In ONE week at work, yes in one week, I heard comments that would make my jaw drop and leave me stumped for words. Some comments were directly against the Ethics Code of Conduct. Others fall somewhere in between. The comments came from various people; male, female, Black/African American, Latino, and White.
The first comment I heard was during our department’s holiday dinner at a local restaurant. As we were waiting on our meals, one of the ladies began to throw shade at the employee who was in charge of organizing our holiday celebration because she wrote “Holiday Party” instead of “Christmas Party” on the email invite. I was surprised. Especially, because Hanukkah overlapped with Christmas this year. Did she assume that everyone at our table was all of christian faith, that we all celebrate Christmas? Or did it not matter to her? I wondered if she ever looked at our corporate holiday calendar in Florida where they have off for Ramadan and other Jewish holidays. While we don’t have those holidays off in our state, our corporation does recognize and honor the importance of other religious holidays besides christian holidays. I wondered if she knew that my department has an employee who is Muslim, who does not have any paid holiday leaves for his religious holiday. In addition, his religious holiday comes and goes without much to-do as I am almost certain that many do not even know what spiritual holiday he celebrates or when. On the other hand, those of us who celebrate Christmas have at least a month long nationwide celebration and some still feel the need to complain?
The next comment was about adoption. While in the ladies room at work, I ran into a coworker that I used to sit across from. I asked her about the kids and her baby that she had given birth to a couple years prior. She said the kids were all good and that the baby was now three and then jokingly said he was handful and bad. We both laughed, knowing the challenges of toddlers. Then she asked me if I “wanted him” because she was about to give him away for adoption. That comment left me speechless. I was at a loss for words. She does not know my story, that I am a birth mother who relinquished her parental rights and gave my son away for adoption. And while I know she was joking, her comment was no joke to me. I thought about my son and all adoptees. I wondered if he was in that room and heard that comment, what message it was saying to him. That a child who is bad will be given away because their parents don’t want them anymore? I certainly did not choose to relinquish my son to adoption because I didn’t want him. And sadly, when I shared this experience with a coworker she confessed that she has made that exact comment about her adolescent son and has heard others say the same. I agree. I heard that statement thrown around jokingly in my younger years. But now it’s different. I can’t help but think how careless our words can be or how unthoughtful we are to make jokes about children who are surrendered, orphaned, abandoned, and fostered due to unfortunate circumstances. None of which are because they are bad children.
Next, the topic was about the criminal justice system. My supervisor was talking about her upcoming jury duty. This began much chatter on the floor. Coworkers began laughing and making jokes. One coworker said they [the person on trial] were guilty and that our supervisor should give them “the chair”; so much for the fair trial theory, for an unbiased jury to gather the information and deliver a fair verdict. On a personal level, my coworkers do not know about my father, his crime, or his imprisonment. While my father may have been very far away in a prison cell, he was alive. I wonder if my life would have been different if he had been executed for his crime. As a child, would that have impacted me differently? I don’t think people can understand what that’s like to be the child of a convicted felon and truly comprehend how the general population views your convicted parent. Although they were not talking about my father directly, they were speaking about his actions. I have very mixed feelings about this topic. While it was difficult to not have my father around, I am glad he served his prison sentence. While I wish he would have never got involved in this crime that caused tremendous emotional impact on our whole family, I am glad he was not sentenced to death.
Lastly, I asked a new co-worker how she liked working for our company. She shared with me her thoughts and then she began to share with me about her previous job and the reason she left. She talked about her old boss and then called him a “fag”. She quickly followed up by saying she didn’t hate gay people but…
I was trying to gather my thoughts and grapple for words in this conversation. I have family members who are gay. More importantly, this person does not know me well enough to know whether or not I am gay. It never ceases to amaze me how people who have been discriminated for their gender, their religion, their race can then turn around and use such discriminatory words or actions towards another group. How can we ever move forward if we cannot see outside our bubble?
I recently had to call into the IT department. When I did so, the tech asked me to find “Setting Privileges”. Then he began to inform me what I needed to do for my computer to recognize which privileges I needed in order to perform my daily task. I thought about that and how that related to the human population. Are we born and programmed with certain privileges? And, do those preset privileges enhance or diminish our social status?
Our race or cultural?
Our economic class?
Whether we were born gay or not?
Whether we were born with special needs or a disability or not?
Whether we were born into our family or adopted into our family?
These are just some. There are still more that can factor into our privileges and human experience.
But, should our privileges give us the right to make fun of others? Should they give us power, control, or a sense of entitlement?
In computing,privilege is defined as the delegation of authority over a computer system. A privilege allows a user to perform an action. … Users who have been delegated extra levels of control are called privileged.