Hubby Converses With Workplace Racists

A bit of geographical/demographic information might be a good place to start. I live in a rural community, in MidWesr America-- the Bible/NASCAR Belt. Small town America has its charms, but often has negative sides. In our area, the bad side happens to be a rampant streak of Hillbillyism.

My husband works as a deputy warden in a prison, which is admittedly a type of place not generally famed for its racial sensitvity. This particular one has a history of a Good Ole Boy-type atmosphere. My husband is not popular amongst the set who still cling with misplaced nostalgia to that era. “Minority lovin’ College Boy liberal” is (politely paraphrased) what they sometimes call him.

Today, he recived a complaint that one of the prison doctors had been been repeatedly mocked by some of the officers. When he entered a room, the officers would pound out a drum rythym on the table and start singing a Native American war chant. My husband asked the doctor about this, who confirmed that the officers had been doing this to him for a while now.

Hubby called them into his office, and repeated what he’d heard they were doing. They vehemently denied it.

“Why do you think I called you in here about this?” Hubby asked.

Sullenly, one of the officers said, “You’re going to accuse us of doing something wrong, and punish us, but we didn’t do it.”

My husband smiled. “Of course you didn’t. I know you guys, and you’re not stupid. You know that if I ever caught anyone doing something like that, I’d ruin their careers. I’d make it my personal mission in life to see to it that they lost their jobs. As you guys know, I won’t stand for that racist bullshit in the workplace. If any of you guys were racists, you WOULD be punished, but we don’t have to worry about that, do we? Do you understand what I’m saying to you?”

They all nodded. Hubby sent them back to their posts.

An hour later, the Union Representative poked his head in the door. He’s used to working with my husband, and they have a good relationship.

“Hey,” he said, “Some of the officers are saying you called them in here, chewed their asses, and threatened them. What happened?”

“I told them that if they were racists, I’d take their jobs,” Hubby replied. “But they claim they’re not, so where’s the problem?”

The Union Rep shrugged. “I don’t see a problem.”

The next day, apparently after some time to think it over, and most likely being told by their Rep that they didn’t have a grievance, the officers asked to come into my husband’s office. He bade them to be seated, and one of them spoke up, sounding nervous but earnest.

“Uh, sir, we’re not saying anything happened, but if it DID, it wasn’t meant to be offensive-- it was a joke, and, uh, it’ll never happen again.”

Hubby nodded. “I understand completely. Thank you.”

As the officers headed towards the door, my husband called, “Guys?”

They stopped.

Hubby shuffled some papers. “He’s not Native American.”

“What?” The one who had made the apology stared at him. “What do you mean?”

“He’s not Native American. He’s Hispanic, you fucking idiot. You’d think the fact that his last name is Gonzales might have given you a clue.”

Your husband rocks like a motherfuck.

That is all.

Your husband sounds like a cool deputy warden. I’m blessed to work with a cool deputy warden too, and a decent warden also.

But we too are in the rural farmbelt, and our officers (or guards, for you layfolk) are drawn from the rural countryside, and tend to reflect the values there, both good and bad. And coming from that background, the only ethnic minorities these officers have ever met in any meaningful way are inmates. Which really re-inforces the idea that if the only blacks/latinos/hmong/ojibway you know are criminals, then all blacks/latinos/hmong/ojibway are criminals.

As a result, the rare ethnic minority who comes in as a new or temporary worker usually draws a lot of attention from security staff, until they realize he’s an employee, not an inmate.

One unfortunate new worker made the perfectly natural mistake of wearing green scrubs in to do clinical work. Sadly the scrubs resembled closely the green outfits worn by the inmates. My oh my, did he get hassled, just trying to get doors opened or closed to get from place to place inside. Not maliciously! But every other officer mistook him for an inmate!

But people can learn, and the staff is getting better.

Thanks for sharing!

Cool story! I just toured our local jail today, which houses the 15th largest inmate population in the United States.


Please tell your husband that it is people like him that will finally make corrections a profession. You should be proud of him. He’ll meet a lot of resistance but he’ll be standing when the knuckle-draggers are gone. Tell him thanks from a Native American who wouldn’t have been as understanding of the taunts. And…I don’t have a Hispanic surname, so at least the morons would’ve been heckling the right crowd.


I passed on the compliment. He said, modestly, “Well, I try.”

I’ve often told him he has to write a book one of these days. Some of the stories he comes home with are hilarious. If you have a good sense of the absurd, it can be a very . . . er, . . . entertaining place to work.

Those who don’t have that quirky sense of humor often find themselves extremely frustrated. I’ve often thought that they ought to start screening for this. They could put a question on the application along the lines of: “Do you think Monty Python is funny?” Or, “What is your favorite * Far Side* cartoon and why? If you cannot answer this question, go home.”

Or maybe a Blog.

What chatelaine said. :smiley:

I don’t think that last bit was such a good idea. I imagine those dingalings knew full well that what they were doing was wrong, and they had to swallow their pride and apologize under threat of losing their jobs. Think of how you would feel if you had to do something like that in order to keep your job. Humiliating them under such circumstances is not going to create peace in the office. In fact, it’ll just reinforce their idea that your husband thinks he’s better and smarter than they are, which he probably does.

Also, someone named Gonzales may well be of Mestizo descent and therefore have a good amount of Indian blood in him, maybe enough to look like someone’s stereotypical idea of an Indian.

Well, if I said such a bigoted, racist, boneheaded sort of thing at work, I’d fear losing my job, too. And justly so. And I’d deserve every bit of embarrassment and humiliation heaped upon me for being so blatantly racist. The workplace is not the place to express one’s opinions of other races, or ethnicities, etc. Explaining such behavior by saying, “Well, his last name and his appearance *could * mean he’s a member of this group” doesn’t justify it, at all.

Humiliating them is exactly what needed to be done. They apparently had no qualms about doing it to someone else. Perhaps they needed a taste of their own medicine.

And I’m sorry, but Lissa’s husband is better and smarter than they are. It’s about time those fools realize it.

“Hillbillyism?” :dubious: Sounds like the OP has a bigotry problem as well.

Do you often hear things like that, where you are? Or is it rare?

yeah, she should said “Hillwilliamism”.


Would you ask your husband to sign up as a Doper here? That would completely rock. :smiley:

I see nothing wrong with applying that name to any person who is racist, xenophobic and willfully ignorant. “Hillbillyism” is a choice, not a socio-economic class. Nor did I say that everyone around here is like that.

There are a number of people who proudly reject “tree-hugging hippie crap” like racial sensitivity, culture, and “book learnin’”-- these are, in my opinion, are aptly described as “hillbillies.”

So, yes, I guess I am a bit bigotted against those kinds of people. It’s behavior for which there is no excuse.

[QUOE=Hyperelastic]I don’t think that last bit was such a good idea. I imagine those dingalings knew full well that what they were doing was wrong, and they had to swallow their pride and apologize under threat of losing their jobs. Think of how you would feel if you had to do something like that in order to keep your job.

Well, personally, I can’t imagine myself in their shoes because I can’t imagine doing what they did, but I have had, on occasion, to swallow my pride in order to keep a job. I’ve been forced to apologize when I believed I did nothing wrong. (I think many people who have worked in customer service have faced this.)

Pride doesn’t feed your family. While I would not endure being degraded by an employer, having too much pride is dangerous. Any man who would refuse to make an apology because of his pride doesn’t deserve to keep his job, anyway, and has a very hard road ahead of him in life.

I disagree. Word has gotten around quickly that my husband will not tolerate certain kind of behavior, and it’s been effective.

He’s not there to be popular. He’s there to make sure that the prison is run safely and efficiently. Even those who don’t like him will admit he’s fair, honest and doesn’t play favorites.

I should certainly hope that he is.


He may even be a full-blooded Tarahumara, Otomi, or member of another indigenous tribe that survives to this day. Just as there have been American Indians with such “Anglo” names as Jim Thorpe and Billy Mills, Roberto Gonzales could be from a family that adopted (or was forcibly saddled with) a Spanish surname.

Nope-- he really is full-blooded Hispanic, with no Native ancestry of which he is aware. (My husband knows him.) He just happens to “look” like a Native American.