“Don’t push me ’cause I’m close to the edge
I’m trying not to lose my head
It’s like a jungle sometimes it makes me wonder
how I keep from going under”
Grandmaster Flash and The Furious 5
On morning while at work, my supervisor asked me to come into his office to discuss something. After going through the daily morning pleasantries, his demeanor then changed and he went on to accuse me of something I didn’t do. He stated that he knew I had done it because it “sounded” like me.
I need to go back a few months and days before this to set the stage. We have an employee in our unit who can only be described as a “dog-fucker”. He is extremely lazy. Here’s the paradox. He spends more time and energy trying to get out of doing his work, than he would expend if he just did his job. My supervisor assigned another employee, a Black co-worker to mentor this dog-fucker. It’s important to note that this mentor and I are the only two Black employees in this unit. When my supervisor told me of his plan, I advised him that this plan wouldn’t work and gave him my reasons why. About three weeks later, the Black employee emailed the dog-fucker and supervisor stating he was no longer going to mentor him. There were some serious issues and the Black co-worker rightly determined that the dog-fucker was setting the stage to go off on medical stress leave and lay a complaint of workplace harassment against him as the basis of his stress.
This is what led to my meeting with the supervisor. He was of the opinion that this Black employee wouldn’t have written that email, in such a way and withdraw from the mentoring the dog-fucker, without first speaking to him. Therefore he knew that I was the one who had actually written the email because it was something I would do and the contents of the email “sounded just like you”. The truth is I had nothing whatsoever to do with it. I only knew about the email after it was sent. I asked my supervisor if he had spoken to the Black employee and asked if I had written the email or had advised him on what to write or had anything to do with it at all. He answered that he had and the Black employee had informed him that I had nothing at all to do with it.
After a heated discussion where I proved that I had nothing to do with the drafting of the email, my supervisor then stated that maybe I had inadvertently influenced the Black employee by my opposition to the mentoring program. I explained that I had no discussion with any of the employees in the unit about my opinion of the mentoring program, as this would have undermined his efforts. I then asked if any of the employees had informed him that I had expressed my opposition to the program to them or to anyone else and he stated no one had. So I rejected this theory.
My next question to my supervisor was if he believed that this Black employee hadn’t written the email or was influenced by someone else, there were five other co-workers in the office (all white), so was he going to interrogate them also to get to the truth of the matter? He stated he was not… that he was only concerned if I had anything to do with the drafting of the email. WTF!! I couldn’t believe what I had just heard. I told him that because I was Black and the mentor was Black, didn’t mean that I had any influence on him and whatever he decides to do.
Well… then the shit really hit the fan!
Let me briefly summarize what then took place. My supervisor contacted the manager of our unit, as well as Human Resources and the Union and falsely claimed that I had accused him of racial discrimination and harassment. They then instituted the workplace harassment policy… on my behalf… although the policy clearly states that if I wanted to make such an accusation, I would have to do it myself in writing to a manager not a party to the allegations… which I didn’t do. The next day, my supervisor then brought me into his office and read a prepared statement that I had made an allegation of racial discrimination and harassment against him and to let him know what he could do to resolve this issue.
I was stunned but refused to play his game. I informed him that in no way did I make any such allegations. Further, I was aware of the policy that such allegations would have to be made in writing by myself to his manager and this was a clear conflict of interest, breach of our workplace harassment policy, as well as an abuse of process for him to bring me into his office to discuss this. I told him I knew he was only doing this “to cover his ass”, because if I wanted to make this an issue of racial harassment and discrimination… due to the way he went about dealing with this issue, first by accusing me of something I didn’t do, then stating that I was the only one being investigated in regards to an issue involving another Black employee… I would have a legitimate case against him.
I refused to get involved in this workplace harassment
sham procedure. I informed him and subsequently our manager, that this wasn’t a racial issue, which would have let him off the hook in my opinion. This was clearly a case of my supervisor exercising poor judgment, making a bad decision and when the mentoring program failed, instead of taking responsibility for it, he was looking to use me as a scapegoat for its failure. It was an issue of a lack of honesty and integrity on his part, which was further demonstrated in his violation and abuse of the workplace harassment policy to discredit me.
A few months after this incident while on parental leave, I was contacted at home by a co-worker who informed me that there was a rumor going around that my supervisor had contacted our Union and told them that he had brought me into his office to “call me out” on something I had done and I responded by playing the “race card”. Once I returned to work, I contacted the Union and those who were identified to me as spreading this rumor. I didn’t get into the details of what had occurred, but I made these points known:
- If my supervisor had stated that I had played the “race card” in any dealing he had with me, then he is a liar. He is the one who “played the race card”.
- If I do something wrong, I always admit and take responsibility for my error, so I never have to “play the race card” to avoid any repercussions.
- I am intellectually and ethically superior to my supervisor, so I would never have to “play the race card” to gain any advantage over him.
Oh Lord, while I’m on my beat
May I know that you’re with me,
And protect me as I go to guard
Other’s lives and property.
Help me to ignore those who scorn
And show me no respect,
But be mindful of all citizens
I’ve sworn that I’ll protect.
Be with my fellow officers
And guard their safety too.
May I always put my duty first
In the work that I must do.
May I not disgrace the uniform
But bring pride to the badge I wear.
That I’d be a good policeman, Lord
Would be my only prayer.
Heartfelt condolences to the families of the four police officers who were ambushed and executed on Sunday morning.
Clockwise from top left: Lakewood Police officers Greg Richards, Mark Renninger, Tina Griswold and Ronald Owens.
Would you be so kind as to mention the following to Mr. Gates and President Obama during your meeting with them:
One of the major problems stemming from the events of July 16 is that I, now known as ‘the black Sergeant’, have had my image plastered all over the Internet, television and newspapers. Subsequently, I have also become known, at least to some, as an ‘Uncle Tom.’
I’m forced to ponder the notion that as a result of speaking the truth and coming to the defense of a friend and collegue, who just happens to be white, that I have somehow betrayed my heritage.
Excerpt of a letter that Cambridge Police Sgt. Leon Lashley wrote to Sgt. Crowley before the “Beer Summit”.
Like you, I am a Black man. Like you, I am a police officer.
When I saw the photo of you standing outside of Professor Gates’ home, with him in handcuffs, I had a sense of trepidation for you. Then when I saw you standing by Sgt. Crowley in the above photo during the news conference and heard you express your support for him, I knew you’d be crucified by the Black (especially blogging) community. Subsequently, I read and also heard you being described as a “house negro”, an “uncle tom”, a “sell-out” and a “traitor” to your heritage, by practically every commentator.
I have also been called these names by members of our community because of the profession I am in. However, for me it didn’t start the first day I donned my uniform. It actually started when I was a child because I spoke differently from most of my peers. My parents insisted that my siblings and I speak “proper English”, focusing on good grammar and not resorting to the “street slang” of the day. So some of my peers would tease me, claiming that I was talking like I was “white”. For others, it was a reason to give me an ass-whooping! Then in high school, because I wouldn’t skip classes to go hang out and studied hard to get good grades, I would be told I was “acting white” and called an “oreo” and “uncle tom” on a number of occasions.
We have come to realize that being both a Black man and a police officer, puts us in an advantageous, as well as an unenviable position at the same time. In fact, it a blessing and a curse! Since we are members of these two distinct groups, we see how both groups are viewed with suspicion and perceived as “dangerous”… not only by each other… but also by the society at large. We experience first hand, on a daily basis, the tension between both groups based on a real (and continuing) history of conflict and misunderstandings. We struggle it seems with very little success, to defend the actions, perceptions and motives of each group to the other, in an effort to lessen this tension and promote some understanding… if not empathy.
Like you, I love my heritage. Like you, I love my job. Like you, I know that there are some Black folks who will judge me for the uniform I wear and not for the person I am. Like you, I know that there are some police officers who will judge me by the colour of my skin and not by the content of my character. Like you, I understand that as a Black man, supporting the actions of a corrupt colleague, especially a “white” cop, does not endear us to them. In fact it gives them permission to victimize us within the workplace as well. Like you, I understand that as a police officer, defending the bad and/or criminal behaviour of those in the Black community, causes us to lose the respect of the community. We become a living confirmation of their belief that cops are dishonest and don’t care about the welfare and safety of the Black community.
“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will always hurt me…”
Regardless of how we may appear in public, it does hurts us when those in the Black community demonize us… more so than whatever our police colleagues may say about us. However, I believe that God has placed us in a unique position and has ordained us to a higher calling. Therefore we must rise above the rhetoric, sound bites and critics from within both groups, keep our hearts and minds pure and clear, so as to never lose sight on the truth of each situation, and take a stand on that truth… regardless of colour or profession. That may entail standing with a “white” colleague against false allegations of racism from the Black community. That may require standing with the family of a young Black man and declare that he was indeed murdered by an overzealous “white” cop.
Finally I offer this piece of insight to you, which has helped me overcome the ignorance I am sometimes subjected to. Whenever I am called names by anyone because of a position I have taken, I remember the words of my Grandmother: “Son, an empty drum makes the most noise”. I am then reminded and take strength in the fact that there is a silent majority, within both groups, who do respect me for what I do… and more importantly… for the person I am.
You have my support as a fellow officer.
You have my love as a Black man.
“Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” Matthew 5:9
One of the lessons (credit the “teachable moment”) I have learnt from the Gates, Crowley and Obama affair is that our society has a disdain for peacemakers. They are more often than not ridiculed, called “soft”, if a male… characterized as a part of a female’s anatomy, have the sincerity of their motives questioned and even referred to as a “traitor” to some group or cause.
Those of you who frequent this blog know that I am no worshipper, nor mesmerized supporter of Barack Obama. Throughout this whole affair, he made the stupidest comment of all involved, which further inflamed a situation, which in reality was a “WWF pay per-view style” clash of egos, that was manipulated into a racial issue. However I will “give credit where credit is due.” Although Obama did not actually retract and apologize for his comment, he moved the whole situation forward to a sit down between the opposing parties for a beer and a chat in an effort to foster understanding and end the conflict. For this effort I commend President Obama… as well as Professor Gates and Sgt. Crowley.
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5: 23-24.
We are all human and make mistakes and say and do things which we later regret. However few of us, especially in today’s society, will swallow our pride, or set aside our conviction that we are indeed unequivocally “right” and the other party is definitely “wrong”, or look beyond our own selfish agenda, and simply do whatever it takes to make peace. Ashamedly more often than not, I behave like the majority. What I find most instructive in regards to the above words of Christ, is that if someone has something against you, regardless of whether you are ”right” or “wrong”, you need to reconcile with that person before you give tribute to God. Hard to do… even if you are ”wrong”, especially if you are “right”.
On Thursday as I watched various news coverages of the so-called ”Beer Summit”, I noticed how the reporters (and commentators) were trivializing, not so much the event, but primarily the efforts the event was attempting to achieve! I also read numerous news articles and blogs with similar sentiments, some going so far as calling Professor Gates and President Obama ”traitors to the race!”
Our society feeds on controversy. The media, including bloggers, are forever seeking to exploit the next controversy to increase the readership to their forums, to demonstrate their intelligence and insightfulness… and for some an increase in financial gains. There is no controversy, no financial gain, no increase in readership, no “look how smart and insightful I am”, when it involves peacemaking.
In saying all this, let’s not get it twisted! This ”Beer Summit” will do nothing to improve race relations in America. The whole affair was about a clash of two egos, about two men who behaved badly because they felt entitled due to their position in society, about two men who expected that they should have been afforded a certain amount of deference and respect from the other. There will still be racial profiling by the police, as well as unfair and unequal treatment of Black men by the criminal justice system. Some Black people will still use the “race card” when arrested in an effort to shift the focus from their bad and/or criminal behaviour unto the actions of the police, which ultimatety undermines those who have legitimate claims of police abuse.
Sure this event has started another national conversation about “race and race relations”… until later today or tomorrow, when it will be time to exploit the next controversy.
From theROOT: “An Accident of Time and Place” by Professor Gates.