We recently asked the BuzzFeed Community to tell us about their experiences with racial microaggressions on the job, and YIKES!
“I had an office full of white women ask to look at my lips because they were reading a mag about lip fillers and wanted to see how they would turn out. I said, ‘You know, when I was kid I hated my lips. But my mom told me that women all over the world pay money for lips like mine. I guess that’s y’all.’ I shrugged and turned back to my computer screen. They got real quiet and really didn’t say shit to me for the rest of the day.” —Loretta C. Ruff-Edwards, Facebook
“I’m a teacher. I was talking with one of my co-workers when another co-worker walked in and started talking about how worried she was that her daughter was going to Ecuador.
She said she was scared because her daughter is ‘white, tall, and blonde, and is going to be surrounded by Mexicans.’ My response: ‘Well, they aren’t Mexican. They are from Ecuador.’ Her response: ‘Well, whatever. Same thing.’ I replied with, ‘Nope, not the same thing. That’s racist and I’m offended,’ and then I walked out of the room.
There was some very serious tension the rest of the school year until it boiled down to the both of us sitting in the main office to have a mediation session. She apologized for her comment stating, “I’m not racist, I work in a school that has African-Americans!” She then asked me to apologize for calling her racist. I didn’t.”
“At my first job here in the U.S., we were asked to introduce ourselves to the training class. I excitedly said that I just moved here from the Philippines with my husband. One of my coworkers asked if I was a mail order bride.” —dynb
“This happened while I was in college, but a fellow student was surprised that I was able to ‘articulate my viewpoints’ so well after learning that my parents were West African immigrants. Like, what? Whenever I get stupid comments like that, I stay completely calm and repeatedly ask the offending party, ‘What do you mean by that?’, as if I don’t understand. Usually they realize that what they said was totally inappropriate and it forces them to unpack their idea, just like my profs. taught me. 😉” —Seynique Smythe, Facebook
“I was eating lunch with my Indian coworkers while working as a director for an Indian channel in NYC. We were sharing roti and lentil soup. A Caucasian producer (who has been more than just micro aggressive in the past) came up to the group and made a comment saying, ‘I’m sure your people’s food tastes good, but it looks poor.’ Confused, I asked him what he meant. He continued to explain that Indian food gives the appearance of being the food of poor people due to its lack of color and presentation/garnish. My Indian coworkers and I just stared at each other.
He then continued saying, ‘I’m just saying that if you look at European food, it looks more sophisticated and upper class.’ Let’s just say nobody really liked him after he dissed Indian food while being the one white guy at an Indian TV channel. P.s: At least our food has a taste.” —ravjotmehek
“I had this short, old white male attorney grab me and drag me towards the court room because he needed an interpreter. I’m a lawyer, who was standing with a group of other lawyers. Guess who was the only brown one in the group?” —j4db768e6e
“I, a black woman in my 20s, was speaking to my co-worker about going to college after saving up a few more dollars. I was feeling a bit pessimistic about going back to school because I had dropped out two years prior. My co-worker was empathetic and began to list stats about how successful black women are in getting higher education. (He has three sisters who all have degrees, so he was quick to try to build me up!)
My supervisor, a white male in his late 30s, butted into the conversation, visibly upset with the topic. He chimed, ‘Well of course black women are among the most successful. They got to take care of their crying babies all on their own. Single black girls always get the best grants and financial aid for college. It’s too bad you don’t have a kid too, then you’d be going for near nothing.’ Me and my co-worker were stunned. My supervisor then walked away mocking, ‘I’m a strong independent black woman, I got my degree!’” —kadijak2
“I’m multiracial, but much of my heritage is Sinti (Romani). Once, a co-worker asked about my ethnicity, and I explained. He proceeded to call me a ‘gypsy’ and make Borat jokes. I worked in a big epidemiology lab at the time, and I had to do fieldwork with my racist co-worker for the rest of the summer.” —zeniablue
“When I started grad school, the intro class was taught by two white women and I was one of two Mexican-Americans in the cohort. They constantly called me Maria, the other girl’s name. My name is Alejandra and we look nothing alike.”
“I’m an African-American teacher and at the start of the year when I’m introducing myself to parents, you can literally feel some of them holding their breath waiting to hear me speak. After I’ve spoken a few sentences and they find them acceptable, they start to relax. There aren’t many people of any race that speak perfect English all the time. I hate that slow sigh of relief when I’m found not to be a complete stereotype. I’m definitely not perfect, but no one is if you’re listening carefully. I do want to stress that it doesn’t happen all the time or with every parent of a different race.” —keshawna80
“Once I wore my hair down (read: blown out and curled), and a co-worker complimented me then questioned if it was a piece or a wig. I told her I don’t wear weave or wigs. She said, ‘Oh, because such and such (another black co-worker) sometimes wears wigs.’ WHAT 👏🏾DOES 👏🏾THAT 👏🏾HAVE 👏🏾TO 👏🏾DO 👏🏾WITH 👏🏾ME?!! SMH!!” —Latisha Williams, Facebook
“At one job, my boss told me a joke about sending a huge bird to take ‘all of the damn Mexicans.’ I’m Polynesian, but this was way before I had Moana as a point of reference when explaining it to people. There was no mistaking what that bitch was insinuating.
Since it was a small town and everyone pretty much knew my boss’s boss and he knew what kind of person she was and never did anything about it, I took it as a wake-up call that it was time to get out and go to grad school. It took me to a much more urban area that isn’t perfect, but I immediately got a job in my field with people who know that Samoa isn’t a Girl Scout cookie.” —noodle192000
I’m an Indian-American, and on a fairly regularly basis, I get asked if I’m a doctor or work in the medical field. —googlybrowneyes
“This Jewish lady decided to lecture me on how blacks and Jews have it the hardest in America and how we should stick together. She proceeded to talk about her one black friend and the time she went to a black funeral. I was just trying to give her a flu shot.” —brittneisa
“My cubicle partner is black and has natural hair. She has a pretty big afro, and at least once a week someone asks me if I think her hair is unprofessional, if it violates the dress code, or if it distracts me. No, Kathy. Her hair does not make me feel anything. You, however, leaving your desk and interrupting my work to try and start shit makes me feel things.” —emileem3
“Financial Manager: *sits at typerwriter* ‘I’m typing so no need to duck! It’s just the keys! Ha ha!'” —traceycrear
“I’m American Indian. I asked off for Thanksgiving one year, but ended up scheduled to work. I asked my boss why I was the only new hire scheduled on that day and she said, ‘I thought you guys didn’t do Thanksgiving.’
I quit.” —kallik48477236a
“I’m Caucasian, but when I first started dating my now husband, a nurse who shared his ethnicity told me, ‘Good Indian boys don’t date white girls. White girls are just their play things and whores.’ She would frequently make comments that he probably had a wife ready for him, and would ask me why I was still with him, always claiming it was for my own good.
When I went to a manager, I was told my complaints of racism wouldn’t go very far because I am Caucasian.” —b4ca98acb2
“So I started some morning office small talk, asking how my co-worker’s weekend went. She goes, ‘So ya know how we were talking about how unique your name is? Well over the weekend I was at the zoo and they have this new female gorilla named Imani!’, and she proceeds to show me a picture of said gorilla. #microaggressionmondays” —Imani O’Saucer, Facebook
“During a sales meeting, the company president joked, ‘We should call you Ling Ling.’ I was mortified. But then a coworker chimed in and doubled down, saying, ‘No, we should call her Ring Ring.’ As I walked out of the sales meeting, the lead sales guy passed me and quipped, ‘Hey there, Ling Ling.’ All I could do was nervously laugh, and keep walking outside where I could just sit in horror for a second. I know it sounds stupid, but I cried later that day.” —natalieb440a01cee