In my career, I have been the target of harassment and bullying instigated by White women a total of 3 times.
I have been researching the psychology of the “racist”. Carl Bell’s 1980 study categorizes 3 types of racists; the narcissistic , stress induced, and the socially misinformed racists. The one that sticks out the most for me is the “narcissistic racist”. I think their type resonates the most because they’ve the 3 I’ve had to contend with. I’ve dealt with racism, I’m Black. But retaliation was new to me. I’ve been lied on before, I have made mistakes, I have accountability. But I also know what it looks like to have no power, be left voiceless, and have someone try to recreate my persona.
The narcissistic racist meshes personality disorder with racism. They have no empathy, an over-inflated sense of self importance, and struggle with criticism. And when confronted,criticized or embarrassed, White people respond with rage or White backlash. They lash out at Black people as a defense mechanism. Perhaps they’ve been made to feel inferior, resent their target, or simply are just evil. I can accept not being liked but I can’t accept the lack of professionalism that allows people to abandon the business and make it personal.
On three occasions…my “arrogance” caused the rage of 3 White women. One told me I was too smart for my own good. And promised me she would “make me pay”. And to this day I don’t know why. I was thorough careful and kind to our patients. Yet, she went out of her way to try to get me fired. She was the office manager and me as a staff nurse, I had no wins. The Human Resources manager and her were good friends and the diversity officer was her “token” Black good friend.
This is why I don’t trust DEI officers. I feel they go along just to get along especially if they don’t serve their own agenda.
The office manager Mary Cone, wrote me up for “not showing sympathy to my co-worker”. I asked isn’t this perception? And the DEI officer basically told me,”Yes, hers”. I asked where was this in the employee handbook and was told that it falls under “professional behavior”. No union, right to work state, and the majority being White? I resigned with a 2 week notice but was retaliated against by being placed on the “ do not rehire” list. Thank you, Mary Cone, former officer manager of Piedmont Physicians Group 95 Collier Rd. I was so traumatized that I decided to leave the state of Georgia.
I came home to Buffalo and jumped out of the frying pan into the fire. I went back to Roswell Park Cancer Institute. I loved the concept but not the structure of power at RPCI. My former nurse manager was there but she was at the nadir of her career. She was also a Black woman who survived the racist old guard system of RPCI. However she provided me with some gems before she retired. Those gems helped me leave that system before I got fired.
Tina Glow who I worked with at the bedside, eventually because my nurse manager. I didn’t trust her. She made dog whistled racist comments. The funny thing about racism is that BLCK people are allergic to it. I steered clear of her. She sensed my disdain and called me out about it. I told her she just wasn’t my type of people. Yet I knew she definitely was targeting me. She scrutinized over policed every thing I did. I had a patient who was Japanese and she reported that I was rude to her. I had never been rude to anyone but again racism is subtle overt covert and incidious. This patient wouldn’t even look at me when I talked to her. I informed Tina that she was a bit rude to me and I felt she was racist. Tina said “She’s Asian, how can she be racist?” I at that point knew this was a lost cause. Yet the White woman who didn’t want me as her nurse was accommodated and Tina “recognized” her racism. Probably because she’s seen it before.
I think the other problem with Tina and myself is that I wouldn’t gossip. I didn’t get into people’s business and I didn’t spread it either. Tina as a staff nurse liked to stir the pot. The assistant nurse manager Joanne McVey loved people like Tina. She could manipulate them and pull their puppet strings. Joanne hated me too. I stood up to her and went to the union with my complaints. People really need to be careful, projection is self reflection.
Tina, had me so shook I started making dumb mistakes. Stress, scrutiny, and fear? I bowed out gracefully. Remember the punishment never fits the crime for Black people. Tina controlled the narrative therefore could control the optics and the outcome. I worked with people who made chemo errors that she hid and overlooked but me? There was no “mistake” just an opportunity for her to manipulate and turn a situation into an event. I went home early, sick. I had a patient who had transfusion parameters, meaning if his numbers were below a certain level he was to be transfused. He had visitors, it wasn’t an emergency, I communicated this with the nurse practitioner and went home sick. The nurse who took this patient over could’ve very well have given the blood. She didn’t, though she had 5 hours to do so. But I was the one who was written up, suspended for 3 days and placed on a 1 year probation. Did the punishment fit the crime? Who knows? I just know chemo errors were overlooked and this break in system was all my fault.
It was inconceivable that I would allow Tina to control my narrative. She had the power to decide what to escalate and what to hide and giving her a year to do so? I wasn’t taking that chance and so I left. Ironically Tina again tried to target my daughter but by this time, my book was in the works and I could articulate to my daughter how to stay out of her way and protect herself. Knowing how to navigate White privilege is also knowing how to circumvent their pitfalls and setups. Inferiority and projection will certainly have you in the crosshairs of a racist coworker who also happens to be your nurse manager. Instead of them taking pride in the fact that you’re a member of their team, they don’t appreciate the smart Black girl. They don’t see you, in them. All because of skin color. The dreaded social construct of race.
This last instance, well my mental health almost reached breaking point. A woman who I worked with, treated as a friend, allowed people to talk about me. She allowed her inferiority to become her main purpose for attempting to paint me as a “racist”
Classic DARVO; deny, attack, reverse, victim, offender. I didn’t run this time. My family told me that I will always have this problem because I really was “too smart”. Common sense, book smart, and savvy as a Black
woman in the 4th racist city in America? Where the hell was I going to go?
My daughter said, “Mom, clear your name and leave.” But again where the hell was I going to go? Buffalo is my home. So, I fought and let the chips fall where they will.
I was interview for 2 hours at the end of my investigation. I was asked some of the silliest questions, “Did you say the people in your neighborhood look like her and then pointed to a White nurse?” Also I was accused of calling a patients’ son a “fa—ot” a word I don’t use. There were many other questions but mainly they were centered around me and my outside interests vs. my practice. I was exhausted mentally and emotionally.
As a nurse practitioner I don’t ever have the luxury of not caring for a patient throughly and to the best of my ability. I know what subpar care looks like and will never be a perpetrator. I have taken care of some horrible people but that was their issue. The social ills of racism will not dictate my care. That’s giving someone too much power. And it’s definitely a lack of emotional maturity. Which I find many racist people lack.
If you’ve been made to yield to the system of White Supremacy, you will start to believe that perhaps you deserved their treatment, their punishments, their hatred. But I know the only thing I didn’t do was stay out of their way. Somehow, my presence was an irritant. But according to my grandma, “you don’t know how to be the good one and know your place”. Nor should I have to have a “place”.
Nevertheless, the last incident will be the last incident. I refuse to let this be a cycle. I would rather leave health care all together then to have to revisit the dark place I am trying to exit from the last attack.
It’s a good thing I have a therapist. I suggest every Black professional get themselves one.