Racist or Not?: ‘Love and Hip Hop’ Episode Shines Light on Workplace Discrimination

The jury's still out, but here's how to deal with a case of your own

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Love and Hip Hop castmembers Raqi Thunda and Jen "The Pen" have heated exchange. (Image: File)

On Monday, viewers watched as tensions erupted between Love and Hip Hop New York castmates Jen “the Pen” Bayer and Raqi Thunda after an uncomfortable on-air audition. After Jen told Raqi she no longer wanted to work together, Raqi told Jen to “have fun trying to get hot” to which Jen replied, “I’m white, honey. It will get it done.” While she and the Puerto Rican radio personality both played the race card and threw insults at each other during this rocky exchange, Jen’s comments about “getting on with her whiteness” left her open to public backlash, with some calling her a racist and accusing her of boasting of white privilege. She has since denied the allegations, citing anger and misunderstanding in the aftermath.

The jury’s still out whether the remarks were racially offensive or not, but the truth is, racial discrimination still exists in many aspects of life, including the workplace. In 2011, according to statistics, the “most popular” form of employment discrimination in the U.S. was racial discrimination. The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) received a total of 35,395 complaints nationwide that year. The number of complaints in 2011 is slightly higher than that of 2010 (35,890).

Racial or ethnic discrimination in the workplace can rear its head in a variety of forms, some of which can be subtle, such as an employer’s failure to hire or promote based on race, or downright obvious such as racial slurs. Whichever form it takes, racial discrimination in the workplace is strictly prohibited by a number of federal and state laws. What should you do if faced with racial discrimination at work?

Take Note

Experts recommend keeping a diary of events. Document any incidents of racism that happen to you in the workplace or that you witness. Write down names, dates, times and detailed descriptions of what occurred. If you have physical evidence, hold on to it in a secure place.

Report Quickly

Don’t ignore it. Report each racist incident that occurs to your supervisor, union steward, or human resources. If the employer hasn’t rectified the issue within a reasonable amount of time, the next step would be to notify the EEOC, an agency designated to regulate issues of discrimination in the workplace.

Find Support

Talk to colleagues who might be suffering the same problems. If they are, work out together what you want to do about them. Talk to friends who might have suffered similar problems where they work. It’s always helpful to share a problem and trying to cope with pressure on your own can be particularly stressful.

Do you think Jen was being racially insensitive? Or were both women at fault? #SoundOff and follow Jamie on Twitter @JayNHarrison.

  • I watched this episode, and I was
    shocked by Jen’s comments; I do not believe she is racists, but it will be
    difficult to be on her side after what she said to Raqi. I work at DISH, and
    this episode of Love and Hip Hop gave me and my co-workers a lot to talk about.
    Sadly, this airs the same evening my husband likes to watch his favorite sports
    teams. We fixed this problem, and bought a DISH Hopper Whole-Home HD DVR; with
    it we can watch up to 4 different HD programs on different televisions, at the
    same time. I hope Jen chooses her words more carefully the next time she is in
    an argument.

  • DEE

    I am a black woman and a teacher in majority black school. Jen only spoke the truth. There is still racism in the workplace. But let’s look at the situation. This woman was told not to do something at her workplace. She was insubordinate and unprofessional in flirting the way she did. I think that Jen’s whiteness is not the problem, but the lack of people of color having the professional standards in order to be successful. I see it everyday in my students parents. She was ignorant and tacky. Jen will be successful, not because of her color, but because she can at least follow the directives of her superiors at work.

    • Kreole

      Sorry, but Jen The Pen is well aware that she is benefiting from racism and she seems to ravel in it. I think its worst than being an actual racist because at least real racists are being honest about it. People like Jen can come down and play with us and exploit our culture and go back and enjoy their white privileges. This shows complete contempt to us as a people.

  • Our Diversity at Work

    Thank you so much for
    such great informations! When we encounter racial discrimination in the
    workplace it often feels surreal. On one side we feel like we want to snap and
    on the other side we fell like « I’m not going to make a
    fool at myself at work ! » and so we don’t say anything. From my experience, this is the worst thing to
    do because it shows your colleague that if they are being racist, nothing will
    happen to them.

    As you suggest, writing down the events is an excellent first step, not only because it give us proof but also because it make us feel like we are not crazy or making stuff

    I also compliment you for talking about the labor union. Ethnic minorities
    often don’t realize that union is a service who is really there to maintain or
    improve the conditions of their employment.

    Concretely, the labor union works to achieve common goals such as:

    1. Set the standard for wages, working conditions, benefits,

    2. Increasing the number of employees an employer hires and,

    3. Give a voice to workers in their workplace.

    This is why I think we should go a step further and get involved
    with the labor union not only to tackle discrimination in the workplace but to
    better work condition of every employee, diverse or not.

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