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BackinBlack's avatar

Racial Question...What do you think of this situation?

Asked by BackinBlack (1207points) March 12th, 2019

So my work just hired a woman, she is black. We already have several different ethnicities in our office but it is predominantly white.

We had lunch together and one of our managers was talking about her daughters, who she adopted as babies and are now grown women. They happen to be black and she and her husband are white. She told a funny story about how simple the people of the town were where she lived when her girls were little. She had taken them to get their hair done for church and they used hair extensions. For some reason, one daughters hair extention had fallen out during service and everyone gasped in horror that the poor girls hair had fallen out. She had to explain to them that it wasn’t real it was a clip and she was fine and not ill.

We all laughed, pretty much at the stupidity of the church people… well our new employee didn’t laugh. She seriously asked, “why did it fall out, did you put it in yourself? What salon, did you make an appointment or was it a walk in?” It was very awkward and she explained that this has been 20 plus years ago.

She tried to lighten the conversation by saying her girls loved getting their hair done and she always took them to nice salons. It took a long time but it was a fun event for them. The new employee said “well it shouldn’t take a long time.”

I have witnessed this situation many times when a white person talks about something outside their race. She wasn’t telling her the story because she was black and she thought oh you will get this… She told the story to the whole table and it was brought up because of a separate topic.

What do you guys think of this? Was it inappropriate? Have you ever witnessed something like this?

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13 Answers

janbb's avatar

Are you assuming that the new person’s judgmental response was because she was black and not just because of her personality? It’s hard to see where race really enters into the story at all unless there’s something missing from your recount of it?

KNOWITALL's avatar

Sounds to me that the new employee had an interest in the hair part of the story and was curious. Perhaps she has more knowledge of hair for the girls and wanted to help?

I just watched this whole Chris Rock documentary on hair and weaves and extensions, etc…and it was very informative.

BackinBlack's avatar

No she was rude and seemed put off. She was laughing all lunch until she told the story to the entire table and she totally turned off and didn’t say a word the rest of the day. She acted hostile in her questions and the other employee blushed and stuttered a bit and tried to fix herself. Other employees made comments about not bringing up that subject again.

This was something that happened over 20 years ago so what would their be to help her with? She made it clear that her daughters were grown women now.

It was awkward I don’t know why she would ACT so strange about the story. I have no idea how she felt though – I am not her – I’m reporting what I observed and what others observed… aggressive questions about irrelevant details to a story. This clearly made the employee telling the story uncomfortable and revert.

I used to do hair and there is a specific way African American hair has to be cared for, plus it is a cultural thing which white people don’t have. White people didn’t sit with their families and do hair and talk and have a pride over their ethnicity. It takes skill to do black hair and a lot of people don’t realize it or get it.

I guess what I was getting at was, do you think white people should avoid topics like that in the work place because someone could get offended? It just seemed that it was inappropriate after she told the story.

Please understand that I am not assuming things because she is black, I’m reading the situation. I pictured if a white employee asked the same questions just as aggressively and it would still be very strange.

janbb's avatar

Well, if you could do it comfortably, it might be worth bringing it up with the new employee privately. You could say, “I felt you were uncomfortable with X’s story about her girls’ hair. Did you feel we were being insensitive or sounding bigoted? I’d like to know more about your reaction.”

stanleybmanly's avatar

I’m not a bit surprised that a black woman might immediately assume the defensive were the topic of black hair to arise at a table full of white people. That documentary @KNOWITALL mentioned is the best thing I’ve ever seen on just why hair texture takes 2nd only to skin color in a society struggling to emerge from the brutal standards inflicted by racial distinctions. Look it up and watch. There are revelations there that I guarantee will blow your mind.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@BackinBlack The only other thing I can think of is perhaps the lady was offended that a white couple was raising black kids?
I’ve heard that there are some that believe that it’s highly offensive and unfair to the children culturally, etc.., to be raised by a race that doesn’t match their own.

Patty_Melt's avatar

I think there are a few ways to look at it.

Perhaps one or more people at the table looked nervous, and that bothered her.

Possibly her childhood left her without much knowledge of extensions, or she felt jealous that they had not been an option for her.

Maybe it was like Latinos pretending they can’t speak English, just enjoying screwing with somebody’s mind.

Maybe there was a time in her life she had been embarrassed by a do, and the story made her miserable thinking about it.

JeSuisRickSpringfield's avatar

There are so many possibilities that it’s really best if you can talk to her about it, like @janbb said.

Maybe she thought that the woman was telling the story specifically because there was a new, black employee in the room (especially if it came across like a “I can’t be racist, I have black daughters” thing or a “here’s a story about my black daughters because that’s the only way I know how to relate to black people” thing). Just because she told the story to everyone doesn’t mean she still would have told it if the new employee wasn’t there.

Maybe she thought that the woman was demonstrating total ignorance about black hair despite having black daughters (an ignorance that could have had a lot of impact on the poor girls’ lives).

Maybe she thought the daughters were being made the butt of the joke and not the other parishioners (not everyone focuses on the same thing in a story, so she might have seen it as a story that relies on seeing black hair as different and weird).

Maybe she isn’t upset at all and this is all a big misunderstanding. There’s only one way to find out.

seawulf575's avatar

Talking about your family is generally not a taboo thing at work. The response from the new employee might be a matter of presentation as to how it was received. Some people are very blunt and direct and their responses to things are sometimes taken as being aggressive. Aggression in a conversation tends to put people off, make them uncomfortable.
Then again, it might be that the group felt the point of the story was the humorous situation it portrayed and the responses of those involved. When the new employee didn’t catch the humor but got offended at the poor hair service involved, that might have made people uncomfortable.
I don’t really see a racial aspect to any of the conversation, though.

Dutchess_III's avatar

“The new employee said “well it shouldn’t take a long time.” This comment has me a little puzzled….hair extensions and weaves DO take a long time.

I agree with everyone else. It sounds like the new girl got defensive but I’m not sure why. I guess I’d have to be there to hear the tone and everything else.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Something occurred to me…you said you have several different ethnicities….but is she the only black employee?

longgone's avatar

Do you remember how this story was introduced? I assume most employees would know about the manager’s black daughters, but the way she brought that up with the new employee could be the key here.

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