TRUMPISM IN THE WORKPLACE
Written by Matheus Blasczack
If you walk into most skyscrapers in Atlanta, like the Promenade building in Midtown Atlanta, and take the elevator to the top floors, you will find yourself entering obstinate law firms established decades ago. You’ll eye Persian rugs, wooden tables, and portraits of scowling old white men that match the poorly-hidden discrimination many encounter there. It’s the kind of discrimination that makes a black man cut his afro to keep his job, the kind to silence a black woman because of her natural looks, the kind of discriminatory roots where if you don’t fit Trump’s white supremacist aesthetic and politics in the workplace, you will not be respected.
As seen on television series like Mad Men, law firms have been a staple of laundering oppression. They often neglect women’s rights and replace them with sexual harassment, embodying discrimination over standing for equality. Firms have always been tied to the stern work environment usually portrayed by low wage workers. In case you missed it, Trump has already signed an executive order that revokes women’s rights in the workplace by revoking Obama’s 2014’s Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces order, which exempts businesses from fourteen labor and civil rights laws. These exemptions place women in a vulnerable position, forcing them to be silenced when harassed, and voiceless when discriminated against. It also leaves workers in the dark when it comes to negotiations regarding fair pay. It allows for businessmen to take advantage in paying women less, assuming Trump wants a predatory work environment in this country. It’s why law firms are allowed to push for a “conservative” image and brand if they want to, even if that means discriminating against someone’s religion, gender, sexual orientation, and race.
The particular law firm I worked at was very anti-black. The majority of its secretaries, like many law firms in Atlanta, are middle-aged black women. One woman in particular told me she cut her hair once to embrace her natural roots, and she was subsequently faced with disgusted looks from the attorneys. They never told her to grow the hair back, nor did they fire her, yet they demonstrated their discriminatory roots in other ways: they stopped talking to her, looking at her, and started devaluing her space at the law firm as a secretary, but most importantly as a human being. She kept it short to this day because it defies their discriminatory ways of thinking. Her hair is her Elizabeth Eckford-inspired way of saying she belongs there and she’s not moving. We also had an instance where a black worker actually had to choose between his afro or his position at the law firm, and he ultimately gave up his afro in exchange for a roof over his head and bread to feed his family. This is the predatory work environment Trump is gearing.
Your culture, your heritage, your roots should not define your labor or your position in the workplace. Recently, one of my co-workers was told that his “flashy” ways of dressing up were not appropriate for the firm’s brand; that his dress shirt with patterns, and blue chino pants, were not conservative enough for the firm; his one earring on his right ear was not a “professional look” for a man in the office. These derogatory comments about my co-worker attempted to restrict his presentation to the gender binaries that he often defied, and restricted him of being themselves. Law firms are often places where employees have restrictions on how they should dress and should look in the work environment based on the merits of their gender. Hence, why he can’t wear his one earring because that’s “unusual” for a man in the office. Women have restrictions there as well. They aren’t allowed to show much skin, especially the knees, and I watched multiple secretaries have be sent home because of their way of dressing. Those discriminatory ways affect their paycheck at the end of the day.
The law firm I worked at is very anti-black. One of our supervisors often made distasteful jokes to which I’ve yet to understand the meaning behind. He once stated that a co-worker and I both look like “a bunch of monkeys fucking a football.” That remark devalues the labor carried in the mailroom by people of color and reinforces the racist, dehumanizing remarks acquitted by the attorneys and my supervisor. The situation in this current political diagram allows for discriminatory actions like the ones mentioned to be swept under the rug. These actions are also enforced by Trump and his executive orders, and his overall influence that is sweeping the country. It’s labeled as normal in most work places and always results in leaving the victim without justice or freedom. Not only that, but those same discriminatory remarks made by the firm allows for obstruction of minds. You’re devaluing your worker’s labor by commenting and re-defining the means to how they look, speak, and move through the workplace. We need to stand our ground and be a little fiercer like Eckford, and a little bolder like Hamer. We can’t allow for Trump’s aggression to keep empowering behavior similar to the ones exhibited by this law firm, and we can’t normalize the hate and compromise to its likeness.