Stories

A 9-TO-5 MINORITY EXPERIENCE

Emma*, 22, noticed clearly that she was different from her coworkers when she started her job at a majority-white office, especially when her culture became the butt of their jokes.

I’m part Taiwanese, and one of three people of color working at a tight-knit food public relations company. My coworkers are mostly white, and mostly female. We share details from our personal lives, bad dates — it’s that kind of office.

As the role would suggest, we get a lot of food samples, which is really cool!
I was so excited when one of our clients sent us bubble tea to sample, especially since it’s from my country. But one of my coworkers, the HR coordinator, saw the pearls and said, “Ew, what’s in this drink? Are these turds?”

Another time, a client for a dim sum restaurant sent us a special item on their menu: chicken feet. A colleague left it on someone else’s desk as a prank, and when she saw it, she threw a tantrum — tossed it on the floor and everything.

My perspective as a minority woman adds value to the company since I can bring up experiences of food from Asia and educate the rest of my team using those memories, but these are the sorts of things that make me lose respect for my coworkers. I’ve always associated food with my mom and my family, and when they say these sorts of things about specialties from my country, it makes me feel like my culture is being devalued.

The microaggressions even continue in their dating lives, where I’m constantly hearing stories of my coworkers exoticizing or fetishizing minorities, like this one girl who only swipes right on Indian guys, or sets her profile to only show Indian guys.

My direct supervisor is also a woman of color, but we’ve never really talked about what it feels like to be a minority in the office, which I feel is part of the problem. Corporate offices need more diversity training, and a more diverse staff.

Until then, I’ll always feel this duality of who I am, and who I present myself as at work.

*Name changed to protect her privacy.

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