Not Another Racist Joke
A Rose, a Cactus and a Weed walk into a bar. The bartender asks, “How’s work?”.
Rose eagerly responds first., “It is great! Everyone loves me! I fit in among the employees and I am growing very tall. Taller than most of the others. In fact, they barely notice or even mention my thorns! I am so proud to be in such a naturally diverse community. There are red ones like me, yellow, pink and white ones of course. I am appreciated when I work alone and even when I am collaborating alongside a dozen others in a team.”
Cactus had been listening to the Rose and awaited their turn., “Well, my experience is slightly different. I have been on the job for years, but my growth has been slow over time. Unlike you Rose, they can’t help but to notice my thorns. In fact, I am often approached with a discomfort or fear that I may harm them or at best, be kept at a distance only to be admired from afar, like a spectacle of unique accents to the work environment. My job says it wants to recruit and cultivate more like me, but it’s hard to believe that. For the few Cacti that are around, it seems that we are contained in our own pots and moved around often to temporary and unnatural environments. They even struggle with what to call us when two or more are together.
See I come from a family that had to produce, save and store the resources that come at the ease of disposal for most. My people have survived for generations in environments that most Roses, no offense, would find uncomfortable. We rely on the strengths of our spine and core values for our survival. It is a struggle at work to get the others to respect our similarities and honor our complex differences, when our people are displaced and further removed from our southern roots and borders, to conform from a “savage”, to a more acceptable North American hybrid. I don’t fit in the culture, nor do I feel like I belong. I often wonder if everyone is expecting that I will be more like them. Like they are all thinking, “Kill the cactus, save the plant.”.
Weed nodded in agreement with the Cactus and gave an update., “Now like you Rose, I am recognized immediately and have experienced some substantial growth. Almost fast tracked. The problem is that I am growing in the wrong places. I constantly hear, “All plants matter”, but how I show up or not, is minimized or controlled by policies, preferences and patriarchy. Just like you Cactus, there is fear of me attaching myself to other roses and causing harm. My reputation does precede me and I do not deny the ability for Weeds to contribute to loss, but that loss comes with a cost for everyone. What outcasts me the most, is the inability for folks to see my true value. I have a unique set of skills and experiences that actually allow me to establish myself, protect and restore the very foundation that allows others to thrive. I rarely get the credit, because Roses chose to believe that their success is by their own doing, completely oblivious to the reality that it is off the backs of the weeds.
There is so much turnover in my position and I have witnessed too many forceful removals. The truth is that the weed, or concept of our identity is a subjective value judgement. I am a product of my work environment indeed, but seemingly, the only threat and tenacious nuisance. Here is the kicker. My presence is justified or tolerated with the illusion of inclusion and the only benefit is for those who use weeds for their own entertainment and recreation.
So I must deal with the office chatter about how the Roses’ hands were forced to pull and get rid of the weeds at work, but welcomed them in to add a provocative dynamic for a weekend cannabis trip. I am a threat because in order to survive, I have to compete for the light, assert my position, placement and ultimate value, all the while witnessing the attempts to “build strategy” to solve “the weed problem” or master weed management. But the reality is, the weed will never be a rose and have the privilege to grow at a comparable rate, nor can we ever be content with accepting the fact the qualification of being a “diverse” rose included not having a Black variety.
Rose, you have no idea how much you need a few weeds in your world to manage the damage and destruction that comes from how much you and other roses absorb and continue to take from the black and brown soil that sustains you. We make your thorns more accepting than the Cacti and ultimately, forms you to be plucked and pruned to become a symbol for sentiment and pride. The truth is that weeds have been robbed of the credit for our work since the beginning and it’s like we are the only ones who want this narrative changed. So as long as the beauty of the garden is preserved, you can erase the existence of the weeds right?”.
The Bartender leans over and asks, “But don’t you all work together?”.
For folks who at first glance, assumed this would be just another bar joke, I am saddened to report that there is no punchline. Too often, many employees are divorced from the experiences of their colleagues, particularly, those colleagues that show up differently than they do racially. I ask you to read this and think deeply about who you are at work: the Rose, Cactus or the Weed.
There is no gardening without humility. — Alfred Austin