DOASKDOTELL BOOK REVIEW (Watts-Five) of 101 Ways to Know You’re black in Corporate America, McNaught Gay Issue in the Workplace, Ruby K. Payne: A Framework for Understanding Poverty, Susan Lipkins: Preventing Hazing.

Author (or Editor):  Watts, Deborah

Title: 101 Ways to Know You're "black" in Corporate America

Fiction? Anthology?  

Publisher:  Watts-Five   (Minneapolis)

Date: 1998

ISBN:  0-9666276-0-1  

Series Name:

Physical description: softcover, 140 pages

Relevance to doaskdotell:  racial discrimination

Review:

 Deborah Watts is founder and president of a marketing consulting company, Watts-Five Productions  which she used to (essentially) self-publish this interesting book. Her business is located in the Minenapolis-St. Paul ("Twin Cities") area. This might present an interesting observation.  Many people tell me that the "liberal" upper-Midwest Twin Cities, located half way to the North Pole at the 45th Parallel, is the "whitest" major metropolitan area in the United States. One could quarrel with this: we have other robust minorities, like the Hmong and the Sioux, for which her book and world-view could reasonably apply.  

 The book has a slick, horizontal black-and-white cover (the "Schindler's List" artistic effect), and consists mainly of a large number (starting with "101") of scenario-based aphorisms, one per page, in large, very readable type. There is a bonus of 33 extra "new" scenarios.  In her appendix, she provides a positive interpretation of the word, "Black" which has (like "Negro") become somewhat a negative, almost derogatory expression (at least when compared to "African-American"). There is space for the reader to make his or her own notes, also done in one of Power's books listed elsewhere on this site; to me this seems to pander a bit to the reader.

 Many of the situations depict instances where people believe that they are behaving "appropriately" (even given the “new rules” about workplace conduct) but are actually in a subtle way insulting the African-American staff member.  Here is one example, from p. 10: "When I see you, I don't see color. I don't think of you as black."  Other examples show much deeper and more venomous discrimination.  Today, responsible employers (under considerable legal pressure) maintain workplace conduct codes that prohibit offensive remarks, but it is difficult to draw the line where commends have cultural innuendo "between the lines."  Jonathan Rauch has provided a perspective on how the "hostile workplace" concept can be carried too far in a New Republic article, "Offices and Gentlemen: Don't Joke, Don't Preach, Don't Argue, Don't Comment, Don't Opine (and For God's Sake Don't Touch)" in the June 23, 1997 issue.   

 I used to think that most of this ill-will had been gone from corporate America for years, but many anecdotes provided to me by African-Americans prove that this is no longer true.  And I can recall, some twelve years ago, that managers would complain to me that they had to be extremely careful when disciplining non-whites.  People may, with some psychological labor, learn acceptable visible "behavior," but it still seems that people harbor negative attitudes and often need to perceive people of other races as "inferior."  Why?  Is this a curious blend of collectivism and narcissism?  Even a recent ABC "20-20 Downtown" (February 17, 2000) showed how black public figures are often mistreated by police, cab drivers, and others; and another "20-20" segment depicted the amazing resistance of racist hate groups.

On October 26, 2000 the Minneapolis Star Tribune ran a review from the Boston Globe by Vanessa E. Jones of the book by Lena Williams:  It’s the Little Things: The Everyday Interactions That Get Under the Skin of Blacks and Whites (Harcourt, 268 pgs). 

 Most readers of this web site know that I am no fan of over-using the facile analogy between racial discrimination and anti-gay discrimination, but I will make some comparison, based partly upon a reading of Brian McNaught's Gay Issues in the Workplace (St. Martin's Press, 1993), which appeared during the previous (1993) March on Washington. (McNaught had authored On Being Gay.)  McNaught's most important contribution here is his discussion of "heterosexism," which does seem to echo or redirect racism.  For example, gay employees feel constrained to call their lovers "partners" rather than "spouses."  More important, some employers assume (incorrectly) that gay people do not have families and expect them to work the inconvenient hours so that their team-mates can be with "their families."  (The Wall Street Journal discussed this problem with an egregious examples from a law firm in 1997). I've seen some insensitivity myself: for example, an office email which said that the way to face hardship was to "spend more time with your children and to confide in your children."  What about people who don't have children?

 Most of these commentaries about "the fair and prosperous workplace" (as I called it in the DADT book) assume that success is measured in terms of conventional ascent up the corporate ladder, and that the main barrier is "the glass ceiling."  Indeed, in the age of the Internet and of entrepreneurialism, conventional ideas of "achievement" (and therefore, negatively speaking, "discrimination") in the corporate workplace may well become less relevant.

Ruby K. Payne: A Framework for Understanding Poverty. aha! Process, Inc. Highland, TX, various editions from 1996 to 2005; Website: http://www.ahaprocess.com (Do not confuse with ahapress, which is associated with Health Forum, an American Hospital Association company) ISBN 1-929229-48-8
198 pages, paper, With appendix: “Additive Model: aha! Process’s Approach to Building High-Achieving Schools, by Philip E. DeVol.  This book develops a paradigm for the way people with generational poverty "think" -- in terms of family relationships and day-to-day survival, without the abstractions and notions of self-concept and actualization familiar to the middle class. She then builds up her strategy for teaching, with less emphasis on special education. DeVol adds on with his additive model. There is a longer discussion on blogger, here.

Susan Lipkins, Ph. D. Preventing Hazing: How Parents, Teachers and Coaches Can Stop the Violence, Harassment and Humiliation. Josey-Bass, 2006. ISBN 0-7879-8178-8. 179 pages, paper, indexed with references. This book reads like a handbook that analyzes the problem of mainly college hazing, with emphasis on fraternities. It contains an introduction that indicates that societies have often accepted hazing as a "rite of passage" but that has become much less acceptable as times change. She tells parents how to watch for signs that their kids have been hazed, or how to spot that kids could become perpetrators, wanting to "pay it backward" for abuse (sometimes sexual) that was done to them. She also discusses the responsibilities of bystanders.  High school administrators (and especially coaches) need to be very determined to prevent bullying (a slightly different concept) and hazing in their schools, with zero-tolerance policies, whereas social pressures sometimes cause them to look the other way.

 

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