This post comes on the heels of YNPN Twin Cities’ August Diversity, Inclusion, and You: an Open Space Conversation event. The following post, a real account from a young nonprofit professional, is published with express permission. Identifying details have been omitted.
This post is similar to a Choose Your Own Adventure story. It’s very similar, except you won’t be protecting the jewels of Nabooti, hunting a Yeti in the mountains of Nepal or deep diving in search of Atlantis. Nope. Your mission is of a more mundane but no less daunting variety.
It’s your first month on the job as middle management at a social services agency. You’ve been invited to an internal training meeting to present. But before you start your presentation, the meeting conveners would like to lighten the mood a bit. They cue up a clip from “30 Rock.” Great, who doesn’t like “30 Rock?”
You take this as an opportunity to run through your presentation in your mind, placing mental checkmarks at each point you want to be sure to include.
The clip starts playing.
Jack (Alec Baldwin) counsels an unwittingly psychologically damaged Tracy (Tracy Morgan). The “therapy session” ensues as Jack channels Tracy’s absent father and other examples of pathology of the stereotypical black family.
Back to you, our dear presenter. You look around the room. Your colleagues erupt in laughter (that slow motion kind where each person throws their head back, building to a cackling crescendo, a resounding echo bounces off the conference room walls).
You’re not feeling too good at the moment. But there’s no time to dwell on it. You hear your name. It’s your time to present.
You rise from your chair and present. Although it’s an expectation you stay for the duration of the meeting, after you finish your presentation, you gather your materials and head back to your office.
You’re confused about what to do. If you say something, you may single yourself out and alienate yourself from the colleagues you will need to work closely with in the future. If you don’t say anything, you are in tacit agreement with your colleagues’ display. Even worse, it may appear that you actually endorse it.
A. Do nothing The show is satirical and you decide to laugh it off. Although the decision to show the clip during a training session smacks of unprofessionalism, you write it off as poor judgment on the part of your colleagues. You’re the new kid on the block and making waves about something like this may damage your work relationships before they even have a chance to develop.
B. Say something Although you’re new, you see it as your responsibility to point out when you see something offensive. As middle management, it’s your job to also look out for more junior staff. Although you’re personally offended, you think this exemplifies a larger problem. An office culture that finds this clip hilarious may harbor prejudices about a group that your organization serves.
C. Do something else?
What do you do? Tell us in the comments below.