8.19.2011

I am Not Your Servant

So today I quit my job.  Don't mourn; it didn't pay well at all and was starting to ruin my life.  But the reason I quit was more than just the salary (or lack thereof); it was my brush with the caste system mentality.

As a final gesture of respect for my elders, I will try to keep some things vague.

A short while back, I decided to work for a company owned by a man from Middle East Asia.  We knew some people in common, and I figured I would just be (briefly) helping out the friend of a friend.  For the sake of social harmony, I accepted the low rates, intending this to be a very brief stint.  I soon noticed that the owner often hired Africans, African Americans, and Latinos.  It's Houston, so I wasn't all that surprised.  I even commended him for it.

But then...problems began to surface.

One was the issue of ingratitude.  Whenever my main coworker/partner and I went above (like, seriously above) and beyond the call of duty (and we often did so), for very little pay, there was no reimbursement.  Gratitude ended with, "Thanks" and one of several empty promises.  Nothing that was ever promised, or even agreed to upon hiring, ever came to fruition.  Sometimes we even found ourselves spending our money for work-related issues which really weren't our responsibility.

Then there was the problem of inconsideration.  We had an insect problem at the office which I can only describe as "biblical."  Cockroaches, spiders, ants - we had them all; they seemed to take turns.  When we complained to the building owner (whom my ex-boss rents from) we were told it wasn't their responsibility, and that our employer should pay for pest control.  Our employer rejected that out of hand, saying the rental company was selfish and irresponsible.  They ended up alternately bickering and paying each other the silent treatment.  My ex-boss's wife even went so far as to say, "These Indians...they don't care about anyone else."

Meanwhile, mind you, no one was taking care of the pest problem, and the job quickly became utter hell.  Our requests for pest control were fielded or flat-out ignored; just this week the wife finally realized we had a serious problem when she laid out some papers on the floor and saw an army of ants scurrying across them.  She jumped back and told me to pick up her papers for her.

With inconsideration and ingratitude also came irrationality.  My ex-boss's wife considered herself his business partner, even though she lacked education and has never worked a day in her life.  She made very bad decisions which hindered revenues, and naturally, her husband held us responsible for the drastic decline.

I did not intend to walk out today.  I've never walked out on a job before in my life.  At my last job, I gave a four-week notice.  I'm not a whiner.  I'm not irresponsible.  I don't raise my voice to my elders, or use curse words in their presence.  I am an African girl, and I was taught to show respect at all times.  When I brought up some concerns about her decisions to the company owner, her husband, I was given the run around as usual.  Today, she confronted me herself.  She refused to listen to calmly stated logic, and the next thing I knew, I was walking out.

In case you're wondering, the problem with this woman was that she (and her husband sometimes did this too), regarded her employees as servants. Our thoughts and feelings were nonexistent to her.  She insulted some of us openly and regularly.  My now ex-partner, who walked out with me, was called "stupid" and "slow" every day (needless to say, he's neither of those things).  She ordered him around like a slave, and soon her children began to do the same.  She called him up at home, night before last, and chewed him out.  She threatened him by saying if he "followed" me (as in listened to me), he would be fired.  This morning, she told me that I talked too much, and attempted to put me in my place.

Mind you, I didn't have the whole story.  When I first took the position, an ex-employee mentioned to me how he'd once walked out.  I should've paid closer attention, because today, when I talked to other employees, they too had their walk-out stories.  One told me that when she first started working there, the boss's wife never handed her things; she would throw them instead.  When they hit the floor, the employee would be ordered to pick them up.

I asked why this woman behaved in this manner, and the senior employee explained that she comes from a very rich, very privileged family in her home country, and has never had to work.  She never cooked anything until she moved to America as an adult and got married.  Reportedly, she once boasted to the other employees her family was so wealthy and "high up" that when a remote control fell to the floor from the couch, she pressed a button to summon a servant to pick it up for her.

It explained a lot.

To her, employee = servant, and servant = sub-human.  Can you imagine being summoned day in and day out for things like that?  As soon as I heard this, I forgot my own pain, feeling horrible for whoever it was she'd ordered about and summoned like that back home.

I'm telling this story because those of us who are of Black African descent really don't take kindly to the caste mentality.  It rubs us extra raw.  If I hadn't been the conscientious type, that woman would've been eating ant-covered carpet for speaking to me the way she did.  Call us loud, belligerent, aggressive, whatever - I'm a proud African girl.  I'm nobody's servant.  I'm not "less" than anyone, and people have to be careful with how they approach me and my people because we very little patience for this particular type disrespect.  The shadow of slavery still hangs upon us, and not just to white people.  In Arabic, for example, the term for a Black African is still synonymous with "slave" ("abid"), and many Arabs still refer to us as such.  Keep in mind, some Arabic territories waited right up until the 1960s to abolish the enslavement of Black Africans.

But we are not the only ones with the servant's shadow hanging over our heads.  My ex-partner, an American-born and raised Latino, recently mentioned we were treated like "illegals", and it didn't take an oracle to see how constantly hearing he was "stupid" and "slow" (and being paid less than everyone else) was weighing heavily upon him.  So when people kept calling me up after our walk-out, asking why I was so angry at the employers, I refused to let them ignore him as a factor (which I noticed everyone seemed desperate to do).  I brought up the verbal abuse and the blatant exploitation he'd endured, and how it was all very telling to me.  As such, nothing anyone could say would make me bargain with the employers for my return.  I didn't care what they offered me

The ancient caste systems we read about in history books are hardly gone, and in order for our peoples - all our peoples - to progress, we have to eradicate such thinking.  It's holding us back.  Our employers really needed us; my ex-partner and I were very good at what we did and we made them decent money.  There is now no else at the company to do what we did, so now their business - which is still in its infancy - is crippled; they will fall behind, lose several clients, anger the associates who referred those clients, and miss out on thousands of dollars in revenue.  At the rate that they keep having "walk-outs", their fledgling business will never mature.  They will have wasted two years and tens of thousands of dollars on a failure...during a recession.

I have been asked several times today if I could just go back temporarily, as a last favor, to help the employers out for a couple of weeks until I can be replaced.  Once again, I was expected to sacrifice and endure for someone else's benefit.  You know...to make the transition less inconvenient for them.  Several times today, I've replied, "They should've thought about that before inconveniencing me.  It would've been nice if they thought about my benefit as much as they thought about their own." 

15 comments:

  1. Wow! Idk what to say. The word abid I heard used in a movie when a muslim arab guy fell in love with a black woman and when telling his cuz, he said "you're in love with a abid" and the way he said the word could be described as disgust. That lady needs to take herself along with her husband back to the middle east. Honestly most ppl with money lack humanship. I applaud you for not beating her like she stole something; one thing I can say is Africans (foreigners as well), but Africans do not play when it comes to disrespect.

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  2. Honey, you did right. You did exactly right. Life is hard enough without all that. Nobody deserves treatment like that, and the fact that they called you and asked you back to work without regard to what took place speaks volumes of their ignorance. I don't even know why other employers came back to help them. They'll never prosper.

    She jumped back and told me to pick up her papers for her.

    ...and I would have quickly told her which side of my ass she could kiss. To hell with that shit. I was raised to respect my elders as well, but that does not give them carte blanche to disrespect me, a grown-ass woman. Leaving was the best thing you could do.

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  3. Wow. She better hope the economy doesn't get much worse, because it doesn't sound as if Mrs. Pampered Princess can hold her own.

    The job market may be stink, but that is no excuse for any employer to treat their employees like sh*t. They seem to forget that their business depends on said employees to weather this storm. She and her husband will learn one way or the other.

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  4. I agree with Amaya and the rest of the gang on here. You were a much better woman than I would have been,but you did the right thing. Enough was enough. As I told my former geology professor, who reminded me of that witch. "I'm not you child or your dog. You treat them that way, I'm not the woman that you can do that way". That's ok, I reported him( he didn't know I was going to do that). Come to find out a LOT of students and some of colleagues HATED him. I was praying for a miracle as many students doing this are wronged by their schools. God answered my prayer. Dude was fired!

    I notice that you said that she hired mostly Africans, AA's and Latinos? Hmmm...I could imagine that if I was in India, as Black women, were would probably be at the bottom of the barrel and treated as such and that is unfortunate. I remembered reading an article( you have done this) about the Dalits and what those guys have to go through is awful. Just because many of them are poor and darker skinned, they are treated like the bottom of someones shoes. In one case, CNN said that a 22 year old man raped a 6( I think ) year old girl and set her fire, simply because of who she was.

    I don't know what make some people think that if they get money they can treat people like that. I guess this woman thinks that the listed people that worked for her were the subhuman group and Whites and other Asians were on her level and above.

    She's not oging to continue to be rich if she don't treat her like royalty. I remembered listening to a business report talking about Google and why they are surviving like they are. I don't know how true this is,but it is said that they are doing pretty well because they put their employees in front, in terms of what they need. I cannot see this woman doing that because of how she is treating her staff.

    I hate to see people have that "above the law"thinking..especially when they are minorities themselves. She may have the money,but as the saying "what goes up must comes down". she's going to reap what she sows, that's for sure.

    AmandaO,

    I,too, once heard that word from a Somali man. he told me that to call someone an "abid" is like calling Black people the "n" word. From what he told me, it is a derogatory word.

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  5. @ Everyone

    Thanks. I've spent the last 72 hours trying to calm down and relax, but every time I think back to that moment I get furious all over again.

    I genuinely hope that business just collapses. They need it to collapse. They need to lose all that money, otherwise they'll never learn.

    And I don't think it's just the wealth that makes people like this woman act this way. It's their confidence that their dealing with a responsible person who doesn't want to go to jail. Otherwise, I would've snatched up the nearby keyboard and beaten her into a coma with it.

    It's really despicable when people use your own sense of responsibility against you.

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  6. @Ankhesen,

    Good for you! The pay was lousy anyway.

    I'm glad you walked out rather than beat that bitch within an inch of her life. It would have been a shame if you'd gone to jail over that unworthy human being.

    To her, employee = servant, and servant = sub-human.

    This is wrong, damned wrong. There's nothing sub-human about an honest hardworking person on the job.

    I wish you the best in getting through this and going forward with your life. Go ahead and vent the anger. It would be very bad for your mental, spiritual and physical health to hold it inside.

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  7. She may have been privileged there but her ass is a irrelevant here. No one cares that she was brought up privileged and she needs to stop acting like a helpless 5 year old. I don't even know how people can treat anyone that way. Especially on a professional level. I'm glad you're out of there.

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  8. @ Hateya & The Girl

    Thanks, ladies.

    @ M

    I notice that you said that she hired mostly Africans, AA's and Latinos? Hmmm...I could imagine that if I was in India, as Black women, were would probably be at the bottom of the barrel and treated as such and that is unfortunate.

    Yeah...something told me they didn't feel they could pull this type of shit on white people.

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  9. Girl, I walked out on my job back in April because I got fed up with their BS, though admittedly things weren't as bad as your situation but I get it.

    I promised I was going to walk out the front door before I let those assholes push me out the back.

    Sadly jobs like these are not rare and they have become the standard. One good thing I can say about the recession is that shit is finally catching up with a lot of these businesses and that's why so many are going belly up.

    I hope you find something else real soon beautiful.

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  10. That was some ol' bullshit! I hope that the business collapses as well, some people really need to go through calamity before they change for the better. I hope that you find another position very soon.

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  11. I'm catching up on my reading and had a big WTF when I read this. You did awesome, you did well. Nothing like doing a job right and letting people fail by their own hand. Geezus.

    I raise a toast to you (though I'm only drinking tea...), and hope you'll find bebop soon!

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  12. You had to do what you had to do. No matter what heppens though, you made the best decision for yourself at that particular moment in time. *smh* It's a shame that POC have to act like crabs in a barrel all the damn time. Attitudes like the ones displayed by your former employers continues to be one of our biggest downfalls.

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  13. I understand the stress you are under. You are an intelligent and resourceful person so you will be fine. I walked out of a job once. I was a grad student interning at a major corporation. I still had 1 semester of school left so I stayed longer than I should have. Our work day started at 7:30am and I quit around 7:45am. One of my coworkers quit before I did but she gave 2 weeks notice. Our supervisors acted shocked and hurt that we wanted to leave. Despite a management style that could be best learned from watching "Mean Girls". They micromanaged and harassed us, regularly accused us of things we did not do. Not only did all 3 managers in my department act this way but there was evidence that this was part of the larger corporate culture. Another worker complained to HR about verbal abuse and cursing. She was then fired.

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  14. @ MG

    Oh, yeah - you walk out on that type of job.

    I wonder where such corporate cultures begin anyway. Is it plantation mentality that's just been passed down? Or is it because, ahem, "some" people feel they shouldn't be troubled with something so menial as holding down a job?

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  15. A. Nepotism - a lot of people hired because they had relatives who worked there plus the CEO was from the original founding family even though it was a major publicly traded company whose products you could find in any drugstore all over America

    B. Bad economy in a rust belt city

    C. Lots of starving artists types who would tolerate more BS to work in an artsy job

    D. Lots of permanent temps desperate to move on to full time with benefits positions

    E. Inflated egos among management - one of the things my coworker and I got in trouble for was not making a big enough show of greeting the manager that used our department as a shortcut to the cafeteria

    The last draw was the supervisor going off on me for some minor little thing. I spent the last 15 minutes of the previous work day working on project A instead of B. I tried talking my way out of it, apologize, explain ect but she just kept going and going. So I walked out of her office and got my things out of the desk. She acted all traumatized and said don't leave, we can talk about this, I said we've been talking but your not listening. She followed me out. Tried to plead with me to clock out first which I did not do cause that would have put me in the area with the other two psycho managers. Just a bad situation so I walked out. In the parking lot my boss demanded my work ID. I gave it to her and left.

    You should have seen the line of products they tried to market to black people. Total clueless garbage.

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