This week, another in a line of questionable (to put it nicely) things happened. Someone pretty senior at my company, at least two levels about me, saw me with my black skullcap on and said, “Why are you wearing that hat? You look like a hoodlum. You look like one of kids in this neighborhood.” In my mind, she made a total ass of herself. I’ve written plenty about situations like these and how I have handled them in the past. In fact, in my first month at the company, someone made what I considered an inappropriate comment to get a laugh (which they did). I wrote about that incident in my 365 journal. This time, I just raised my hand, as if to say ‘You’ve said enough. Really.’ But I actually said, “I’m going to choose to walk away and ignore the words you just said.” Her response: “Oh, was that a racist comment?” What I WANTED to reply was: “If you have to ask…you already know better. So yes, its clearly a racist comment. And if you’d like to talk about this any more, I’m going to need our VP of HR in the room. For now, I’m leaving.” But what I actually did was just repeat myself. I posted the incident on my Facebook page and got lots of responses…most of them sympathetic (including my sister clearly “winning” the sibling rivalry for worst workplace insult by sharing that her boss had once called her Buckwheat). But the most interesting comments were from those who seemed completely shocked that people at my job have such racist attitudes. “Where do you work?!?” was one of the responses I got. Well, I work in America. Where there is plenty of prejudice to go around. And I would bet that most of us have ready access to people who posses racist attitudes. That’s a fact of life. But racist attitudes are different from racist behavior or racist statements. The latter are not things I can tolerate in silence. So I say something at work. And I share on Facebook, in public, where coworkers can see how I feel. It helps me stay focused on my personal priorities and hopefully sets an expectation that keeps me sane and excited about showing up everyday. And hopefully it means that I don’t wake up thinking about it or worry about managing someone else’s comfort when I see them at the office (I woke up thinking about this on Friday and found myself going out of my way to make sure she was comfortable around me when I saw her later in the day…there is not enough space on the page to get into what I think about that phenomenon, but I will just say that its a big part of why all this feels mentally burdensome). But even after I came home, I was still thinking about it. So, I’m hoping a little photographic therapy is just what I need. As for the attitudes…behavior is one thing, but trying to impact racist attitudes is, in my experience, a far more difficult and emotionally taxing endeavor (as we saw during last year’s Professor Gates debacle), and I don’t even think about trying to do it at work. I just feel like I need to ask for the baseline level of respect to which we’re all entitled. And that does not include being compared, in any way, to someone’s notion of a hoodlum.