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An open letter to that white guy at the office

Crystal Lewis Brown


Causes & Culture

Crystal Lewis Brown is a parent of two boys, a wife and lifelong writer. She is also SheKnows' director of editorial operations. You can also follow her on twitter at @c_lewisbrown

Dear white guys: Here's why your co-workers are cringing

Dear white guy,

I get it. You grew up in a neighborhood where all the faces looked like your own. There may have been a few brown faces during your elementary and high school years. There were probably a handful more if you went to college. This isn't your fault — I mean, you can't help where you grow up. So you left this haven and went into the "real world."

More: I'm a woman of color and the 'sisterhood of women' doesn't include me

And that's where the trouble came in. You're encountering so many new people! Black guys, Jewish women! So you inevitably say some dumb ish that either elevates white people to god status or marginalizes people of color in such an abysmal way that we can't believe a person actually said it out loud.

Dear white guys: Here's why your co-workers are cringing
Image: Giphy

But don't worry, white guy, we got you. We reached out to women and asked them to share the most out-of-pocket and offensive things that have been said to them — nearly all in a professional setting. So here's a handy-dandy list of just a few things that you should definitely, absolutely never ask, say or do to a person of color, OK? (These happened. For real. I can't make this ish up.)

More: Black people are asking for help, but white people aren't answering us

  1. Ask a Jewish person if she has horns.
  2. Touch a black person's hair. (Yes, even if you ask. Don't ask. Why would you want to touch someone's hair anyway? Weird.)
  3. See a person who looks to be of Asian descent drinking tea and make reference to it being a thing for "her people."
  4. Use the N-word.
  5. Ask if you can use the N-word.
  6. Ask why it's OK for us to use the N-word but not OK for you to use the N-word. (Note: Why do you want to say it so badly?)
  7. Stare when you see a woman wearing a hijab.
  8. Ask, "You're from Japan? They speak Chinese there, right?"
  9. Ask someone wearing a hijab if she has to wear that.
  10. Tell a person of color that she "talks white." (Sorry, it's not a compliment.)
  11. Ask, "Do Chinese people, like, actually have dogs as pets? Or do they just eat them?"
  12. Ask, "If you've lived here so long, why do you still have an accent?"
  13. Tell someone they're "pretty for a black/Mexican/insert ethnicity here" girl.
  14. Ask about my "baby daddy."
  15. Remark with wonderment that a black person is "so articulate."
  16. Tell someone from another country that it "must have been really hard adjusting to a First World education system."
  17. Say, "I bet you're good in bed." (Honestly, don't say this to anyone — it's gross.)
  18. Ask, "Why are black women so angry?"
  19. Suggest that a woman of color not wear something because it "looks more sensual on her" than it does on her non-white co-workers.
  20. Tell someone, "You're whiter than I am!"
  21. Refer to something "African" as being "jungle-y."
  22. Refer to Africa as though it is a homogenous group of people as opposed to being a continent.
  23. Note, "I love Filipino women because they're so beautiful and submissive, so unlike white women."
  24. Ask, "But what are you really?"
  25. Say, "Wow, you don't sound black on the phone at all!"
  26. Tell someone, "Mexicans don't need restrooms, because they will just shit on the floor. But I was a good boss and provided them anyway."
  27. Counter Black Lives Matter with All Lives Matter.

More: Cultural appropriation isn't OK... not even when celebrities do it

Print it out, and put it on your desk. Make it your screensaver. Pin it. And not sure what other things you shouldn't say to other people? This hashtag should help. You're welcome.

Find out more on How to Be an Ally at the #BlogHer16 conferencethe premier event for women online, taking place from Aug. 4 – 6, 2016, in Los Angeles, California. Don’t wait! See the agenda and all the speakers, and get your ticket now.

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