How do I respond to a racist statement?

The CFO of my company came to my office and stated that there were too many black people in my department. They are all qualified employees. How do I respond to this racist statement?

Posted  12-08-2010

Ann Kiernan replies:

A senior executive who has such a racist attitude should be reported immediately to your HR Director or your legal counsel. His remark should be grounds for serious discipline, if not dismissal.

It sounds as if you were so shocked that you did not say anything at the time. This is perfectly understandable, but if something like this ever happens again you could stare at the person and say something like: “Wow. That’s offensive,” or, “I’m so surprised to hear that from you. I thought better of you,” or, “I have a terrific staff. Why did you say that?”

The insidious thing about comments like the CFO’s is, each time we let them go, the person saying them feels validated. Silence is as good as permission.

Thank you for standing up against racism.


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About the Author:

Ann Kiernan has litigated claims of wrongful discharge and discrimination before state and federal courts and administrative matters before the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights, the National Labor Relations Board and the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, representing both employers and employees. Ms. Kiernan co-hosted The Employee Rights Forum, a weekly radio call-in show reaching up to a half-million listeners in the New York metropolitan area, and her articles on employment law have been published in many books and magazines. Both as a firm partner and as a director, Ms. Kiernan gained solid experience in management and human resources compliance. She has worked with Fair Measures since 1997.