How Come These White Bigots Won’t Talk Race With Me?

After an Uneasy Start, Finding Common Ground to Discuss Race Relations at Work

Carl Jones brought it up over lunch in the company break room: the news of the shooting death of an unarmed black man by a white police officer. “Did you read about it?” Mr. Jones, a software engineer who is black, remembers asking his colleagues. “How could this happen?”

He told his white and Asian-American co-workers about his feelings of outrage as they ate Korean takeout at the lunch table at their technology company in Manhattan. He described the waves of anger and anxiety sweeping over him.

Mr. Jones, the only black employee in his department, had always talked with his work friends about sports, movies and current events. But this conversation last summer was different. One white colleague challenged him, asking: “How do you know the shooting wasn’t justified?” Others averted their eyes and finished the meal in silence.

He knew then that he had crossed an invisible line. The discussion of race that day changed the social dynamics at the table, chilling his co-workers’ camaraderie.

“Everyone did their best to avoid the conversation,” Mr. Jones, 33, recalled last week as he described the day that he discussed the shooting in Ferguson, Mo. Race is often the elephant in the room, he said, and “a lot of times people feel uncomfortable talking about it.”

The reason they are uncomfortable would have nothing to do with the fact you can quickly get fired, if you are white, by talking about race. It has nothing to do with how guys like Razib Khan get sacked by the NYTimes for talking about race. Nope. Nothing to see here.

The universal attribute of all cults is a lack of self-awareness. The Times enforces a strict and ruthless set of speech codes at its offices. It works hard to enforce those codes outside its offices, by slandering people who violate those codes. Yet, they run stories like this one, totally unaware of how ridiculous it makes them look.

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Joseph K
Joseph K
5 years ago

I’m surprised that the guy who suggested that the shooting may have been justified wasn’t dragged down to HR and reprimanded.

5 years ago

“How do you know the shooting wasn’t justified?”

The answer to this question wasn’t supplied, I presume. Probably the good old ‘pressure of space’ excuse in the newspaper business forced the writer to skip over that part. Still, the righteous position was nicely summarised by the phrase ‘Others averted their eyes and finished the meal in silence’ as this hints at guilt and shame and clear evidence of unconscious racism.

Thank goodness the journalist had room to get that in.

5 years ago

Given that this was about Mike Brown, I wonder if the unnamed white co-worker has since brought the subject up again with Mr. Carl Jones and asked him how he feels about things now that it is clear the “this could happen” because a thug attacked a police officer and tried to take his firearm from him after robbing a store

It might make for a lively conversation…

Just Kidding

5 years ago

Maybe whites should start asking how the incredible amount of black on white crime could happen? Oops sorry for noticing.