I Spoke up About the Lack of Diversity, but It Backfired

Your Corporate Black Girl

Dear Nikki, 

I've just started a new job at an educational establishment which was recently involved in a high-profile hate crime incident. As such, all new staff members must go to a compulsory 'hate crime training' afternoon.

I had already heard a few opinions on it but was completely unprepared for how horrific it was. It was just microaggression after microaggression. The topic of race was never actually covered; we spent a large portion of the training learning about "hate crimes against sub-cultures" such as goths (I'm not making this up!); there was a section about genocide in which the white woman talked at length about Rwanda, and went on to say it was "just human nature" and "to be expected from a less advanced culture"; I could continue this list for paragraphs. The conclusion of the talk seemed to be that hate crimes "were just words"... and that everybody experienced them.

At the end of the session we were given feedback forms - but I barely filled mine out and left it anonymous, because I couldn't take what had just happened seriously. However the next day, I received an email from the woman who did the training. She had gone through the forms, matched my handwriting to the attendee register, found my work email address and asked me to "meet up with her to explain my feedback." Nobody else on the session was approached. I was completely stunned and spoke to my line manager, who said I wasn't obliged to answer but that it might be a good thing to do to help improve sessions going forward.

Everything told me to ignore her entirely, but given the encouragement from my line manager, I briefly replied saying that despite the form being anonymous (!), I would try to answer one or two questions via email if I felt I could do so. The response? A scan of my entire form, with every little thing on it, annotated and broken down into paragraphs and paragraphs of defensive challenges, questions, and accusations. The longest thing I wrote on the page - that the sessions might need a more diverse group of people working on it - had the woman passive-aggressively accuse me of prejudice myself, in that "identifiers like disability and sexuality can't be seen." (FYI - there are literally three white women on her team!)

My gut instinct is to report all of this to whoever is above her, but given that my line manager already seemed to view the behaviour as appropriate I am at a complete loss of what to do. I am torn between reporting and completely refusing to engage any further, seeing as the woman running the sessions is from an external organisation (she has been hired for a year).

If you were in this situation - and barely a month into your role - what would you do here?


London, United Kingdom


Okay, WOW! It's so disappointing to hear that people in influential positions don't use that for good! I also think it should be stated to someone over this program for your firm, to keep them in the loop how effective or not this is for them, should they continue to use this person and/or their services going forward. Since this person is contracted from an outside organization, I would approach this differently than if she came from within your company.

If your spirit is telling you to tell this woman about how she can better the message - and I do feel like it is, then you should. Speak your truth. this is your opportunity to tell her how her message is being received among people that are targeted by hate crimes. I also think it would be better to go to someone that she reports to, or her group as a whole to make sure that your not getting into a "back and forth" debate with her because it seems like she's taking your feedback personally.  
Proceed with ease! Providing this info shouldn't impact your role at all.  I think the most important thing to remember is not to respond with emotion. An objective response that sticks to the facts is best here.
As I also stated above, I think it's important your company is aware of the feedback given to the program as well. If they haven't sent out communications regarding feedback, like a survey, then I would encourage you to reach out to either Human Resources or your direct supervisor to see who should receive that information. 
Keep your head up! If you feel this way about the presentation, it's likely that others feel that way too.  

You've got this!

Nikki Davis

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Your curly girl manager, just trying to live her happiest life! 

Wife, new mom, member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. with 11 years industry experience, 6 years of management experience. Manager a team of men in a male dominant industry, while being the only woman on the team. DIY fashion blogger, a self taught seamstress. Owner/Creator of a monthly subscription service, SewConscious.com

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