A Soundtrack for My Ex-Bosses' Most Racist and Sexist One-Liners

I put up with some nasty comments early on in my career that I never should have let slide.
Publish date:
February 26, 2016
sexism, racism, horrible bosses, work etiquette, Make Some Noise

When I started college, I had this naive notion that work would be a safe place because professionalism meant not being an asshole and anyone who forgot that would get a kick in the pants from Human Resources. Then Life ripped off my rose-colored glasses and stomped on them a few times to ensure I'd never wear them again.

Life reminded me that I am not only a woman but a woman of color. No fancy office or shiny new business card could change that. I quickly learned that not all bosses are mentors or even decent human beings who respect people whose complexions and genitals differ from theirs. And when you have bills to pay and fought like hell to land your current position, speaking up against racist or sexist comments might not feel like an option. That is especially true when you're young and have zero safety net. It took experience and one truly phenomenal boss to help me realize that I put up with some nasty comments early on in my career that I never should have let slide.

While I can't go back in time, I can forgive the perpetrators. Or when I'm in a less charitable mood, I can listen to great boo-ya and revenge music.

Thinking back to old bosses' bigoted comments makes me want to jump to the past, snap whatever Muzak record was playing at the moment, and pull out a boombox John Cusack-style. Except instead of proclaiming my eternal love and devotion, I would proclaim my fury and disbelief. While I have plenty of long-winded examples of ex-bosses' racist and sexist attitudes (and, really, don't most of us have these kinds of unpleasant stories?), it's those nasty zingers that stick with me. A single sentence, however subtle, can cause so much pain and frustration.

So, without further ado, this is my soundtrack for my ex-bosses' most racist and sexist one-liners:

"You look a lot more ethnic in real life than in your LinkedIn photo."

Perp and context: An old-school newshound looking at me, then my resume, then me again before offering me a job.The song I should've blasted: "Racist Friend" by The Specials"

"You have a very masculine way of thinking."'

• Perp and context: A producer after I offered solutions for each one of his complaints about other team members, instead of gossiping with him.• The song I should've blasted: "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" by Pat Benatar

"But motherhood matters most. Having children is the most important thing you will ever do."

• Perp and context: An editor/mother telling me to pursue my writing career as long as I prioritize baby-making.• The song I should've blasted: "All I Do Is Win" by DJ Khaled feat. Ludacris, Rick Ross, T-Pain, and Snoop Dogg

"But your mom still speaks English, right?"

• Perp and context: An editor who knew my mother was an immigrant, after I explained why public schools need to provide translation and interpretation services for immigrant parents.• The song I should've blasted: "Asshole" by Denis Leary

"Well, now that [the Planned Parenthood] videos are out, people have to face the truth and admit just how evil abortion is, no questions asked."

• Perp and context: An editor brainstorming story ideas about the pro-life movement. • The song I should've blasted: "Think" by Aretha Franklin

"I know just how talented and intelligent you are, but you have to remember you are just a woman."

• Perp and context: A theatre director, right after I reminded him of my last day in a production because of a conflicting project.• The song I should've blasted: "I Am Woman" by Helen Reddy

"Oh, my God, why do women these days take so long to get married?"

• Perp and context: An editor when I got engaged at age 25 (delivered with a totally serious tone from someone who did not have a dry sense of humor by any stretch of the imagination.)• The song I should've blasted: "I Will Survive" by Diana Ross

And for all of these comments and many others that deserve an essay of their own, Katy Perry's "Roar" feels perfectly fitting: "Get ready 'cause I've had enough/I see it all, I see it now!"