Wednesday, March 28, 2012

No Water Cooler, No Problem: Hot Topics Have No Place In The Workplace

Boys in Chicago united in protest to handling of Trayvon Martin case in Florida. I love this photo.

The White Bronco Chase.

The Verdict.

Hurricane Katrina.

Kanye Dissing W.

Kanye Interrupting Taylor Swift.

Liar Shouted At The President in a State of the Union address

Those are just a few of the many times in my adult life when events have swept our nation up in a firestorm of conversation about race relations, racial tension or as some folks say "the race card" where people inject race where it should not be a factor.

Trayvon Martin murder.

Why did I separate the latest event? Because for the first time in my adult life I'm not in a "workplace" setting where I'm forced to interact with others as we all process our reactions, thoughts and feelings around very polarizing topics.

I've had the luxury to deal with this latest event 100% on my own terms. First, taking in little information and reading/watching as I wanted. No forced conversations. No reacting to the reactions of others.

Last week,  as the fever pitch of the Martin case came to a crescendo,  I found myself frozen in a state of shock. Finally realizing that as a mom to a vibrant little black boy of the tender age of 6 - that this harsh reality of our country's state of poor race relations could impact his life, fatally in an instant. I became obsessed with coverage for a few days and really didn't speak to anyone besides my husband,  save a quick conversation with my lawyer and friend-  a fellow black mom of boys.  A few other IMs with friends and one quick Facebook post has been all the interacting on the topic I could handle.

Nothing more. And I was glad that I no longer had the water cooler layer to add to my processing.  I  never realized before now, how stressful all those previous situations. Regardless where I worked, I was always one of few or the only minority in the vicinity and I always felt compelled to join the discussions,  no matter now painful. It was a damned if you do, damned if you don't situation.

Sit by and let opinions fly that were at times downright ignorant.

Join in the conversation at the "risk" of representing all black folks in the world with my thoughts.

Either way, I always dreaded going to work on the morning "after" these stories broke.

How refreshing it is to be self-employed as the current firestorm brews. I can opt-out of discussions with others or opt-in - 100% at my choosing.

I do believe that race relations are a worthy topic of discussion and welcome it but not at work. We have a far too contentious a relationship with race in the United States to really discuss it at the water cooler.

Do me a favor? Stop and look around your workplace. Look for opportunities to opt-out of these conversations in a global setting. One-on-one is another story. By all means - if you'd like to discuss this with someone you have a relationship with - do it. That is good.

I mean the literal gatherings or "water cooler" huddles that discuss volatile issues are bad news for most people involved. Remember that the next time we have one of these explosive topics hit the national news cycle.

What do you think?

No comments:

Post a Comment