Embracing others who do not look, dress, think or talk like us is the right thing to do. In fact, it’s the only thing to do. Embracing African-American diversity is also the economical thing to do. As professionals, it’s in our best interest to respect our clients and colleagues, better communicate with them and help them to feel comfortable.
Following are 10 ways to embrace African-Americans in the workplace:
- DO NOT use the “N-word.” It is not okay for anyone – of any race – to use that word.
- DO NOT compare your tan to the complexion of an African-American. Doing so is a no-no.
- DO NOT become uncomfortable when a group of African-Americans congregate. If you are uncomfortable when more than two African-Americans are in a group talking, then you need to explore those feelings.
- DO NOT refer to African-Americans as “you people”. Would you refer to your own race as “you people?” Then why refer to other groups in that way?
- DO NOT look surprised when a person you thought “sounded White” on the telephone is actually African-American. The look on your face is usually a dead giveaway, and African-Americans know “the look.” After we experience “the look,” we will turn down your job offers, tell others about the offensive experience and take our business elsewhere.
- DO NOT try to “talk Black” when interacting with African-Americans. Do not assume that all African-Americans use slang, listen to hip-hop and eat soul food. Communicate with African-Americans the way you would communicate with anyone else – professionally.
- DO NOT make offensive comments about other ethnic groups in front of African-Americans. Most African-Americans do not like or tolerate offensive comments about any group of people. For example, if you make an offensive comment about Hispanics, we are going to be offended – and inform you.
- DO NOT fawn over African-Americans who speak well. There are millions of articulate and intelligent African-Americans. Many of us are offended when members of other ethnic groups seem surprised to learn that African-Americans are articulate.
- DO NOT tell an African-American that your best friend is Black. When you tell an African-American that your BFF is Black, we typically roll our eyes, because the comment has now achieved the “that-is-so-overrated-and-stereotypical” status. After all, we don’t tell you our BFF is White. The color of our BFFs’ skin should be of no concern to either of us.
- DO NOT touch an African-American person’s hair. Again, this is a no-no. If you are fascinated by an African-American person’s hair, simply ask him or her reasonable questions about it. However, do not touch his or her hair without permission.
If you have made some of these comments or demonstrated some of this behavior in the past, you can indeed correct the error of your ways. Everyone knows that knowledge is power. Now that you know better, you can do better.
What are your thoughts about these tips? Do you have any tips to add to this list? Please share them.