Disquieting Encounters - The Talk

Stories from our colleagues

One of the fortune 500 companies had a position open for a manager.  I had been working as the assistant manager for over two years. I applied for the job; however, the Vice President indicated I didn’t have the required experience. I ran the department while they searched for a manager. They gave the job to a white female with only a high school diploma. The VP indicated it was my job to train her and get her up to speed. How am I qualified to train the manager if I’m not qualified for the job? Why weren’t they concerned I would teach her incorrectly? I felt this was a case of Racism.

—V.S.

While serving on the University Board of Trustees, I was invited to have dinner after a Board Meeting in Manhattan by a Fellow Trustee who was a retired steel executive. He selected an exclusive restaurant normally requiring reservations weeks in advance. Without a reservation, within moments after our arrival we were seated and my fellow Trustee accosted our waiter to have the owner come to our table. I was the only Black in the restaurant (including waiters and bus staff). The dining room was the size of a classroom and anything said above normal conversational tone could be heard by all the diners. Perhaps 10 minutes later, the owner – Leon Leonidas- comes to our table. My host then booms …Leon, this is my friend Reggie. He is the only (n word) on the Board of Trustees. At this, the restaurant became perfectly still. I chose not to make a scene and the other diners went back to their meal. I am confident that my fellow Trustee was totally unaware of this affront which, I am convinced, in his mind was an intended compliment.

—R.J.

Derrick Albert Bell Jr. was an American lawyer, professor, and civil rights, activist. In 1971, he became the first tenured African American professor of law at Harvard Law School.  Attorney Bell cited in his book “Faces at the Bottom of the Well” that every African American, regardless of who you are, will experience racism in America.  Racism is an integral and permanent part of American society. Systemic racism is, in my mind, the most critical issue in the United States today, and it has been so since the founding of our nation.  Systemic racism is ingrained in nearly every way People of Color move through society in the policies and practices at institutions such as banks, schools, companies, government agencies, and especially law enforcement.  Collective Responsibility is needed when our society is facing unprecedented disruption and upheaval, and public tax dollars are being used to support business solvency and liquidity of these institutions that have practiced systemic racism for generations

—L.M.

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