I knew it, I knew it. I was jumping around like I a maligned reality tv star during a reunion or one of those “not my child paternity negative test dance” in a Maurry Povich situations. Two words, Scott Adams. I listened to both podcasts, yes, there were two of them. In the first he said: “I’ve designated that to be a hate group black Americans a hate group.” and in the second, he adressed/justfied/defneded the first and said: the best advice I would give to white people is to get the hell away from black people…. you just have to escape so that’s what I did I went to a neighborhood where you know I have a very low black population.” Here is the rest of the story. I moved 5 years ago from Scott Adams designated “very low black population’ neighborhood because I was exhausted. I lived in a place that felt like it didn’t want me, didn’t see me, wanted me gone. Sure, I’d seen him around, in line at the movie theater, I’d eaten a few times at his restaurant, you knew who he was and I always had a sense of unease.
Last week was hard. In addition to a reminder of why I moved was also a reminder of why I did a subtle career shift from engineering. My degree is mechanical engineering in general, heat transfer and thermodynamics specifically. When I got push back from a tech, a non degreed person, I shut down. If there is one thing I’ve learned, nothing makes a worse situation for me than to disagree with a white male, (and in this case without a degree.) No matter how right I am, it doesn’t end well. The tipping point was a cash gate design. I was so happy when I figured out an engineering challenge. I looked at a roll of toilet paper and realized the bracket mounted from the bottom rather than the top and work within the space constraint. I met with the machinist on how to make the piece based on my and spec when a tech asked me what I was doing. When I responded, he looked at me liked I’d spit in his face. He told me he’d was assigned that job a month ago and had reported back, given the space constraints, it was impossible.
Here was an indignant tech, who was more offended than congratulatory and my boss had given me something, he knew could not be done. Please, spare me, the “second opinion.” It was 1985, he’d known for a couple of weeks before I was assigned and made no mention of anything else. My design worked and worked well. I did not. When an opportunity came for a shift, I took it. After I left, I still talk to one of my friends, a white male engineer still there. The tech and a couple of engineers continued to be unhappy with what I had accomplished and proposed a new structure with plastic. I reminded my former co-worker, because of torsion created with a moving part and the allowable tolerances, plastic wouldn’t work and told him the calculations to use or just make it and test, either way, won’t work. He told my former boss who replied, you know, she was one of the best female engineers we had, and he corrected him and said she was one the of best engineers period. I knew this stuff, I loved this stuff. Alas, I was misogynist roadkill.
Is this a pattern, is this what I do? Runaway? For two days, I surrendered to March Madness Malady. I was ready to move past all of it and I read a friend’s blog post When Courage is Crucial and a colleagues post on linkedin. In which he “…humbly propose that this latest racist rant from Scott Addams should mean the end of use of Dilbert. in business presentations.” It was his response to a comment that moved me to tears. Someone commented, it was .“…maybe you missed some nuance.” He replied back so succinctly and eloquently, “No, I didn’t miss the nuance. Anybody who says Black people are a hate group is by definition a segregationist. What he says AFTER doesn’t mean much compared to what he said unfiltered.“
Maybe I don’t runaway; I weigh the impact. Sometimes, I speak out quickly and other times, I sit and wait. There are times when I can make a difference and others where it is the voice of others I can support. Fittingly, the end of black history month, I consider my history. Those virtual interactions, made me think, maybe there is a virtual interactions that needs to happen from my end too. This week, consider your history and not only how you react, but when you react.
Note: Youtube has two great features, one is the transcript feature in which you read what Mr Adams had to say and the other is the playback feature in which you can speed up or slow down the video.
Thanks so much for sharing, Sheila! I found Adams’ comments disturbing, and I thought it really important to call out specifically what was so racist about his comments: anti-Black segregationist thinking, no different than what occurred in defense of Jim Crow and descended from the kind of rationalizations common during American chattel slavery.
I’m so sorry to read of your experiences, but entirely unsurprised you’ve experienced things like this.
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Thanks so much! I thought it was important to say what specifically was so racist about Adams’ position. It’s an explicitly segregationist take, not unlike thinking in defense of Jim Crow or even the how many people who supported slavery rationalized that institution.
I’m sorry to read of your experiences, but I’m not surprised you had experiences like that. You’ve always been an inspirational figure for me, and I’m glad to know you.
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