October 06, 2008

Dealing With Race in the Workplace

Carmen Van Kerckhove an award-winning expert on race and pop culture offers five new rules for dealing with race at work.
  • Rule 1: Don't be colorblind. (Race still matters because racism is alive and well.)
  • Rule 2: Understand that diversity training is about protecting the company, not about educating you.
  • Rule 3: When someone tells a racist joke, play dumb. (Racist jokes rely on an unspoken, shared knowledge of racist stereotypes. Without the stereotypes, there is no humor.)
  • Rule 4: Think twice before reporting racial discrimination to HR. (Your first step should almost always be to discuss your concerns directly with the person whom you believe is discriminating.)
  • Rule 5: Learn about racial stereotypes to advance your career. (Professionals need a clear understanding of their own strengths and weaknesses if they want to take their careers to the next level.)
Van Kerckhove's rules are excellent advice for Ombuds and their visitors. (Brazen Careerist.)


  1. Van Kerckhove's rules are excellent advice for Ombuds and their visitors. REALLY? Is van K an organizational ombuds? I just received training in OMBUDS 101, just to see this on the Blog is unsettling. I can't believe #3 is offered on an ombuds blog.

    I was adopted by a white family that consistently told racist jokes. I am a black male. How possible is it to just "play dumb?" Who is this kind of advice being offered to, is probably the better question. White ombuds people?

    Are ombuds people this myopic, or is rule #3 offered as a way to preserve neutrality? It's unbelievable!

  2. Points well taken, Anonymous. While I can't speak for Van kerckhove, who is a woman of color, my own editorializing may have reflected my own privileged status. Moreover, my short summary of her advice in this regard may have missed the mark. Reading the underlying article, it seems that her strategy is to put focus back on the racist speaker rather than becoming an implicit supporter by laughing along. I'm interested in your suggestions.