STORYTIME: Working While Black
Now that we’re on the same page about the differences between inclusion and exclusion, I’m going to share a personal story to put things into perspective. I worked at the Westgate Las Vegas, a hotel and casino in Vegas. I was the only black executive on the property. I had a boss that everyone knew was a racist, micromanager, unqualified, unprofessional, insecure, and combative, and these are some of her better qualities. I was targeted, labeled, harassed, mistreated, and made to feel very unwelcome on my own team.
When I brought my concerns to the attention of the executives, I was dismissed. Although the Vice President of Hotel Operations (a white woman) had personally come to my office on many occasions to tell me she could not believe my boss’s behavior, she was silent when I spoke about how I was treated by another leader company. I followed the proper protocol and reported my concerns to the Vice President of Human Resources. Brought the issue to my other boss at the time, the Vice President of Food & Beverage, the property General Manager, the Corporate Vice President of Marketing, and the Corporate Vice President of Food & Beverage. All white men. All dismissed it. While they all acknowledged they witnessed the same thing, none of them did a thing. Not one person stood up for me, not one.
My coworkers also witnessed this mistreatment, and While they were quick to tell me how unfair it was and how uncomfortable it made them, they also didn’t stand up for me. This was the company letting me know directly and clearly that I was not a part of the company while I worked for the company. I would not be protected, and my treatment was not significant. There was an exclusive group, and I was not a part of what they said with their actions. I was supposed to be quiet and be grateful. Well, that’s not OK with me, and it shouldn’t be OK with anyone.
Once it started to affect my health, I decided I’d had enough and resigned. Shortly after leaving, I filed a complaint with DETR. The same Vice President of Hotel Operations quickly changed her tune and labeled “difficult to work with.” Even though she’d called me seconds after I emailed my letter of resignation and asked me not to quit, despite having no corrective action of any kind on record, despite having filed numerous complaints about how I was treated, she and the leadership team refused to acknowledge their error. Instead, she and the Vice President of Human Resources blamed me and gave no thought to how I’d be affected. To my everlasting disappointment, she leads that property. Yup. She has more authority. That is exclusion plain and simple. Inclusion is not even in the neighborhood of that despicable behavior. The leadership team went out of their way to harm me for calling them out and making it very clear that I was never a part of the company. I was just a difficult black woman that worked there.
It was painful to accept, but I did get what they were telling me. And that was that although I was a well-respected professional, I was also black, which meant I worked for the company, I was never a part of it. Sadly that happens to more minorities than we realize, particularly black women. When I shared my story with other corporate professionals in other industries, they had very similar stories.
The moral of the story is all men and women are not created equal, and it’s time for us to stop pretending like they are. Some are intentionally excluded, and that should not be permitted in any organization. In order for that to happen, we have to acknowledge there’s a problem and do our part to correct it. And let’s be real, that starts at the top, Cami and Karl.