Speak Up: Responding to Everyday Bigotry

What Can I Do About Bigoted Corporate Policy?

'I Don't Want To Get In Trouble'

A Latino family stops at a fast-food restaurant where a Latina employee greets them at the counter. The husband orders, "Dos del numero uno y dos del numero cuatro, por favor."

The clerk responds, "Can you repeat that in English, please?"

The husband repeats the order in English, then adds, "But you speak Spanish; you have an accent just like mine."

The clerk looks over her shoulder and says, "Yes, I do, but I'm not supposed to speak Spanish here; I could get in trouble with my supervisor."

On the drive home, the man's 4-year-old daughter is crying.

They pull over to see what's wrong, and the little girl whispers in her mother's ear, in Spanish, "I don't know how to speak a lot of English, and I don't want to get in trouble."

Discuss, don't blame. Discuss the policy with front-line employees, asking for more information about what lies behind the policy. "What's the problem if we want to speak Spanish? We don't harm anyone. Do you know why they have this rule? What is behind it?"

Move up the ladder. Ask to speak to the on-site manager, then ask that person to explain the policy further and describe why it exists. Request contact information for the owner or corporate headquarters. Also ask what the formal complaint procedure is, then use it.

Get it in writing. Ask to see written store policy, either from the on-site manager or from the owner or corporate headquarters. Ask who ultimately determines the policy, then pursue changes through that person.

Appeal to the media. When companies are unresponsive to your inquiries, take the issue to your local paper or to the national press. Seek out journalists who write about race relations or community diversity. Explain what has happened, and provide documentation.