I feel that I’ve been silenced by the political correctness that I was taught as a young adult. I began my career in a culture of affirmative action and the idea that diverse teams were strong teams and I still believe this. There were courses on sexual harassment then, but not on racism. We were not guided in how to appropriately navigate these culturally diverse environments.
When I worked in technology for Bank of America I worked with people from all over the world. I had a deep fear and dread of offending anyone for any reason. As I climbed the corporate ladder three of my bosses were people of color. One a man from England. He was exceptional in every way. Personable, charismatic, genius at business strategies; in whole an exemplary leader. He was very high up and could speak to an audience of 2,000 with ease. Every time I was in his presence I feared offending him, even though I had nothing but admiration and respect for him.
Around this same time I had another boss of color. She flattered me and put me down in the same breath, she promoted me and then destroyed that period of my career. Why? Because she could.
She would entertain me with stories of growing up in a white neighborhood and then looking in the mirror and realizing she was not white like her friends. She had an enormous impact on me in the impeccable way in which she spoke, the way she carried herself, her work ethic and the way she dressed. She walked the corporate hallways in $1,000 suits and designer shoes. When we had drinks after work she drank only Sapphire with soda. Soon, that’s what I did. I upped my game and invested in beautiful suits like hers. I kept my shoes in their original boxes on the shelves of my closet like she did. She had Polaroid photos taped to her shoe boxes, I didn’t because I didn’t have that many shoes to keep track of. She taught me that a day at a spa was a day well spent. As our team excelled and defied all expectations she would take us to the Claremont Hotel to celebrate. We would have lunch in our plush cotton robes by the pool between spa treatments. I thought we were friends, but we were not. We were not friends at all, but that was not because of me. And, it had nothing to do with race, but instead the lens we both saw the world through. Nevertheless, I left that job and never saw her again.
As I reflect on these experiences I realize that I still fear being the perpetrator of offense. That has not changed. In this current environment I see my adherence to political correctness as silence in the movement against racial equality. After all, what does a suburban white woman know about race? My guess is absolutely nothing.
Love and blessings to all.