Paul Kusuda’s column
Extra burden on Racial Minority Employees
Paul H. Kusuda
to reflect political correctness. Those who agree to participate are often asked to do so again and again because the pool of
RME who may be asked is small or those who accept have demonstrated appropriate participation. At any rate, a potential
problem can develop; time away from assigned work responsibilities may mean additional effort is required to maintain
current job assignments. The effect on an RME may result in the stressful dilemma of choosing between social
responsibility to participate and work responsibility to meet or exceed job requirements.
Situation II. An RME’s obviously-high visibility results in non-intentional calling-to-attention by mainstream Americans to
notice average, below-average, or above-average work performance. This element can have either positive or negative
consequences; however, the underlying stress producer is that it could well be a non-conscious motive for monitoring work
performance. (A similar situation exists when a female employee is in a work or professional position traditionally held by
males or vice-versa.) Non-work-related stress may result because of the additional oversight.
Situation III. An RME may consciously or subconsciously avoid situations that may viewed as stereotype. For example, an
Asian person may avoid eating in public using chopstickseven though others may do so in ethnic-food restaurants.
He/she may not want tobe employed as wait staff or on railroad crews, or be identified as a professional gambler; a Black
person may avoid eating watermelon in public, may not want to be employed as wait staff or house-keeper or be known as
a day laborer or identified as a crap-shooting gambler. A Hispanic person may not want to be seen as one who eats only
highly-spiced food or is only capable of being a farm, orchard, or dairy worker, or a person accustomed to taking siestas
during work hours.
Situation IV. An RME may be watched to see what kind of response will occur when ethnic-oriented jokes are told,
especially when they are related to a different ethnic group. The RME may be faced with the dilemma of choosing to be one
of the group joining in the hilarity or possibly over-reacting to a potentially bland, transient situation. Making that choice
must be instantaneous, and an element of stress may be present then or later.
Situation V. A person of color (POC), whether or not in an employment situation, faces situations not felt by mainstream
Americans. In a group dinner situation, if the POC happens to be the last one to be served, someone (who may want to be
seen as being politically correct) might call attention to the apparent oversight. On the other hand, a POC, who observes
non-POCs being served first or if services are delayed for any reason, may mistakenly feel an anti-POC issue occurred and
may even complain. I observed such situations more than once when eating out by myself. In one instance, a wait staff told
me a fellow worker was delayed in transit, so service might take more time than usual. Then, she took my order, poured a
cup of coffee, and went about clearing away dishes and utensils. A POC sat next to me and had a longer-than-usual wait to
get service. When the wait staff finally came to take his order, he complained angrily that the long waiting time happened
because he was a POC; then, he left the premise without ordering anything.
Situation VI. Often, POC are watched because they don’t look the same as mainstream Americans, aka “racial profiling.”
That is often the case in places of business when customers move from place to place to look for different items during
shopping trips. When local emphasis is placed on “Business Watch” or “Neighborhood Watch,” heightened attention
occurs. That happened to me when I was in mymiddle 80s when in a neighborhood grocery store looking at labels to
examine fat and salt contents before placing items in my shopping cart. Surprise, surprise! The female store manager,
with two husky store clerks standing behind her, demanded to know what I was doing and implied I was going to shop lift. I
admit to appearing somewhat suspicious in that my grocery wallet was tucked away in my shirt since the weather was
warm and I was not wearing a jacket. I was, of course, embarrassed and felt harassed; however, I raised no ruckus. I was
a victim of over-surveillance. During a later visit, the store manager apologized for her previous action. Unfortunately, that
type of unwarranted surveillance occurs to POC more often than is known to many.
Added note as a throw-in. Two questions posed to avoid asking “What kind of Asian are you?” have amused me:
1. “You speak good English.” I assume the person means “You speak English well and that’s a surprise!” I usually say
“Uh huh,” and leave it at that.
2. “Where are you from?” When I say Madison, Wisconsin, the next question is “No, I meant, where were you born?” I
reply, “Los Angeles, California,”
By Paul H. Kusuda
The increasing societal interest in racial minority diversity; melting pot; social assimilation;
social integration; inter-racial marriage; disparity in measures of education, economy, crime
rates; effects of immigration of non-Whites; etc., led me to think about how that interest might
affect racial-minority employees, whether blue-collared or white-collared. A burden not
recognized by mainstream workplace Americans may well have an effect on affected workers
that could have either positive or negative influence. It may encourage efforts to do the best or
to discourage work performance. Negative effects of racism are currently being better
recognized in the field of education in terms of expectation, not only by educators but also by
students. However, its impact in other areas is not seen or is simply overlooked.
Situation I. Supervisory or management staff may ask a racial-minority employee (RME) to
take on an extra assignment, such as to participate in a panel discussion or serve on an ad
hoc committee. Such request is often made as an effort to promote equitable consideration or
I get no further question, and I give no
additional information. If my wife is
present, she’s more polite. She says
our parents were from Japan.
The reason why I meandered into this
topic is that in a way, it defines part of
what is meant by “White privilege.”
Non-POC, not being subject to that
type of scrutiny, cannot feel or
understand a part of the constantly-
present stress faced by POC. For
many POC, it’s an everyday occurrence.