Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Office of My Familiar

"I never noticed how phat your ass is, Boss."

My wife is a pharmacist. That means she's got her doctorate (Pharm.D.) and is a nationally recognized and state-certified professional. I'm not simply bragging on my lady here (not that it would score me any points since she stopped reading my blog long ago). I mean, I'm extremely proud of her and I understand the economic and social obstacles that she's had to overcome to accomplish her goals, but the whole reason I'm mentioning it is because of two work-related incidents she's shared with me.

The first was recurring. While we were living in Virginia some years ago, she was working with a pharmacist who happened to be a black male. If any of you can recall my Heathen Manifesto post, he was the Credit to His Race who had two families, and had the temerity to chide her about not belonging to a church. At any rate, she began to notice that as soon as he became comfortable with her, he suddenly lost all traces of his professionalism. Propriety and pretense devolved into frequent and often bizarre inappropriateness. In her eyes, this fall into unsuitable familiarity was precipitated by the fact that she was a black woman. Because she was a "sister," he immediately assumed that he could get away with what one of my Houston frat brothers refers to as, "that ol' bullshit."

Fast forward to the present. My wife works with a Jewish man (let's call him Mike) who is the pharmacist-in-charge. The two of them are the regular, nine-to-fivers at her current location. Other pharmacists are often brought in to provide coverage when one of them needs to take off. Recently, an outside pharmacist (let's call him Elroy) was hired to take over for Mike when he had a doctor's appointment. For about a half-an-hour, Mike, Elroy and my wife worked together with seamless professionalism. As soon as Mike left for his appointment, Elroy asked, loudly and to no one in particular, "Alright! Where the party at?" In her words, "This Negro thought that the pharmacy transformed into a nightclub just because a white man went to a doctor's appointment."

She's not alone. EVERY SINGLE black female professional that I know has had to endure (or is doing so currently) some kind of come on, ignorant comment, leer or improper gesture from some brother that gets just a little too familiar. Now, before you rush to judgment about me, I recognize that this is not endemic to my people. Men being what they are, women in general have historically been exposed to both sexual and non-sexual workplace incongruities. Having acknowledged that, I still find it regrettable that some brothers just can't check that player shit at the office door. If I had a dollar for every complaint I've heard, from my wife, sister, mother, and women friends, about some failed attempt at workplace pimpery, I'd move my family to the Hamptons. If any of you would-be office Lotharios are reading this, my suggestion to you would be to focus on your God-damned job. Apart from having to occasionally bear witness to some of the shittiest game I've ever seen, I'm tired of sisters at my job regarding me with suspicion just because I smile at them and say "Hello."

Blaxplanation Disclaimer: I realize it was wrong to take a pic of a genial, professional black couple and contaminate it with that unfortunate quote, but, like the recently-removed editor of Golfweek, I'm just trying to generate some readership.

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At 9:25 PM , Blogger Tha L said...

Peace Conflict. This is some REAL bullshit, and I truly appreciate your public service announcement...attempted workplace pimpery MUST STOP. I'm sure your wife knows that she's not alone, not that this is any consolation, but I'm just sayin'. Oh, and I love the captions you put on your pictures...hilarious!

At 1:08 AM , Blogger John said...

Interesting. I can't say that I've ever encountered that problem. Not that it doesn't exist, but I believe that I haven't encountered it for several reasons. The first one being that there just aren't many black men or women in my line of work. I've been doing this for 8 years and I can count each black person I've seen on less than two hands. Quite pitiful actually. The other reason is although my mother raised me, and women are the dominant sex in my family, they just never said anything about it. And I attribute that to the fact that they just accept the treatment and remain silent. Even my wife hasn't mentioned any type of transgression resembling what you described Conflict. Then again, that is perhaps she knows how I would react. I'm not sure where I stand on this issue. We recently hired two black people at my Firm. One, is an accomplished professional brother, age 53. The other is a sister, age 41. They are among the most professional people in my office. I'll have to get back to you on this.

At 10:00 AM , Blogger Another Conflict Theorist said...


Launa: Oh, believe me, she knows the casual workplace foolishness with which black women must put up. The only reason I picked her specifically (other than the ease of access) is the fact that she's not immune simply because she's got a Dr. in front of her name. I'm coming by to read about that caucus, btw.

John: My brother. Thanks for stopping by, man. Given the professional status that you've attained, I'm saddened, but not surprised, to read that you're fairly isolated from other black folks. At any rate, you should start asking the women in your family about this issue. I guarantee you that you'll hear some startling stories.

At 10:26 AM , Blogger Changeseeker said...

I've heard (and witnessed) many such stories, ACT, even though, supposedly, I should be out of that loop (looking like I do). The fact is that being as bi-cultural as I am gets me included in this foolishness and then I'm in the double-bind of being acccused of being racist when I respond negatively (no matter how carefully I choose my response). To make matters worse (this could get worse?), once the type of guy you're discussing finds out I have a bi-racial daughter, it's ALL the way on, since apparently (according to his way of thinking), every European-American woman who's ever been with an African-American man will go with ANY African-American man. And "age, baby, ain't nuthin' but a number." Good grief. Can they not HEAR themselves?

At 1:59 PM , Blogger Clifton said...

What's up my brother,

I have to say that I have experienced this more than once. I think sometimes some black people tend to get too relaxed when they see someone who looks like them. I think it's because they hide their true personalities so much in order to transcend how they look that it's all bottled up. They see your wife and figure she can relate. The reason why she can't relate is because she got to where she is without having to do all that faking. Those are the kind of cats that always get the sexual harassment charges or end up explaining themselves in a hearing like Clarence Thomas had to do.

At 3:11 PM , Blogger Coffey0072 said...

I really appreciate this post, as I've experienced similar interactions myself... within and outside of the realm of the workplace.

I've been in situations where some Black men (in high positions in a few instances) will lasciviously stare or make carefully guarded but inappropriate comments. My favorites are the one or two brothers who will, within earshot of any few of us who happen to be nearby, who proclaim his disdain for us and his preference for White women. Not generalizing, just commenting based on the personal experiences of myself, my friends, and most recently, my younger sister. And kudos to what Clifton just opined as to the reasons why some Black men may feel comfortable and confident enough to engage in that type of behavior.

At 10:29 AM , Blogger Breez said...

WOW! Thanks for this post. I think you've read about my dealings with such foolishness. It's actually disheartening. It also admittedly has made me question, what have I done to make them feel comfortable enough to address me in such a manner?

I've actually gone through totally revamping the way I dress, limiting conversation topics. It's amazing how a simple "hello" can develop into outright assholery.

At 1:40 PM , Blogger decade number three said...

AMEN ACT! You know what i've been through....

At 5:19 AM , Blogger Clifton said...

I had to come back and add that as much as I hate to admit it, this has always been a black experience at work for me. I'm not saying that white guys don't have similar feelings about women in the office. They just don't say it in the same kind of brash manner brothers do. I am sure there are extreme cases of this happening but not on a day to day basis.

At 8:59 AM , Blogger Torrance Stephens bka All-Mi-T said...

well i will have to se. nice blog folk, chk em out one day, maybe u ca start with this THANK WE FREE

At 1:40 AM , OpenID theharbinger said...



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