Thursday, July 30, 2015

What Did They Say?

On my way to work this morning I was listening to one of the local talk radio programs. As has been the case for the last several months, the subject changed to a discussion about Bill Cosby. Inevitably, although in this instance it was a rather unique take, there was a joke made about Pudding Pops. It is one of those things that is both funny and stomach churning at the same time. However, it got me thinking about a few simple phrases that we might say during the day that can be taken in a completely different way depending on the person with whom you are having a conversation.

Talking to someone about how you remember Pudding Pops is one thing, mention Bill Cosby’s name and you just feel dirty. This doesn’t just apply to the recent headlines, in such a politically correct world, an innocent statement can be taken completely out of context. At time, innocuous moments need to be handled with kid gloves simply because someone might be offended even though what is said has nothing to do with race, gender, orientation, etc. The following are three examples of the things that I have heard said at the office.

This time of year it is pretty common for my colleagues to go on vacation. For most this usually means a trip to the beach where they spend at least some of the time laying on the sand and getting a tan. When they return to the office someone inevitably makes the statement “you’re really dark.” This comment makes perfect sense given the context and the person to whom they are speaking. However, for those without a means to censor themselves, this could easily be seen as a comment regarding race.

We have also had a lot of people come to the office lately for interviews. It is a process for sure. We have had a huge variety of people walk through the doors with different experiences and backgrounds. In one instance I recall one of these interviewees make a comment regarding one of my colleagues… they are really short. At this point, the person making the comment had only seen her back. This prompted their immediate ‘oh crap’ face followed by the question, “she’s not Asian, right?” Yep, a comment with little meaning behind it beyond an observation turned into a potential instance of racial profiling in about half a second.   

The last example caught all of us off guard. There is someone we work with called Richard. He is a man that enjoys traveling. There is also a second person we work with by the same name. After a quick call with the one that enjoys traveling about his recent excursions, someone made the comment “That Dick has been all over the place.” It took a second but we all ended up laughing about the double entendre. At the same time, we recalled one of our previous coworkers that would have definitely been offended… good thing she wasn’t there. Generally speaking, I guess it is also a good thing that Bill Cosby’s first name isn’t Richard!