Predicaments

Standard

I have thought for many days about what would I have done

differently in an early February conversation during a break

at work.  So many times during my life I have stood up for a

situation or cause, only to find out later this alienated me from

a friend.

 

I was so excited and passionate about seeing the movie, “Selma.”

I have been taught that by being silent one is quietly accepting

another’s words or choices. This is not a good position to be in

when making friends. I feel that if my friends don’t think along

similar lines, it is not a strong friendship but one of convenience.

Over the past six years, I have built a close-knit group of people

who get along together, joke and lighten each other’s days at work.

 

 

My fellow coworkers, Tammy, Melvin, Felda and Mary Jane are

part of this group. We have enjoyed sharing weekend experiences

and expanding our minds in lively conversations. There are many

fringe friends who join in and stop by our table. I enjoy meeting

such a wide variety of people at my warehouse job. This is one of

the best positive aspects of my work.

 

It is not generally a good idea or tactful while in a work place,

to express controversial opinions. Yet, my table mates and I

have seen eye to eye on the subject of acceptance. Some of us

even voted in elections the same way. We started watching

some of the same t.v. shows to be able to share about these.

 

 

Little did I expect, someone I cared about would be making a

rather outrageous statement in response to a movie review.

Here are some quotations to lend support to my response.

 

 

“If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.”

~Eldridge Cleaver

 

A longer version, expanded from the above thought includes

the following words which are also true:

“. . . but the perpetual human predicament is that the answer

soon poses its own problems.”

~Sydney J. Harris

 

The old Latin rule of the law of acquiescence would apply here,

“Qui tacet consentire videtur” means one who is silent is seen

to have given consent. To acquiesce is to accept or to comply.

 

I was mentioning how many things about the Civil Rights period

despite being raised in a conscientious and active participant

family, I had missed. I was describing one of the early details of

a particularly disturbing scene where children in a church were

killed in a bombing in the film, “Selma.”

 

Out of nowhere, my ‘close’ friend,  Felda said,

 

 

“We, in our country, believe in love and cannot ever understand

people who are raised in a “culture of hate.”

 

I emphatically agreed with this, thinking she was talking about

bigoted people who are ‘taught’ to hate people from another

group from their own. In other words, I was thinking she

meant to be talking about ‘whites’ being part of the ‘haters’

specifically, in the Civil Rights movement.

 

As I nodded and said, “I agree,” I noticed a quiet pause in the

conversation. Tammy (Ohio country girl) and Melvin, (son of

immigrants from an island off of Portugal) did not join in.

 

Felda helped me to realize who she was talking about by adding,

in a most definite direction I would NEVER agree with,

 

“Why do blacks get taught to hate whites in America?  In the

Philippines, everyone loves others. We were ‘slaves’ in our own

history, but we ‘don’t hold it against you.'”

 

Okay, now I knew where silence would not be appropriate. I

had to dig myself out of a hole, so to speak. I said that she did

not understand the trials, tribulations and how people who were

slaves, or had slave ancestors, were affected by their treatment.

They may have possibly been taught to ‘mistrust’ white people.

 

Inside my head for a moment, I thought possibly only coming

here to live in the U.S. (and marrying Jason, an American) in

the 1990’s may have given Felda less understanding of the

long history, prevailing ways and practices which continue

going on from when the Civil War ended in the 1860’s, into

the present. The other two of  her friends have always been

less outspoken and didn’t try to contribute or interpret what

she meant by her hurtful words.

 

I added,  “This is not how this conversation was meant to go.”

 

I had hoped that by talking about “Selma,” to help everyone

at this table understand why fear and distrust could become

part of a familial pattern of handling people. The small town

in Mississippi had many people showing their prejudice against

the blacks. I had especially thought the Filipinos (what they

insist on being called at work) would have empathetic feelings

coming from their own personal experiences of prejudice.

 

I looked at Melvin, who is sophisticated and warm.  He had

served in the Army, traveled Europe and was raised in an open

minded, accepting and loving family. He would give the shirt off

his back and has often been found this brittle cold winter, under

the hood of a fellow employee’s car trying to fix or replace a part.

Actually, the speaker of this unfortunate point of view, had been

‘only charged for car parts’ when she had needed four brakes

replaced by Melvin and other repair assistance.

 

I wondered why Felda had said this about blacks, without any

clarification? Did she intend to hurt Melvin?

The rest of the people at the table were either Filipino or

white.

 

Melvin shrugged. He knew it was pointless to mention that

this person who arrived in America, married an American,

may not completely understand the racial issues, tensions

and dynamics here in the United States.

 

Melvin felt my eyes on him, urging him to ‘speak up.’ Finally,

he responded by saying,

“My people are not nor have ever been descendants of slaves,

but I feel a lot of sympathy for the blacks here. I get the same

kind of attitude from whites as they do, I get followed around

in jewelry stores, I have been shoved while at a peaceful protest

rally by a ‘white supremacist’ cop and have been taken aside to

be shouted at. I would ‘never measure up to the white people’

in my Army experiences. This came from more than one officer

in the Army.”

 

Melvin quietly expressed his thoughts on a tough issue,

“I will share this additional thought: black people raised in the

South are different from black people raised in the North. To

be honest, unfortunately their perspectives are not the same.”

 

I went on a limb and put my thoughts out there for friends

who had included me in christenings, birthday parties and

delicious meals at parties where we sang karaoke together,

 

“I need to study your islands’ history better of what you call

‘slavery.’ I am not sure that slavery there was the same as

slavery here. I have the misunderstanding that your culture

may have a history of servitude.  Sometimes smiling when you

were crying inside, but this is probably inaccurate. Meanwhile,

I would never agree with your statement about the black culture

being raised to hate whites.”

 

As far as research, there are considered to be 130,000 to as

many as 160,000 people in the Philippines who are part of

sex trafficking, indentured servitude and this is from an article

on October 9, 2013 from the newspaper called, “The Manila

Times.”

 

I wished to re-emphasize my opening remarks to them.  I didn’t

realize the total impact on everyday activities of black people from

those who felt ‘superior’ to an entire race until recently. I heard

‘snippets of history’ in school. Like not being allowed to ride in

the middle or front of a bus, Rosa Parks ‘took a stand’ for freedom.

I saw firsthand the water fountains, restaurants and other public

buildings in the 1960’s. They were labeled, “For Colored People.”

I knew this must have been hard or rough on anyone living in

their skin color. We read together my kids and I about the

Underground Railroad and Harriet Tubman.

 

I just finished a great book by Tara Conklin, considered historical

fiction called, “The House Girl.” It has the legal aspects of the

reparation act for families of slaves.  Every other chapter is about

a young woman called “Josephine” who worked in a slave owner’s

house. She learned how to paint from her ‘mistress.’ Later, the

‘house girl’s’ art work is given credit to her owner. Learning is

ongoing.

 

I was truly interested and asked,

“How long ago in Philippines’ history were there slaves?”

 

“Selma” brought back memories of partial lessons for me.

It depicted Ku Klux Klan members, cruelty and ‘hate crimes.’

Who could ever wish to bomb churches and not allow people

to gather in protest?

It is hard to imagine but not right to brush uncomfortable

subjects under the table. Seeing these violent acts on film,

brought back how recently this had happened. It made me

wish to promote this movie, as I did last year when I saw the

fine film, ’12 Years a Slave.’

 

Felda, Mary Jane and May have not looked me in the eyes

since this happened. I continue to say, “Good Morning” and

ask how their family members are, ask how their weekends

went, etc. They give me short answers and have been sitting

at their own table, talking in their own language. I don’t regret

my words, but was sincerely meaning to defend Melvin, along

with my own grandchild’s heritage.

 

My oldest daughter’s son, Micah is 1/4 black. His father’s Dad

plays an integral link to his life and comes to family gatherings.

 

Micah has overheard their complaints about prejudice. We

talk openly about how his own father has been pulled aside

roughly by teachers, coaches and strangers. When he shows

his ‘independence’ it is sometimes considered ‘an attitude.’

This happened with my coworker and friend, Cheryl (who

recently lost her grandson to illness). She has been told, she

says that she “has a chip on her shoulder.”

 

Micah was in preschool when a fellow  4 year old asked him,

“Is your Daddy a terrorist?”

 

This fills my eyes with tears, my heart with sadness and my

mind with fear for Micah, too. It is ‘still out there.’ Even in the

minds of immigrants who feel that black culture is ‘filled with

hatred.’

 

Here is an update on getting an ‘excuse’ written for my eyesight

and concerns for safety while driving heavy equipment. My phone

call with my ophthalmologist left me without anything promised

in writing and another appointment made in April.

 

I visited the optometrist who seemed more interested in helping

me. She wrote a well thought out letter, including the reasons I

would not be a safe candidate for ‘heavy bulk’ at the warehouse.

 

She wrote about my lack of depth perception, my monovision

while wearing a close distance contact to read fine print and a

far distant contact to see far away. She mentioned my not being

able to judge distances, especially in the narrow passages while

driving backwards with the double pallet riding equipment.

 

Her professionalism and need to be clear, may have included

details which won’t help my cause:

“Robin’s peripheral vision and depth perception would be

greatly improved by wearing single vision distance only

spectacles instead of contact lenses. Obviously, if the patient

is in a warehouse, she should be wearing safety spectacles.”

 

I have been wearing contact lenses throughout my six years

at Advance Auto Distribution Center. I am most confident

while reading the tiny UPC codes, picking the correct items

to place into bins, hampers or gaylords. (Containers which

are actually huge cardboard boxes for Open Stock and used

in heavy bulk on top of a wooden pallet and plastic pallet.)

 

I won’t change to regular glasses to carry out my job nor to

bifocals. I am not sure I would be as confident in performing

my job with single vision glasses. The reason I chose contacts

was because I used to have to take off my glasses to read the

fine print, use the RF’s (tablet computers) and now, new piece

of equipment,  a Bluetooth computer on my arm.

 

As my good friend, Jenny, honestly suggested work may try

to force me to use glasses and go to work in heavy bulk.

I am ‘screwed.’

 

My ophthalmologist who had told me he could not write a letter

until I came in for another appointment. I will hold out for Hope.

An April letter request will hopefully include all the parts that

Dr. Wagner wrote without the details suggesting I switch to

glasses or ‘safety spectacles.’

 

Thanks for your concern about my work situation with my

vision and cross training into heavy bulk work once again.

When I tried this for eight weeks of a summer, I managed

to run into metal racks, back into a pallet on the shipping

floor knocking the products over and wearing my nerves

into a frazzle.

 

I need to find a way out of this physically demanding area

without leaving my job. I have a much better salary than

other positions listed in the newspaper and have finally

earned three weeks’ vacation this year. If necessary, as many

have mentioned, my being fired for refusing to go to heavy

bulk may be my ‘release’ to a better solution. There were such

great and positive suggestions from all of you. Thank you.

 

 

If you have had a stressful or awkward situation at work

please feel free to comment and add to the conversation.

 

Advertisements

28 responses »

  1. It is unfortunate your Filipino friends felt distanced by the openness of your conversation about race. Felda or one of the others may have embarrassed themselves by voicing an opinion on what is for some an emotionally charged issue. It is hard to say what is behind their separating themselves to their own private table. Divisiveness seems to be prevalent over many topics these days. Perhaps some tactful words will coax them back into the fold. However, there is no guarantee of success.

    You never know what will spark discord among friends. I have lost what I thought were good friends for less. I hope you work it out. If not, it was not meant to be. – Mike

    • I was just recounting scenes from the movie, Mike. Then, Felda asked why blacks are raised in a culture of hate? This just didn’t make sense to me, as there are many evidences of praising the Lord, attending church, the movie was about peaceful resistance and not blacks using guns. I just probably got more ‘preachy’ since poor Melvin was sitting there, once again being told his race is “bad.” I know they have talked about the Philippines being a little like his own parents and grandparents island life, so they know he isn’t one who fights or is ‘hateful.
      I am wondering if they just were upset about something else, which I wish (looking back) that I has asked instead of ‘telling.’ I could have said, “What makes you think this way?” then by their expressing their feelings which may be from a singular act or news reports, this would help me to understand their opinions.
      I smile, talk to them anyway and hope that it will dissolve their feelings of discord. Thanks for explaining this has happened to you before. This helps along with my boss is being nice, I have not been ‘sent to heavy bulk’ yet, so am crossing my fingers on that one! Smiles and thanks for the last words, too: “It may not be meant to be.”

  2. Well, if there’s one topic above all others that will send people into their fightin’ corners, it seems to be race. What a shame that a discussion of “Selma” would result in a rift between friends. I learned so much from that movie, Robin, didn’t you? I’m pretty up on Civil War-era history, but not so much on more recent civil rights history. I had no idea about the white priest being murdered or all the significance behind choosing Selma for the march. It was a terrific movie. Good luck on the other matters, I know this must be very upsetting.

    • Barb, you got this right! One of the most touchy subjects of all, currently and surely in the past times, too, is racial issues. I was dismayed and yet, became a little more ‘preachy’ then if Melvin hadn’t been sitting there. I believe I was defending him, trying to make him feel better. I don’t still understand why Felda said this while I was just talking about the movie and in a hurtful way if you realize Melvin is black. Not African American but Portuguese American. His parents and grandparents lived on an island off of Portugal. I have written the name of it down but it is such an unusual name, I forget it (every time!) Anyway, I am ‘over’ the upset part. I had something funny happen at work today, where my immediate boss, Katrina, hooted and cackled like a rooster!
      Okay, here is what got Katrina cackling, Barb. I wrapped a piece of gum in a wrapper. I laid it on my cart where my hampers are placed. I took off the arm computer with the Blue Tooth, set it down on the wrapper and went to break. I meant to take it with me, this only shows how forgetful we can become. When I got back, not seeing the gum wrapped up, I put the computer back on my arm. Later on, the shipping clerk, Russ, sent me a message on my computer, “Robin, did you accidentally leave a wad of gum in your hamper for store #6414?” I responded using the tiny little buttons, “Not as far as I know of.” Well, as I pushed the send button, it looked like it only said, “Of.” So, I ran up to my boss’ office, knocked on her door and told her Russ sent me a message about a wad of gum, but it was wrapped and under my computer when I went to break, but must have fallen into a hamper.” She just lost it, I started giggling and soon I felt less worried. She likes me, so I am going to let the whole heavy bulk situation be placed in the back burner of my brain. Why worry, until I am forced to go there? The bumblebee struck again bzzz-z! Smiles!

  3. Robin, for some reason, my unfinished reply “took off.” I’m not sure if actually got send to you. If it did, I would like to finish my thought. Please let me know if you received. Thanks for allowing me to share a thought that our media, and many figures in our government seem to overlook. Please have a good evening.

    • I hate this when it happens in blogging, I have had wonderfully presented and long comments disappear. No, I am sorry but nothing but this kind comment came to me. Don’t worry, I can see between the lines your being caring and empathetic towards the situation. It is hard when I knew Melvin was effected, he was looking down into his cocoa and not understanding such a ‘broad’ and ‘sweeping’ comment made. He finally responded thinking it was better to give something then to ignore the comment. I did not respond the way I should have maybe? I have been ‘turning the other cheek’ and smiling and saying friendly comments to them, ignoring the way they have chosen to sit somewhere else.

      • I sometimes forget to look in the pending approval but once they show up, I may edit long ones, especially ones which have more information than I would wish to share with everyone. But I have always let the person who wrote the comment know in my reply that I was editing or shortening a comment….

  4. Robin … We can’t know one another’s history. It’s a shame that you could not discuss the issue without any one taking personal offense. There was a time when we could “agree to disagree.” I miss those days. Sometimes, people take offense when no offense was intended. It feels like navigating thru land mines. I’m sorry you experienced that disconnect. 😉

    • I appreciate your caring and your feeling bad about my being disconnected. It is a misunderstanding, maybe I would not have been so upset, if the comment wasn’t made in front of Melvin. I could tell by his looking down into his cocoa that it hurt him. Guys don’t cry or carry on, in my experience, anyway. They just ‘tough it out,’ which made me be a little bit of a lecturer, instead of inquiring why this was said?

    • It is strange, because they seemed so open minded up until this comment. I felt worse for Melvin, who was looking down at his cocoa. Not really understanding the whole meaning of why this happened. Thanks, April, for your being sad and keeping me company in this.

  5. this makes me sad too. it’s too bad that honest and open conversations alienate people who care about each other. i hope that you’re able to find a good resolution to all of the challenges with your workplace. you are such a dedicated worker, they need to realize that and do what it takes to keep you.

    • I probably felt most bad for Melvin, who really is a nice man and he didn’t know how to react, Beth. Thanks for the hopes for resolutions. I am just going to be glad I shared and continue on, not going to spend more time worrying (at least for a week or so!) My immediate boss laughed today. I got a comment on my Blue tooth computer, “Robin, did you accidentally leave a wad of gum in your tote #6414?” I tried to tap out with the tiny buttons, “Not that I was aware of.” Then I sent it! Well, I looked at it again, and it only included the word, “of.” Somehow the other words sent to the shipping clerk got lost! When I got in her office, told her with all sincerity that I had wrapped this piece of gum carefully and it was in a paper, but when I had looked at break time to carry it to the bathroom, it was gone! She started hooting and cackling like a rooster. I had never heard her do this, Beth! It made me relax and realize she likes me, she cannot help the rules about heavy bulk and I will just wait and see! Smiles for your calling me, “dedicated!”

  6. I think you were brave and proper to speak your mind in defense of Melvin, Micah, and your personal beliefs, Robin. The fact that the three women are treating you differently now is an extension of their belief system, not yours. Keep being yourself, talk to them, and they’ll have to decide to warm back up or not.

    I hope you get to keep status quo, no heavy bulk. Your bosses need to keep individual needs of good, longtime workers into account and not must make sweeping assignments “so everybody is treated the same.” And there you have my opinion, my friend,

    • Mark, this was such a wonderful comment today. Thank you so very much, my friend. I would not expect any less of you, since you have such a warm and kind heart. I particularly liked that you were hoping my being myself would eventually warm up my friends, as time passes. I hope so, too.

      I like what you said about sweeping and broad assignments, too. Mark, this is so wise! I wish they would realize this, too. Your opinion matters to me and your standing up and defending my work integrity makes me smile (and how you feel it was brave to say what I did in defense of Melvin and my grandson, too.) Thank you, Mark!

  7. It sounds like a misunderstanding, Robin. Sometimes cross-cultural issues can be very divisive. And she does have a point. I have heard people from Brazil and parts of the Carribean say the same thing — we had slavery, we’ve moved on, and we all love each other regardless of skin color. Sounds pretty liberating to me. In this country, we do linger over grievances sometimes, no matter what the color of our skin. We want other countries to be peaceful, too. We want Ireland to get past their past. And the middle east and Israel. Why wouldn’t another country want us to move on, too, from issues that divide and weaken us? On the other hand, we try to respect heritage, culture and differences here, so learning from our history is pretty important to that. We can’t allow others to be different if we pretend they are not and force them to pretend, too. It’s not an easy issue at the best of times.

    I hope your eye doctor letter will help not hurt you. I will tell you what my gran used to tell me: Don’t borrow trouble. They may not ask you to wear glasses, and they have no right to ask you to. Glasses are very expensive and life-changing. They aren’t entitled to tell you to wear glasses and expect compliance. My prayers are with you. Hugs, Brenda

    • It may pass over between my coworkers, Brenda. I will hope for time to heal our friendship. I have spent many happy occasions with the women involved. I continue to cheerfully act like what they said and what I said didn’t really mean that much or make too much of a difference.

      Unfortunately, the recent news of the Oklahoma fraternity boys really emphasizes that prejudice is still rampant in our country, Brenda. You may wish to skip my next post about punishment. It is about a very mean rant, ‘chant,’ or rap that the SAE fraternity filmed and even dared to use the “N” word in it.

      I appreciate your expressing the philosophy of moving forward and upward, I wish we could. It takes both sides of the issue, not just the ones who seem to have a ‘chip on their shoulder’ but the ones who are still divisive in their language and word choices.

      I do like that you listed some countries who seem to be saying this about love and forgiving slavery. I just am not totally sure this is honest or true of my Filipino friends. They stay out of trouble and smile a lot, but in their native tongue, they forget I know not only Spanish but some Creole French and Latin: all have roots with similar words. They ‘rant’ about the bosses and also, talk about people without using names, which listeners would recognize.

      Just saying the idea of love would be so great, Brenda! I would love for the 25th anniversary of “We Are the World” last weekend to demonstrate how far we have come.
      I wish the fraternity boys would not have been throwing racial slurs. Instead would have been nice if they had had an open party for all campus students included.

      You are wonderful with how you are standing up for my right to not wear glasses, Brenda. I wish this would ‘go away.’ I am hoping and will join you in praying this will also pass. . . Hugs, Robin

      • We can’t wear rose colored glasses. It’s not a great world sometimes. You can keep your own heart pure and full of love, and that’s the most we can do some days. Even that is a lot. Not getting bitter is a triumph.

      • I agree, thinking that this post was a little simplistic. We were after all reacting to the news, my friends and I and wishing to ‘mete out punishments.’ This is not going to ever happen the way we wish, but trying to stay positive is all we have. We need to do this for our children’s sakes (my grandies, too.) I am heading off to see, “Cinderella” with the M & M girls, now ages 4 and 6. Makyah (“Kyah”) turned 4 on March first. Smiles! Local theater the Strand and I know one of them will make us have to get up in the middle and go potty. (No, not me, silly!)

      • This is how I sometimes am, so when it happens, I usually tell the girls since I make all kids leave the theater, if there isn’t another adult to stay with them, “Nana has to go, too, so don’t worry about this!”

  8. dear Robin. I see this was written a year ago…I am finally catching up! How did the situation resolve itself? I hope, positively. I completely agree with your point, ““Qui tacet consentire videtur.” And I have experienced the same reaction from others–but if we do not have the conversation, how will things ever change? Unfortunately, I sense that racism is alive and well in this country. The disparaging remarks made towards President Obama and his family, are horrible and hateful. Not to mention the Obstructionist attitude and behavior of the White Mean in Congress! I do not think “blacks are taught to hate whites”—I think, if there is anger and hatred towards Whites—it is because we have invited it. There is “WHITE privilege”–if we are White, we have it—like it or not. I think this contributes to some of the anger feelings—and I think if I were Black, I would feel the same! How do you “get over” being treated like a nothing, because of the color of your skin pigmentation?
    My sister married a Black American and my brother married a Native American/Black American. In my family of eleven, racism existed, unfortunately. Both of my sister and brother have died—both of their partners supported them and remained with them through their very difficult illness up unto their deaths. They are my family now.
    I read almost of the comments you received from this posting, and I think Mark Bialczak have the same thinking.
    Best to you, Robin! And continue to be who you are!

    • I am happy my comments have so much merit in your eyes! I hope I am compassionate and try to spread this through my words, as you have such a lovely way to do so! There are many more here than where I work which helps me take comfort in a rather diverse (sometimes divisive) community, Carolyn.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s