Against the Grain

Mr. Jung peered through the blinds of his office window at her. He casually strolled out onto the main floor in mix-matched polka dot socks. The rest of the department carried on as if they did not see him. He walked near Malaykah’s cubicle and waited for her to get off the phone before gesturing with his index finger for her to come see him.

Malaykah sat in a chair directly across from his desk. Her mind was hazy from all of the impended demands of deadlines. She did not have time to sit and chat but did not want to appear disrespectful. Mr. Jung entered behind her, but rudely began typing an email in silence. As soon as he pressed send, he turned around and looked at her.

“I called you in here because we’re in a bit of a jam. As you know, we’ve been short-staffed for several years. The hiring process has taken a toll on our department. As a result, we can’t get ahead to stay out of the red on the budget,” Mr. Jung said.

Malaykah sat confused and wondered why Mr. Jung called her in his office to tell her things she already knew. She gave a silent nod to show attentiveness.

He stood from his swivel chair and continued, “Some of the people in this department; I don’t know how they were promoted in the first place. They lack perseverance and always complain when times are hard.” He looked at her smugly and began to rub his left hand on top of his right hand. “You were promoted pretty fast, even though you hadn’t been with this company long. You’d better be grateful that Mrs. Jones was in charge during that time. She’s retired now, but with the current administration, I doubt you’d be here.”

Malaykah was taken back at Mr. Jung’s statement. His words were like a kick to the gut and deflated any enthusiasm she had for being there. In her mind, he implied she was not promoted because of her hard work, but only because of Mrs. Jones, who just happened to also be a black woman. The gall of Mr. Jung’s arrogance and racist remarks clarified why everyone thought he was shady.

Obviously, this matter would have been easy to a complaint with the human resources department. However, Malaykah was exhausted as a person of color to experience such a demeaning encounter even after the Rosemont Retirement Facility encouraged years of cultural competency training. She knew Mr. Jung would use his snake charmer skills to convince everyone he only intended to give a motivational pep talk It would be his word against hers. The leadership was never top tier, but prejudices and racism were not supposed to be acceptable by any means.

She swallowed all the vitriol swelling in her throat and simply said, “I need to get back to work.”

~Ch. 16, The Realm Beyond the Stars and Sea~

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