You ever hear something so… I can’t even find the words, so….disturbing? So… I can’t believe they said that in a work environment? How do we address race in an office setting? What do we do when we now know how people feel about our race or ethnicity?
This is not a fond memory. Nor is it something I wanted to revisit, but I believe the more open I am with life experiences, the more dialogue we can have, and more awareness we can bring on any given issue.
What brought me to even share this article was actually and episode on Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist. I was watching the show with my wife, Jasmine, when S2 E6 Extraordinary Reckoning came on.
This episode follows multiple racial conversations in the office of a tech company, when the character Simon, a black man and employee of the tech company, shares at a press conference that their new facial recognition software doesn’t recognize people of color.
You can watch the episode to see how things play out.
Watching that episode just brought back so many familiar emotions. Familiar…. You ever wish some emotion or feeling wasn’t familiar?
Years ago, Jas and I worked for a company together. You’d be surprised to learn how many times we’ve been co workers. It only made sense that we would run our own business together.
During our time with this company, the idea of expanding into the Spanish market was brought up. This company didn’t have a lot of Spanish speaking clients because they didn’t have enough Spanish speaking reps.
The first real issue was thinking that there’s one Spanish to throw all of us under. We’re vast and different. If this statement confuses you, let me simplify it.
Puerto Ricans are not Mexicans.
Dominicans are not Guatamalan.
El Salvadorian are not Costa Rican.
Peruvians are not Chileans.
Handurans are not Panemanian.
…and vice versa.
All ethnicities are different, different heritage and history. You know what else is different? Their dialects. Just because you speak Spanish, does not mean you speak everyone’s Spanish.
Jasmine looked at the challenge of running this new Spanish Department as a way to impact the Spanish community as a whole, bringing much needed services.
None of this was an issue we couldn’t overcome. What came next would challenge our character.
As this new department started, Jas hired a new Spanish rep to assist with the call volume. I couldn’t help. I don’t speak Spanish myself (I know that a whole other conversation for another time).
A few weeks in, Jas and this new hire spoke Spanish with these new clients, and after getting off the phone, they would continue to speak Spanish to each other.
One afternoon, Jas and the new rep were called into the admins office. The head of HR was there as well.
Now we’re in the room where it happened…(sorry Hamilton reference, Jas has it on repeat)
The discussion was that there had been complaints and concerns in the office due to Jas and the rep speaking Spanish in the office after getting off a call with a client. Individuals stated they couldn’t understand what was being said in a conversation between Jas and the rep.
Some egotistical individuals even went as far as saying that they thought Jas and the rep was gossiping about them because the spoke in Spanish.
What was the office’s decision to resolve this matter? Jas and the rep, and any spanish speaking person could only speak spanish if they were on a call with a client, but once the call ended they had to speak English. Even while on break.
This was also during Trump’s presidency, where amongst so much other hate, hate for Latinos was fueled. If this was step one of what will be done with Spanish speakers, what would they be willing to do next?
You ever felt like you’re put in a position that takes advantage of your people when all you wanted to do was help? The thought of helping a company make money off of the Spanish market but not accept Spanish culture didn’t sit right with us.
Jas and I are no longer affiliated with this company. Do they still have a Spanish Department? Probably. We can’t control someone’s business, but we can control ourselves and what we do.
Now we focus on making an impact without exploiting people. We run are own business together. We help individuals maximize opportunities presented to them.
We look to be of service to the Spanish speaking communities, and many other communities.
I’ve asked Jasmine to share some of her thoughts, and this is what she said…
“While this experience isn’t as extreme as others have experienced. It did remind me of what my grandmother Rosalina taught me over the years, not to compromise my integrity for anyone else’s comfort. She came to New York from Puerto Rico in 1965 with 4 small children not knowing anyone or speaking a word of English. She was proud of her culture, her language and never let anyone else’s ignorance or hate corrupt her ideals. I hold that teaching close to me as I encounter others in all our communities who face consistent micro aggressions, racism, and xenophobia.
*Side note: Working with my husband as a coworker first, made me see him as he truly was an actual kind person and the hardest working person in the room, something I admire and love about him. <3”