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Opinion Editorials

Pointed out I was the only person of color at work, was told ‘Yes, but you pass’

(EDITORIAL) Inclusion of minority groups means changing language to broader and more friendly terms. Here are things to not say and how to accomplish real inclusion.

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wtf inclusion fail

While working at what I thought was a progressive organization, I had a colleague who was nice, diplomatic, and prided herself on her deep understanding of diversity and inclusion.

She’d had the trainings and been involved in leadership organizations geared toward inclusion. She was super knowledgeable.

Then, one day during a conversation with her about diversity and inclusion, I pointed out I was the only person of color in our department.

Her response to me: “Yes, but you pass.”

I was at a loss for words and didn’t know how – in the moment – to respond or confront her.

She, a white woman, who regularly said she understood her “white privilege,” was telling me that I passed.

Whether or not “I pass,” was not the issue. What was at issue – it wasn’t her place to pass that kind of judgment.

“You don’t know me Karen!”

She hadn’t lived my life and didn’t know what situations I’d encountered over the years.

At that moment, I realized I was dealing with a person who had the attitude of “but you don’t look like, act like, talk like.”

Da F*ck?

What did she mean? I pass?

How should I look? Act? Talk?

Do I need to act differently so others feel comfortable and can put me in a box?

At that moment, I should’ve suggested she take off her “backpack” and start to review its contents, because her privilege, judgment, and biases were showing. As was her insensitivity.

What we have here is a perfect example of someone who has the opportunity to take the classes, be in a leadership position and attend training, yet has no experience dealing with the thing she claims to understand – and often insinuated she knew better than me, a person who has actually lived the experience.

“But, I have black friends.”

Yeah, good for you Karen.

Over the years, I’ve heard:

  • “You don’t act like a Mexican.”
  • “Why does a Mexican girl have a southern girl’s name.”
  • “But, you’re not really Mexican.”
  • “You never talk about your culture or the food.”
  • “You probably got into college because you are a minority.”

Let’s be honest, people like to put things in specific boxes. Our mind wants to make sense of what it observes. Our backgrounds do affect those judgments, biases and labels.

While working as a teacher, I had another experience with a superior, who was surprised to learn I had a master’s degree and had been published – a lot.

Why? Well, possibly because my vernacular is slightly different than hers. I come from a working-class background and was the first to attend college. I wasn’t exposed to people who spoke and acted in a more erudite way – the way, it’s generally expected you speak and act in a corporate environment (btw – mostly dictated by the white experience).

I know some people will say, “Well, I’ve had people assume x,y,z about me and I’m white.”

I don’t doubt it. But, on the whole, a white person is a lot less likely than a person of color to hear things like: “You don’t look like a doctor, lawyer, Latin(x), dentist, PhD.” Or, “Is that your hair?” “Can I touch your hair?”

What it comes down to is this: having empathy and thinking before speaking.

I’ve said and done a lot of dumb things in my life. We all do. Nobody is perfect. While it’s important to consider what you say and how you act with anyone, it’s crucial with a person of color who you don’t know well. The fact that you may work with them doesn’t mean you know them.

Of course, there are some people who are just too self-centered to care about anyone else’s feelings. But, most of us aren’t total jackasses. We do care. We just don’t always think. I’m as guilty of blurting out dumbass stuff as the next person.

Understanding others comes from a real interest in learning where the person is coming from. And, just because you have a black friend or eat Mexican food, doesn’t mean you understand a colleague’s personal experience or culture.

Educating yourself about diversity and inclusion is commendable. Just remember – unless you are an actual member of a minority group, you can never be more knowledgeable than the person living the experience. It just is not possible.

Mary Ann Lopez earned her MA in print journalism from the University of Colorado and has worked in print and digital media. After taking a break to give back as a Teach for America corps member and teaching science for a few years, she is back with her first love: writing. When she's not writing stories, reading five books at once, or watching The Great British Bakeoff, she is walking her dog Sadie and hanging with her cats, Bella, Bubba, and Kiki. She is one cat short of full cat lady status and plans to keep it that way.

Opinion Editorials

Facebook fights falsehoods (it’s a false flag)

(EDITORIAL) Facebook has chosen Reuters to monitor its site for false information, but what can one company really do, and why would Facebook only pick one?

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Reuters checks facebook

So Facebook has finally taken a step to making sure fake news doesn’t get spread on it’s platform. Like many a decision from them though, they haven’t been thorough with their venture.

I am a scientifically driven person, I want facts, figures, and evidence to determine what is reality. Technology is a double edged sword in this arena; sure having a camera on every device any person can hold makes it easy to film events, but deepfakes have made even video more questionable.

Many social media platforms have tried to ban deepfakes but others have actually encouraged it. “I’ll believe it when I see it” was the rally cry for the skeptical, but now it doesn’t mean anything. Altering video in realistic ways has destroyed the credibility of the medium, we have to question even what we see with our eyes.

The expansion of the internet has created a tighter communication net for all of humanity to share, but when specific groups want to sway everyone else there isn’t a lot stopping them if they shout louder than the rest.

With the use of bots, and knowing the specifics of a group you want to sway, it’s easy to spread a lie as truth. Considering how much information is known about almost any user on any social media platform, it’s easy to pick targets that don’t question what they see online.

Facebook has been the worst offender in knowing consumer data and what they do with that data. Even if you never post anything political, they know what your affiliation is. If you want to delete that information, it’s hidden in advertising customization.

Part of me is thrilled that Facebook has decided to try and stand against this spread of misinformation, but how they pursued this goal is anything but complete and foolproof.

Reuters is the news organization that Facebook has chosen to fact check the massive amount of posts, photos, and videos that show up on their platform everyday. It makes sense to grab a news organization to verify facts compared to “alternative facts”.

A big problem I have with this is that Reuters is a company, companies exist to make money. Lies sell better than truths. Ask 2007 banks how well lies sell, ask Enron how that business plan worked out, ask the actors from Game of Thrones about that last season.

Since Reuters is a company, some other bigger company could come along, buy them, and change everything, or put in people who let things slide. Even Captain America recognizes this process. “It’s run by people with agendas, and agendas change.” This could either begin pushing falsehoods into Facebook, or destroy Reuters credibility, and bite Facebook in the ass.

If some large group wants to spread misinformation, but can’t do it themselves, why wouldn’t they go after the number one place that people share information?

I really question if Reuters can handle the amount of information flowing through Facebook, remember almost a 3rd of the whole world uses Facebook. 2.45 Billion people will be checked by 25,800 employees at Reuters? I can appreciate their effort, but they will fail.

Why did Facebook only tag one company to handle this monumental task? If you know that many people are using your platform, and such a limited number of people work for the company you tasked with guarding the users, why wouldn’t you tag a dozen companies to tackle that nigh insurmountable number of users?

I think it’s because Facebook just needs that first headline “Facebook fights falsehoods”. That one line gets spread around but the rest of the story is ignored, or not thought about at all. If there is anything Facebook has learned about the spread of fake information on their platform, it’s how to spread it better.

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Opinion Editorials

Will shopping for that luxury item actually lower your quality of life?

(EDITORIAL) Want to buy yourself a pick-me-up? Have you thought of all the ramifications of that purchase? Try to avoid splurging on it.

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shopping bags

In an era of “treat-yo-self,” the urge to splurge is real. It doesn’t help that shopping – or what ends up being closer to impulse shopping – provides us with a hit of dopamine and a fleeting sense of control. Whether your life feels like it’s going downhill or you’ve just had a bad day, buying something you want (or think you want) can seem like an easy fix.

Unfortunately, it might not be so great when it comes to long-term happiness.

As you might have already guessed, purchasing new goods doesn’t fall in line with the minimalism trend that’s been sweeping the globe. Being saddled with a bunch of stuff you don’t need (and don’t even like!) is sure to make your mood dip, especially if the clutter makes it harder to concentrate. Plus, if you’ve got a real spending problem, the ache in your wallet is sure to manifest.

If that seems depressing, I’ve got even more bad news. Researchers at Harvard and Boston College have found yet another way spending can make us more unhappy in the long run: imposter syndrome. It’s that feeling you get when it seems like you’re not as good as your peers and they just haven’t caught on yet. This insecurity often arises in competitive careers, academics and, apparently, shopping.

Now, there’s one big caveat to this idea that purchasing goods will make you feel inferior: it really only applies to luxury goods. I’m talking about things like a Louis Vuitton purse, a top of the line Mercedes Benz, a cast iron skillet from Williams Sonoma (or is that one just me?). The point is, the study found that about 67% of people – regardless of their income – believed their purchase was inauthentic to their “true self.”

And this imposter syndrome even existed when the luxury items were bought on sale.

Does this mean you should avoid making a nice purchase you’ve been saving up for? Not necessarily. One researcher at Cambridge found that people were more likely to report happiness for purchases that fit their personalities. Basically, a die-hard golfer is going to enjoy a new club more than someone who bought the same golf club to try to keep up with their co-workers.

Moral of the story: maybe don’t impulse buy a fancy new Apple watch. Waiting to see if it’s something you really want can save your budget…and your overall happiness.

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Opinion Editorials

How to ask your manager for better work equipment

(EDITORIAL) Old computer got you down? Does it make your job harder? Here’s how to make a case to your manager for new equipment without budget worries.

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better equipment, better work

Aside from bringing the boss coffee and donuts for a month before asking, what is an employee to do when the work equipment bites.

Let’s be frank, working on old, crappy computers with inefficient applications can make the easiest tasks a chore. Yet, what do you do? You know you need better equipment to do your job efficiently, but how to ask the boss without looking like a whiner who wants to blow the department budget.

In her “Ask A Manager” column, Alison Green says an employee should ask for better equipment if it is needed. For example, the employee in her column has to attend meetings, but has no laptop and has to take a ton of notes and then transcribe them. Green says, it’s important to make the case for the benefits of having newer or updated equipment.

The key is showing a ROI. If you know a specific computer would be a decent upgrade, give your supervisor the specific model and cost, along with the expected outcomes. In addition, it may be worth talking to someone from the IT department to see what options might be available – if you’re in a larger company.

IT professionals who commented on Green’s column made a few suggestions. Often because organizations have contracts with specific computer companies or suppliers, talking with IT about what is needed to get the job done and what options are available might make it easier to ask a manager, by saying, “I need a new computer and IT says there are a few options. Here are my three preferences.” A boss is more likely to be receptive and discuss options.

If the budget doesn’t allow for brand new equipment, there might be the option to upgrade the RAM, for example. In a “Workplace” discussion on StackExchange.com an employee explained the boss thinks if you keep a computer clean – no added applications – and maintained it will perform for years. Respondents said, it’s important to make clear the cost-benefit of purchasing updated equipment. Completing a ROI analysis to show how much more efficiently with the work be done may also be useful. Also, explaining to a boss how much might be saved in repair costs could also help an employee get the point across.

Managers may want to take note because, according to results of a Gallup survey, when employees are asked to meet a goal but not given the necessary equipment, credibility is lost.

Gallup says that workgroups that have the most effectively managed materials and equipment tend to have better customer engagement, higher productivity, better safety records and employees that are less likely to jump ship than their peers.

And, no surprise, if a boss presents equipment and says: “Here’s what you get. Deal with it,” employees are less likely to be engaged and pleased than those employees who have a supervisor who provides some improvements and goes to bat to get better equipment when needed.

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