatred may be somewhat justified given that it is coming from a history of slavery, subjugation, segregation, and racism. However, most whites are trying to find a way forward, letting go of their truth and making endeavors to accommodate others. Hating on all whites, you may be convinced that effort is justified and I hope not, but it is not going to take us anywhere.
“You lack diversity.”
What most people do not know is that diversity includes everyone, even white people. Referring to people as ‘diverse’ and mindfully removing the white folks is insulting. In the concept of diversity, all races are included. In any organization, when diversity management is properly executed, everyone benefits.
It is a pity that many non-white people are of the assumption that whites do not have a diverse background or any experience at all with other cultures except theirs. Even white people make this mistake also. From the assumption, beliefs are made, wrong beliefs which are setbacks rather than a push forward.
It will be helpful to all concerned—both white people and non-white people—if these statements fizzle out of existence, so we can all focus on progress and chart the way forward in our diversity.