Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Sexism, Racism And Customers

If you do not believe sexism and racism are deeply embedded in our culture, then I'd urge you to spend a couple of days in customer service. I've seen it before in other places of work, but now that I work for a charity serving a very diverse client base, I have to say I am truly depressed by how openly it's professed.

Today a lady phoned and the first thing she said was "Thank God it's a man, the women you have there can't seem to understand simple concepts". Now I had to bite my lip and not give her a verbal lashing over the phone, but she is just one of many. No man has ever said anything sexist over the phone to me about women. But women seem unable to STOP themselves being sexist against their own gender. Be it a woman who wanted someone to come put up a shelf "As we don't have a man here in the office" to this most recent stupid comment... it's everywhere.

Racism is even more common. I encounter open racism from customers about others (be it colleagues, neighbours or contractors) every day. They don't even hide it, or say it obliquely. They just come out and say it. Whites against blacks. South Asians against blacks. Blacks against Arabs. It is universal and disturbing. I sometimes find myself forgiving the old, white folks who phone up and mutter on about some such person of some such race. I know I shouldn't but I just think that the miserable old sod doesn't know any better. But when I hear some lady of Pakistani origin talking about her Somalian neighbour as if they were murderers, I can't quite believe it. She must have experienced some form of intolerance in her life. How can she go and dish it out to someone else based not on their actions but on their origins?

And then I struggle. My customer service minded self tells my good citizen side to keep quiet, let it go and just deal with the customer and get rid of them. But inside I want to scream "WHAAAAAAAAAT DID YOU JUST SAY????" I want to shout at them, tell them there is no place in this world for such openly expressed hatred for others. But I don't...

I confront tenants all the time over their aggressive behaviour and swearing. Unfailingly they back down and change how they speak and what they say. I think it's time I stopped rolling over and letting these backward thinking folk get away with their prejudices. So from tomorrow I promise to confront people about what they say to strangers over the telephone.

If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist


  1. Hi mate

    I think you might like the posting I am just adding to go live tomorrow morning. It's called...

    The Importance of Being English

  2. As a unionist, I'm already not liking the title unless it's ironic! ;)

  3. Anonymous12:53 pm

    You think it is bad on the other side of the pond? You should try living in Amerika. If you are an elderly Latino, gay, agnostic, liberal-progressive it is almost impossible to live in this society without encountering several of these overt and hateful confrontations on a daily basis.
    you are right in so many ways...I just want to know when the young people will start to become more tolerant...the older folks, well, they are a lost cause.