Black and White

By Lloyd Graff

I am not a racist. I am not a Racist! I am not a RACIST! I wanted to hire a person to call people in the machining business to prospect for surplus machinery for sale and find potential customers. I decided to place an ad on a local Internet classifieds page mostly used by people looking for a plumber or exchanging muffin recipes. This approach had worked beautifully two months ago in locating a new factory employee whose wife saw our wanted ad an hour after we had placed it. She called, set up an appointment for her husband, and I hired him on the spot.

The area I live in is predominantly African American, so I anticipated calls mainly from Black women. And I anticipated my problem. How would my 99% White clientele treat a woman who speaks with a “Black accent”? Just writing that sentence offends me. I hate that I care about the reaction of biased phone answerers, but then I think of myself and how I unconsciously respond to “Black English” when I hear it. Viscerally I recognize it immediately and discount the speaker.

My job is to run a business and make money. If a “Black accent” makes a potential customer tune out the caller, that caller has failed in that mission.

Does that mean I have to rule out hiring a pleasant glib telephone prober who happens to sound “Black” on the phone? Can she help how she sounds? Does it occur to her that the community she will be connecting with might reject her because of an initial reaction to her voice?

Maybe I am all wrong about this. Maybe it is my own deep-seated racism speaking to me and the machining audience does not notice it or care. I don’t know.

I do know that my own racism plagues me every day. I hate my own biases. I deliberately try to behave as if I am pure of heart and mind on race. But that doesn’t get me off the hook.

My next-door neighbors are Black. My neighborhood schools are comprised primarily of Black students. My wife’s educational therapy practice has mostly Black kids. But I am not color blind and I never will be, I regret to say.

I am stuck with being who I am. I can feel something, but I don’t have to act on it. I don’t have to discriminate.

And then I hear the voice on the phone and I am silently tormented by my wicked personal racial facts of life. The voice won’t work for this job. I know it. Damn it. I know it. I hired a White woman with a “White voice.” Racism stinks. Racism is awful. Lloyd, you are a racist.

Question: Do you feel racist sometimes?

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30 thoughts on “Black and White

  1. Anon

    I don’t just feel racist sometimes, I know I am racist. I don’t like the thoughts that cross my mind and would never express them, but they’re there. I used to live in an all white area so it just really wasn’t an issue. Now that I live in an extremely racially charged area I see what I’m really made of, and it’s not pretty.

  2. Tony

    I hate the fact that I’m racist. The reason that I know I’m racist is that the first thing I notice about a black person is that they’re black. I wish that wasn’t true but it is.

  3. Rich

    I have a customer that has a receptionist that answers the phone ” may I ax who’s calling?” I find it sad & hilarious. Is this being racist or should you have enough of an education that you can pronouce a 3 letter word?

    1. Josh

      Rich, it’s not about education. It’s a dialect. Do you criticize southerners for their drawl? Do you criticize British people for pronouncing “with” “wiv” or saying “Oi!” instead of “Hey!” or “aluminEum” instead of “aluminum”?

      Yes, I do believe your statement is at worst somewhat racist and at best somewhat ignorant and prejudiced.

  4. Don D

    It’s not racist.It’s a matter of being able to communicate effectively to customers. Yes, if you cannot speak clearly no matter what your color is the folks with the money will merely laugh at your business. I am certain you can hire a someone in the neighborhood who is willing to speak with clarity when shown how

  5. Tom Hogge

    So those that admit they are racist. I suspect they are white.
    I wonder if responders, if they were black would fess up?
    Probably a two way street. And that is a major problem .

    1. Josh

      The difference being that racist black people have never unleashed a campaign of murder and terror on the white population of this country.

      1. Joe L

        Josh, that is laughable. Why is black on white crime not a “hate crime”? BLM is not just about “up with black”- it’s equally “down with white”. JMO

      2. Josh


        The Irish were persecuted by other white folks, not black people. What are you talking about?

        Black on white crimes that are racially motivated are actually hate crimes and there have been black people convicted of hate crimes on numerous occasions, contrary to what you might believe. Seriously, look it up.

        You are wrong about BLM, read less biased media.

  6. Steve

    Your gut instinct is created by a lifetime of experience. Your sub conscience is making decisions for your best interest based on that experience. It isn’t hateful. You are naturally looking out for yourself It sucks it isn’t always whats best for everybody but you make decisions everyday that aren’t in the best interest of other white people and that’s ok. suddenly it’s different for people of other races? Quit apologizing .

    1. Josh

      That’s not how implicit biases work. They aren’t necessarily based on experience and don’t necessarily reflect your world view. The point is in recognizing that the black dialect is not inferior in the same way that a British or Canadian accent or southern drawl are not inferior, it’s just different. I have a hard time understanding someone from Liverpool or deep Alabama too, but the accent tells me nothing about the person I’m conversing with other than where they’re from.

      1. John Craychee

        “The difference being that racist black people have never unleashed a campaign of murder and terror on the white population of this country”
        So you don’t refute the existence of black racism—you just try to excuse it.

        “Doug, The Irish were persecuted by other white folks, not black people. What are you talking about?”
        What’s he talking about? It’s simple Josh–he is refuting your justification of black racism by pointing out the fact that the Irish were subjected to overwhelming bias hatred and discrimination yet they didn’t end up hating the rest of the population generations later.

        “You are wrong about BLM, read less biased media.”
        This is laughable. Simply Google “BLM anti-white quotes” for a taste of BLM’s white hatred. Be prepared for disgusting language. Read less biased media Josh.

        In response to Steve, Josh says: “That’s not how implicit biases work….”. Josh is apparently well versed on implicit bias. But it’s obvious from Steve’s comment that he isn’t referring to implicit bias at all—he’s just talking about subconscious decisions. Not all sub conscious activity is implicit bias (if in fact any of it is). But implicit bias is the current hot thing in liberal circles, so it’s understandable that Josh was eager to show his implicit bias bona fides. If you’re not familiar with the term, “implicit bias”, you need to know that it’s an important weapon in the Left’s arsenal. Briefly, it’s a concept cooked up 20 years ago by academic social psychologists and it’s currently all the rage among those who consider themselves to be sophisticated liberals. Its basic claim is that we are all filled with biases (read, prejudices) that are so buried in our subconscious that we’re not even aware of them. Of course in the case of white people those biases comprise a litany of racist sentiments. Don’t bother trying to argue that you don’t have any such biases—they’re completely subconscious. You can’t tell they exist. But they’re there—our betters on the academic Left have told us so, so just accept it. Since you can’t really argue against it it’s a pretty handy tool for the Left don’t you think?

        The Left has adopted implicit bias as a primary weapon in their continual class warfare and identity politics. They use it and its racial implications to drive a wedge between the white and black community. But more importantly, they use it in their never-ending campaign to convince the black community of their victimhood at the hands of conservative whites and that they need government—Leftist government—to protect them. This, of course, is the Left’s overriding goal for the black community—use any means available to make them dependent on the government, and thus beholden to the Left, their supposed protectors, but in reality, their government dependence plantation masters. This has been going on since the days of LBJ and unfortunately has been very successful. It has virtually destroyed the black family and has harmed the black community greatly.

        Implicit bias as a weapon has been mobilized in a number of ways but none more important and effective than in academia. It is fed to class after class of impressionable young students as if it is gospel (of course to gullible liberals it is gospel). They accept it un-critically and then go out in the world and spread it to others not previously exposed. Implicit bias is likewise accepted without question by wannabe hip liberal types, who also spread the gospel that all of white America, is racist.

        It’s important to point out that the whole concept of implicit bias—the whole implicit bias “movement”— serves no real purpose other than to further the Leftist agenda. Eager liberals will tell you that it will eliminate prejudice and “make the world a better place”. But it takes a truly naive liberal to believe that you can change supposed biases that are so deeply buried they’re not even discernible and that that in turn will change outward behavior.

  7. Josh

    Lloyd, I think what you’re describing here is implicit bias. I believe that we all have implicit biases whether or not we like that they exist. The important thing in my mind, and what you’re already doing, is to recognize that we have these implicit biases within us and work against them with rational thought. You know you have this unwarranted bias against people who sound a certain way and you have acknowledged that bias so as to not let it affect your behavior or your opinions about people. That doesn’t make you racist, it just makes you human. I think one crosses the line into racism when they start believing their implicit or explicit biases are the truth and acting upon them, letting their biases shape their beliefs and behavior. I think it’s pretty obvious that you’re not a racist Lloyd. While I certainly do heavily disagree with you sometimes I’ve never gotten that impression from you. The fact that you care about issues like this and acknowledge them speaks volumes for your character.

  8. Bill Cox

    Great insights – consider doing the whole hiring process by phone for this position. I don’t think you want someone that sounds like a white hillbilly either. You know what you need for this role and you need to find that person – they could be young, old, obese, disabled, or even black – they just need to sound professional to your audience.

    I think that is fair and the best we can do.

  9. Randy

    You are hiring for a phone voice, all interaction is over the phone, unless you expect to use skype (not even sure how to spell that – non tech savvy). But I react to phone sales calls I suspect are generated from India, it is simply too difficult to understand sometimes and I don’t make the effort unless it is a call I initiated. I have black, white and Hispanic employees and applicants. I am looking for a level of interest, effort and work ethic. Communication is a key factor both verbal and written in some cases. I think an Australian, New Zealand or British accent is most pleasant in commentators or story tellers. But there are lots of Jamaican and English speakers with that come in lots of ethnic shapes, sizes and colors. You have a product to sell, the challenge is getting the chance to be heard, if it puts you off, and you believe your customer may react the same, then it is a business decision, over a racial one. I’m sure you can find someone in any shape, color and size that can fit your desired goal.

    If you determine that they fit the goal and you disqualify for color or size, you have a bigger problem.

  10. Doug

    I’m old school, so my guiding beliefs in racism are governed by the MLK Jr. goal of where his children will live in world where they won’t be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. I’m very comfortable with my lack of racism based on that standard. However, when you receive a phone call, this colorblind interaction does bring out a gray area. No one particularly enjoys a conversation where you have actual difficulty in understanding what the individual is saying. I’m perfectly fine with a call where someone wants to “ax me a question” as long as I can understand the actual question. Frankly, when I hear the caller is making an effort to speak clearly I am happy to speak with them with the belief they are of good character.

  11. Lloyd Graff

    I discriminated actually, not inherently against a black person but a perceived “black accent” which I felt would turn off the hypothetical audience. I would be fine with hiring a black person for the job but the black accent would be a decisive negative. This is troublesome for me because it is an acknowledgement of my own racism in my real operative behavior.

    1. Josh

      I still believe that the fact that you’re willing to acknowledge your implicit bias and try to correct it makes you better than most Lloyd.

  12. Russ Ethridge

    Is it about race or about presentation? You’d hire the African American newscaster who speaks the king’s english but you might not hire a brilliant bubba who uses “ain’t” and “ya’ll” or the industrious Indian who says “woicemail” instead of “voicemail”. You might even prefer someone with a British accent because studies show that US english speakers attribute more smarts to those with that accent even though there is no evidence to support that impression. Focus on performance rather than race or regionalism. That is the first step to becoming colorblind.

  13. Robert

    You are brave to be so honest. Thank you. I think I sometimes over compensate in the other direction to prove that I am not racist. But does that mean I am being a reverse racist? I was brought up to believe and do believe that we are all equal and the same. I believe that and subscribe to giving every human being the same chance until each individual proves otherwise. I do not make my impressions on groups of people.

    The fact that you recognize that there are performance characteristics that differ on a person to person basis, does not make you a racist, but rather in touch with reality. Not every person is right for every job opportunity.

  14. Noah Graff

    I, like many here, say that this isn’t necessarily a racism issue. It is an issue of if you think a person’s VOICE will help buy/sell machines. I suppose this is a case of being “color deaf” as opposed to being color blind, because we are judging people solely by the tone of their voice, rather than their skin tone.

    FYI, Lloyd (my dad) was trying to give all the applicants more of an open mind than I was. I listened in on the interviews and after a few minutes or less I knew if a person sounded like someone we wanted or not. He actually suggested that I was racist because I dismissed the candidates so quickly. He spoke on the phone with these people quite a long time to learn about them and give them a chance.

    Like Bill Cox said, if the person sounded like a hillbilly or had some other accent that didn’t represent our company in a way I wanted then my verdict was no.

    And who knows what race the people actually were. Likely they were African American but there is a small chance that they just have a “Black accent” for lack of a more articulate term.

    Am I racist? Probably unfortunately. It’s human nature I suppose.

    Was this a case of race discrimination?

    I prefer to classify this as “voice discrimination.”

  15. allen

    Hey Lloyd, settle down.

    The only form of racism that’s worth agonizing over is the sort that’s set into law. Well, that and the consequences of racist law like the Ku Klux Klan of yesteryear when it could depend on local, and even state, law enforcement to look the other way when they engaged in violence.

    Inasmuch as you seem to be an enthusiastic and successful practitioner of free enterprise you’ll be happy to know it’s free enterprise that’s the relentless enemy of bigotry.

    If a Palestinian guy showed up who could make a screw machine do everything including get on its hind legs and bark would you hire him? I’m thinking, yeah. In a heartbeat. How about a black guy? I’ll give odds the answer’s the same.

    A major part of the reason for Jim Crow laws was that you just couldn’t depend on people to toe the racist line when their livelihood’s at stake. So you take the decision out of their hands and punish them if they cross the line anyway.

    So buck up. You’re part of the solution, not part of the problem.

    But you’re also suffering from an unrecognized slavishness to a fad that’s sweeping the nation.

    The problem for a not-insignificant portion of our population is that the Civil Rights era is over and that leaves them without any heroic moral struggles in which to engage. No riding with the Freedom Riders. No march to Selma. None of that stuff.

    But just because we elected a black guy to the presidency doesn’t mean the struggle against racism has to end. If you’re inventive enough you can discover new realms of racism to oppose. There’s institutional racism and unconscious racism. There’s probably others as well.

    Every one of them provides an opportunity for courageous resistance and moral outrage. It’s like being part of the Civil Rights struggle without any of the danger.

    Almost as good as the lack of any real danger is that you don’t have to prove a damned thing. That racism is soaked into the very fiber of society is beyond discussion and any discussion of the subject is proof of racism.

    That’s the bad news. The good news is that since you’re running a business a self-indulgence like agonizing over the horrifying possibility that lurking somewhere in the depths of your soul a racist is struggling to get free is a self-indulgence you can’t afford.

  16. Lloyd Graff

    Self indulgent racism may be accurate, but can’t you give a jerk a little space to fret.
    And, can you please give me the name of that brilliant Palestinian Wickman rebuilder. I could not care less about his or her accent.


  17. Geno DeVandry

    I appreciate you making me think. I never considered myself a racist. Quite a few of my employees are Hispanic. They are like my family. I have coached youth soccer for 30 years and have had several Black families on my teams. Most of these people are well educated and are awesome people. I have had situations where I have identified someone as a Black person only because they were in a crowd of White people and someone was looking for them. I wondered if that was offensive. Truthfully I have decided that I am predjudice against life styles. For me it is not about color but more about charector.

  18. Kim

    I’m reminded of George Bernard Shaw’s play “Pygmalion” and it’s adaptation, “My Fair Lady.” As others have mentioned, it’s not “just” a race thing. It’s about the voice, and ability to speak in a manner that is going to be well received by the person on the other end of the line. I’ll admit that I am more willing to listen to a telemarketer with a nice British accent than one with an Indian accent. I imagine that someone living in the United States who speaks with an Indian accent would have a very hard time finding a job at a local call center for the same reason you didn’t want a certain accent for your employee.

  19. Sara

    Everyone read or re-read John Craychee comments. He is spot on in every aspect and so few take time to research this subject. Thus the “Left” not Liberals gain control their only goal and families and groups suffer under the guise of help and opportunities. Those opportunities decrease from generation to generation producing unexplained anger and rage. It’s a control plan folks don’t fall in the trap. To others and your own self be true!!! Never fails.


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