Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Woman's Hateful Speech Offends Co-Worker

DEAR HARRIETTE: I work with a woman who is clearly racist. Almost every day she comes to work, and during small talk when people typically are talking about their families or what they are going to do for the weekend, she talks about how black people are moving into her neighborhood and she wants them out. Or she brings up the immigration issue at the border and adds her perspective that immigrants should all be arrested because they are criminals.

I feel like political rhetoric has reached an all-time high when it lives in my office. We are normal working people. I hate that people think it’s OK to judge others based on their race or country of origin and that they feel that they can blatantly complain about their gripes in an open setting. I feel like people think they can just say anything these days, and it won’t matter. I was taught that people should treat one another with respect. These days, it feels like that has gone out the window. Can I say anything to get this woman to tone it down? -- Stop the Vitriol, Atlanta

DEAR STOP THE VITRIOL: Tensions are running particularly high these days, and many people have set up camp on either side of the political spectrum. And yet, the workplace is supposed to be equal opportunity and without prejudice.

First, you can say something to the woman the next time she begins her tirade. Tell her that her commentary makes you uncomfortable, and ask her to stop. Next, report her to human resources. If you can, tape a conversation so that you have proof of what she is saying. You have the right to work in an environment free of racial prejudice, but in order to exercise that right, you may have to speak up. That’s OK to do. Indeed, throughout history, it has been a requirement for change.

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