Thursday was mandatory review day at The Salt Lake Tribune for our nondiscrimination and anti-harassment policy. The entire newsroom was summoned.
These periodic reviews are to ensure that socially indifferent employees like me remain permanently on notice and therefore much easier to fire (or hang) if we get out of line. The reviews cannot be avoided.
Case in point is this email exchange I had with Tribune Editor Jennifer Napier-Pearce.
Me • “As the most unrepentant and discriminatory harasser in the newsroom, this is a complete waste of my time. Do I really have to go to this stupid meeting?”
Her • “Yes, especially you, and I mean it.”
I went to the meeting. But just so there was no misunderstanding, I brought Jennifer a flower, hugged her and told her that she looked lovely.
Look, I am well aware that harassment and discrimination in the workplace are serious and huge issues. My problem is that most of it fails to register on me.
It’s because I’m male, white and have a psychological condition that causes my emotional “skin” to function like Kevlar. This makes understanding the feelings of others problematic for me.
I don’t have to worry about being harassed or discriminated against because most of the time, my color, gender and emotional condition have worked FOR me. In fact, so has my religion. I was hired by The Tribune as a cultural lampoonist in part because I AM Mormon.
The class was led by Utah Media Group human resources guy Dave Curtis. I’m glad I went. It was because of him that I realized how vulnerable I truly am.
Unbeknownst to me, I belong to several protected classes of people, specifically age, marital status and — here’s the important one — genetic information.
I perked up at that last one because genetically I am part Neanderthal. I have actual proof in the form of DNA testing.
That’s right, smart alecks. If you think you can discriminate against me because I’m brutish, ill-mannered, badly groomed, inclined to violence, fascinated by fire, or …
Apparently, I was saying this out loud because my reverie was broken when Jennifer told me to be quiet and listen to what Dave had to say.
Turns out it was important. There ARE people who sexually harass and racially discriminate against others. And the victims often feel helpless to do anything about it.
Watching the news, there have been times of late when I’ve been ashamed — not for being part Neanderthal but for being male.
It’s beyond me what some guys think they can get away with. I’m a below-average male, and it’s still never occurred to me to grab a woman.
My reluctance isn’t based on the possibility of a violent response, or that I’ll get in trouble, but rather on love. Not for myself or others, but for my family. My wife is the center of my world. I wouldn’t want my behavior to hurt her.
If you can’t behave yourself because it’s the law or because you lack self-respect, or because someone might (legally or not) beat the crap out of you, at least consider the feelings of those who rely on you to be better than you are.