“I only feel safe around white people,” a supervising attorney said to a group of lawyer colleagues at a work happy hour. The conversation had drifted to where folks lived, and the supervising attorney felt compelled to share that their comfort was limited to white spaces. Immediately, my chest tightened, my body got warm, and my throat constricted. I was unable to respond or articulate my own feelings about the statement directly when it felt like it mattered the most—in the moment. Years later, this comment still rings in my head and reverberates in my body.
Because of this supervisor’s workplace authority, natural questions and concerns arise. How does their perception of safety impact their choices at work, how work is assigned, who they interact with and myriad other conscious or unconscious decisions? It wasn’t my first experience with this type of microaggression, and over time, these experiences compound on one another.