It's funny, the unspoken truce between women and black folk in a professional setting. Today, the unspoken was brought to the surface. I got a call this morning from one of the (only) black junior engineers. Seems when the company put him on notice that he had 60 days to improve his "behavior and communication skills" or be fired, I was the one he thought to call. We barely know each other, and these days, we work in completely different regions. But he remembers me, and I guess I wasn't the only one who felt the connection form when he worked at my office -- he figures I'm the only one who can help him play the game. And hell, I probably am.

He sent me the feedback he received -- improve communication skills with little to no misunderstandings amongst peers and suits alike. He currently works in the most racist part of the country. There is nothing the hell wrong with his ability to communicate -- he speaks plain English, has no drawl, and doesn't ghetto-fabulize words. He is a smart guy and can comprehend technical concepts just fine -- he has two more higher-level certifications than the majority of the boys club at his office. The dude is even going for his CISSP now (and while the haxing side of me wanted to laugh, my professional side kind of liked it). Our customers love him, but his problem lies in his peers and (some) supervisors finding him to be "too sensitive". I would say this is an inaccurate description of the dude -- maybe you shouldn't make jokes about minorities taking over the country when you've got a minority in your car, you fucking idiot. Same idiots are the type to make stupid women jokes with me. I normally don't say anything. My tall black friend did -- directly, but in a respectful and non-threatening way. Unfortunately, he *is* a tall black man, which, to your lowest common denominator, is threat enough... but this guy? He's a fucking pussycat. Unfortunately, his standing up for himself was enough for the other guy to start setting traps for him (example: sending a meeting invite at 3AM for a meeting to happen 5 hours later at 8AM, and then reporting it when the guy doesn't show up, etc.). Now, tall dark & handsome is getting punished.

He doesn't understand how things escalated this far, but I do. So for the next month, everyday after work, I'll be teaching him how to speak and act [white]boys club and how to not be "so sensitive" when in the presence of morons. He's also going to show me some advanced multicast and timed routing-foo, and I'll be showing him some Cisco physical security / surveillance-foo. Just to make things fun and a little less stressful during this shitty time in his career. But the main lessons will be "speaking [white]boys club", of which I am the grand master-fucking-flash at. Social dynamics are my thing.

I shouldn't have been too surprised in front of him upon hearing his story -- the both of us have to adjust and act normal and like there is nothing the hell wrong, and displaying my initial shock in front of him was absolutely the wrong way for me to act in his presence. He's a younger guy and he's not so used to handling this sort of bullshit. I am, and I know the damage that my initial ACK can do -- it can make him unfocused and unreceptive and rebellious, when he obviously wants to save his job (at least for now). I shouldn't have let his phone call and the content catch me so off-guard, or my training him in letting this shit slide will fail, and lets face it -- he's going to have to know how to adjust, because he's going to find this everywhere.

It shouldn't really surprise me, or anyone else who has been in this community long enough. Remember IRC? Phone confs? These things are still around, and its still the same folk making prank calls and saying "nigga" on the end of the line. It's still the same folk harassing operators as being the dumb sluts of the telephony world. It's just VoIP confs and silc servers, now.

I really hope I'm able to help this dude. I joked with him a bit, saying if we can't save his job via playing their rules, maybe I could fuck with the guy who is trying to get him fired in another way -- have him touch my leg and claim sexual harassment to HR. We both laughed, and he knew I wasn't serious, but I'm not quite as sure of that as he is. Like I said. It's an unspoken dynamic that black folk and females stick together in the professional IT setting. We'd both rather not play dirty, though...despite the assholes' own lack of cleanliness.

All in a days work.