General Question

rockfan's avatar

Do you think this is the right way to deal with racism in the workplace?

Asked by rockfan (11975points) June 26th, 2015

A friend of mine, who is African-American, works at an airport, and he encountered an older white man who said to him, “You people used to be working at the back of the ticket counters, get out of my way and get someone else.”

My friend responded, “Well sir, that may have been in the past but today this is what we have on staff. Now if you feel it’s an inconvenience to you, I’ll be more than happy to direct you to the terminal 15 minutes from here where I’m sure it’ll be more to your liking.” The man responded by saying, “I don’t have time for that. Just check me in here and I’ll be on my way!” My friend politely responded, “Yes sir. Thank you for flying American.”

When my friend retold this interaction to me, I got upset that my friend bent over backwards to be nice to the man. I understand that it’s his job to be polite to every customer, but I think he could have at least acknowledged the man’s ignorance, while still being courteous.

What are your thoughts?

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15 Answers

snowberry's avatar

The man was being a total jerk, that is true. But he responded (instead of reacting emotionally) to him in a BUSINESSLIKE manner. In my husband’s business he runs into this type all the time. Sometimes it’s race; other times it’s an entitled customer. But he is ALWAYS courteous and never allows them to see him get flustered.

Showing irritation in anyway to this type of person only feeds the fire. Tell your friend good job from me!

Tropical_Willie's avatar

Your friend probably likes his job and wants to keep it. Answering the “idiot is an idiot” or a bigot would cost him his job.

bossob's avatar

Your friend did an outstanding job handling the situation in a professional manner.

It’s best to choose the time and place of your battles.

Responding to the asshole in any way, would only lead to an unpleasant conclusion for your friend. Dealing with the public can be a difficult, stressful job.

jca's avatar

If your friend offended the man, he’d be in trouble at work, no matter what. The professional’s job is to remain polite. The professional is trained to deal with offensive people. I’m sure this is not the first offensive customer he’s encountered.

Cupcake's avatar

Yes. I think he demonstrated exceptional customer service.

I don’t think he bent over backwards… and I don’t think it’s his job to acknowledge a customer’s ignorance.

ragingloli's avatar

I would have responded with “And you people used to be guards at concentration camps”.
But then again, I would be out of a job pretty quicky.
There is a right way to deal with this if you want to keep your job,
and then there is a right way to deal with it if you properly want to deal with disgusting racists. Those two goals are usually diametrically opposed to each other.

Coloma's avatar

He did handle the situation in a professional manner but hats off to him. I would have probably pissed in his luggage. lol

Dutchess_III's avatar

Wow. I admire your friend! I love what he did, politely suggesting the guy go to a gate that was 15 minutes away! The old guy came away with the message that, as a white guy, he’s not in charge any more! So you can bet the guy stewed and steamed for his whole flight, so your friend won.

Many of the older generation, black and white, just can’t wrap their minds around the way things have changed since the 60’s. Even my husband’s father, who is now 93,can’t really wrap his mind around it and he isn’t even racist. One time Rick and I got him to watch American Idol. One gal came on, African American, and just blew everyone away.
Rick’s dad said, “Wow. She is really good. But she’s the wrong color so she won’t win.” I about fell out of my chair! On the other hand…he may have just been poking us because that’s the way he is. I usually poke right back, but I wasn’t sure if he was serious or not.
Anyway, that singer was Jordan Sparks. She won American Idol that year, in 2007.

Strauss's avatar

The term for your friend’s type of response is “killing them with kindness!”

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@ragingloli There is a right way to deal with this if you want to keep your job, and then there is a right way to deal with it if you properly want to deal with disgusting racists. Those two goals are usually diametrically opposed to each other.

I disagree. The grumpy guy with a racial mindset isn’t going to change his thought process over being put in his place by a stranger. Keeping the response, objective, professional and offering a solution is more likely to have a profound impact, even if well after the event.

Dutchess_III's avatar

But, IMO, he DID get put in his place! 30 years ago….he could have gotten his way and had the black guy replaced with a white guy.

fluthernutter's avatar

Given the circumstances, I think your friend handled it perfectly.

Apparently_Im_The_Grumpy_One's avatar

Yelling “you stupid, racist, mother fucker” whilst punching him in the face would have been perfectly warranted…but also would have cost him his job.

Great job keeping calm by your friend. Very professional.

Buttonstc's avatar

your friend handled it perfectly. It cost him nothing to be polite to this obviously ignorant guy.

Had your friend chosen to stoop to his level and call him names or other angry confrontational reactions, not only would it have cost him his job but his dignity as well.

Your friend is the one with dignity who handled this in a thoroughly professional and admirable way. This served, by contrast, to make the small minded racist look like even more of a jackass and certainly not dignified.

Your friend chose to take the high road while not being overly subservient either. He should rightly be proud of himself and you should be proud of him as well.

lynfromnm's avatar

Your friend was a consummate professional, but you seem to think he backed down. He didn’t. He politely told the bigot that he was welcome to get in another line. Backing down would have meant finding a white guy and bringing him over to take care of the bigot. Your friend continued doing what he was there to do, and did not allow this subhuman to affect him in any way.
I think THAT is a triumph, and your friend’s actions did not imply agreement with or intimidation by the bad guys.

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