Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board

Stretched too thin

Help me to deal with this situation.

I am a mulato and so is one of my coworkers. Our manager is a smart-ass. Confident, always with a snide remark and especially with a nigger joke ready.

This is making the workplace atmosfere a bit heavy. I've noticed one other of my colleagues is also a bit of a racist. A couple of days ago a black kid was beaten to death in
a police station and that guy spent the whole time insulting the kid as if it was a mortal sin to be black (to him it is).

When we go out on coffee breaks, I noticed that me and the other mulato simply don't go. I
don't think it's conscious, we simply don't like being around our manager. It's too uncomfortable. Meanwhile, my manager and the other guy get along like crazy.

How am I going to deal with this? Just to clear things up, this is not in the US. Blacks here don't have the protected status that blacks in the US have, what with Affirmative Action and all. In fact, the rule of thumb is, if you're working and you're black, suck it up.

But I just can't take it anymore. Other points of stress in my life have me stretched and when my manager tells a joke all I can do is get away from him, and it's beginning to erode our professional relation.

Any ideas like go chant "om" in the toillet and then come back relaxed?

Lover boy
Friday, July 2, 2004

OK, you live in Brazil is my guess, or possibly Panama. Mullatto is archaic in North America and not used outside the western hemisphere.

Tony Chang
Friday, July 2, 2004

Man, thats tough. Looks like you cant really do anything about the source of the problem, except quit?

Your manager is obviously not to bright.

All I can think of is that you try and remember that the managers racism is not about you. It is about some generic, idealized black dude that exists only in the managers mind. He is mistaking reality with his internal representation of it.

Eric Debois
Friday, July 2, 2004

I'd say

(1) start looking for another job

(2) in the mean time, if that's going to be hard, try and make yourself a part of their coffee-break excursions and so forth, even if it is a bit uncomfortable. If you voluntary exclude yourself from these things you'll just be confirming to them the idea that you're somehow inferior and not a part of their social group. And, worse, that you implicity accept this - the distance between you and them will get worse.

Stand up for your rights man, even if you're living somewhere shit where they're not recognised

Friday, July 2, 2004

Echoing what Eric said, I've known a few racists (in the US), and the attitude is generally that "those (generic) blacks are all criminals, but Joe here is my friend." This is also known as the "you're not like most blacks" syndrome.

He's an idiot, you're better than him. If you can stand to ignore it, try to. Recognize that moving on may not fix anything - in fact the next workplace may be worse.

In the bigger picture, what are the possibilities of filing a lawsuit for a hostile work environment? Even though it may not be commonplace, or even unheard of in your country, someone has to be the first.

Of course, that means kissing your job goodbye. :-/


Friday, July 2, 2004

First of all, start looking for a new job.  This guys is obviously a jackass.

Next, "Afirmative Action" *IS* racism.

When you make decisions and have preferences based solely on someone's race, that is racism.  It doesn't matter whether you think you're "helping" a group or hurting a group.

Friday, July 2, 2004

The protection you speak of wasn't always the case here in the US. Civil rights activists spoke out and brought about changes. The Civil Rights Ammendment was signed fifty years ago this summer. It's painful and won't happen overnight, but it can be done. Perhaps you should get involved.

Tom H
Friday, July 2, 2004

I live in Europe. My country is almost 1000 years old. Blacks began to come here in the 70's and 80's. We just don't have the same history you do. And for legal action, it just won't happen. Most managers went to school with each other, they know each other and talk regularly, even if they don't work in the same companies. Legal action would kick me out of this industry.

Like I said, I'll just have to suck it up.

Friday, July 2, 2004

Come on then, which country is it? We're all curious now. I'm guessing (hoping) not the UK, I mean nigger jokes and the like are really beyond the pail here and I can't see anyone, in the software industry certainly, having to take that kind of shit...

Friday, July 2, 2004

Oh you're just whining.  This is all about self improvement.  Clearly it's all your fault and it's foolish for you to ask for advice here.  There's no such thing as racism.

muppet from
Friday, July 2, 2004

I guess there aren't that many countries with a 1000 years history in Europe...

Mighty Mouse
Friday, July 2, 2004

At least you've got a reason for your manager being a smart arse. Most of us just put it down to being geeks.

My advice would be to just live with it. In a few years you or he will be in a new job. If you're doing the job, surely there must be some level of respect going on?

Mr Helpful
Friday, July 2, 2004

Gee, and my manager just cusses me out for taking a coffee break in the afternoon, after he gets back from 9 holes of golf in the morning...

muppet from
Friday, July 2, 2004

RP = Lover Boy?

Are you black yourself?  Are these attacks personal?

Ged Byrne
Friday, July 2, 2004

I don't mean to be flippant, but have you considered moving to a better country?

Friday, July 2, 2004

  Just for the record, he's not from Brazil.  If he was, he could (and SHOULD) send his manager to JAIL.

  I won't say that we don't have racism in Brazil, but we have anti-racist laws, and this behavior should not be tolerated.


Ricardo Antunes da Costa
Friday, July 2, 2004

RP = Lover Boy. The word lover boy showed up because I was using it in another forum, while RP is what I use here.

Once again, these are not personal attacks. I even think that he is genuinely trying to be friendly. But he probably grew up hearing racist jokes from his father, so that's what he does now. Add to that the fact that I have a short temper, and it's all ruined.

Friday, July 2, 2004


Who are you kidding?
This kind of thing is sooo common in Brazil...
When I started reading...I was almost positive he was from here.
Don´t try to pass a false image, Ricardo.
Brazilian culture is so racist that I´ve seen two blacks arguing roughly that the other one was "blacker"
I won´t even go into the numbers...

Ronaldo 9
Friday, July 2, 2004

Oddly enough, white kids do that here in the 'states, too.

Friday, July 2, 2004

For whatever it's worth -- your manager is a complete f*cking idiot. Even 'trying to be friendly' doesn't change it from what it is -- racism -- and doesn't make it any less horrible.

If I said at work that "gee, our Asian workers sure are smart", that's blatantly, horribly racist, even if I intended it as a compliment. People aren't defined by the color of their skin, period. And if I said that here (I work in the US), I suspect I would have about three minutes left in the building before I was fired on the spot. Seriously.

I don't have a solution, but don't feel bad that you have a "quick temper". I'd be infuriated if anybody treated me the way you're being treated, whether they 'meant well' or not. I wish I had a good solution -- you can either stand up for your feelings and what's just, and probably get fired and/or blacklisted (sounds like it's not a good environment!), or make do. There might be a middle ground, if you can come up with also-joking-but-insightful replies to your manager's jokes ("yeah, seems like that, but actually I live in a neighborhood full of blacks and it's safer than it is here" or whatever), but I really don't know.

I do have sympathy for you and a great deal of frustration-by-proxy at the people who are treating you this way. Just know it's not 'your fault' for being pissed off -- it's way, way beyond the pale.

Friday, July 2, 2004

I know nearly nothing about Brazil; but for all their other faults, every character in the movie _City of God_ seemed to act colour-blind.

> I even think that he is genuinely trying to be friendly. ... Add to that the fact that I have a short temper, and it's all ruined.

Could you e.g. go out to lunch with him then, and either invite him to discuss race and racism with you, and/or ask to stop mentioning/joking about race while you're around?

Christopher Wells
Friday, July 2, 2004

First: I agree with every other poster on the ethical and moral character of your boss. Dump them as fast as humanly possible.

Sidebar: Affirmative action is not racism. It is an attempt at reparations for the institutionalized racism practiced in the US for far too long. It is no more racist than paying taxes to pay off the national debt.

Jeff Kotula
Friday, July 2, 2004

I think you should have a private chat with the manager. If he's trying to be friendly, I think a nice talk will help tremendously. Say somethink like "dude I like your humour, but those jokes aren't really funny". 

Another strategy could be to talk with someone else in the group. Maybe some nice white guy, who could be made see the problem and take your side at the coffee break. Then it won't be you that's whining.

The above are strategies I've read about for handling sexist jokes (I'm female).

If that doesn't help you should talk with the manager's manager... And look for a new job of course.

Friday, July 2, 2004

"The Civil Rights Ammendment was signed fifty years ago this summer."

Actually, there's no such thing.

I assume you mean the *Civil Rights Act* which was signed in 1964 which would be 40 years ago (not 50) after the longest filibuster in US Congressional history.

Friday, July 2, 2004

"[Affirmative action] is no more racist than paying taxes to pay off the national debt."

Paying someone when he cashes in his treasury bond is just a teensy bit different than giving someone a job because (a) his skin isn't white and (b) someone else whose skin wasn't white was a slave a hundred years ago.

Friday, July 2, 2004

>Don´t try to pass a false image, Ricardo.

  I'm not trying.  I said we have racism here.

  I also sai we have anti-racism laws.

  OP claimed he couldn't do anything about it.

  I believe he's not from Brazil, 'cause in Brazil he CAN and SHOULD send his manager to jail.

  Ok, maybe I'm just naive.

Ricardo Antunes da Costa
Friday, July 2, 2004

Are you in Ireland?

Saturday, July 3, 2004

No, why? How are blacks treated there?

Saturday, July 3, 2004

To the OP,

If I were you, I'd beat the shit out of my boss and then have sex with his wife.

Mr Fancypants
Saturday, July 3, 2004

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home