One day not long after the 2016 US presidential election, a white senior colleague asked me—the only Black tenure-line faculty in my college at that time—how Black people felt realizing that racism still exists in America. I was annoyed by his question. This colleague never spoke to me; yet he felt at ease asking me to speak on behalf of all Black people in the United States. Why did he expect me to have a pat answer? Did he think I had taken a scientific poll of Black people’s reactions to the election?

I had not. Nevertheless, the imbalance of power between my colleague and myself made it imprudent to show my annoyance, so I answered that Black people never thought racism had ended. Not only do we know it still exists, I told him, but we also continue to experience it, often in our own workplaces.

He was shocked.

He had what I have come to call the “not here” syndrome—denying that racism is a problem in your own organization, even when you are willing to acknowledge it as prevalent in society, outside your own organization or home. The “not here” syndrome is at work when someone bemoans Trump’s election but confidently declares, as this colleague did, “There’s no racism here; at least none that I’ve seen.” Racism was only “out there, not here.” Ironically, while my colleague trusted me to represent Black people’s views on the racism that Trump and his supporters so boldly expressed, he did not trust me to speak about what I have personally experienced as the only Black faculty member at our school. His epiphany that racism persists in the United States left him unconvinced that it is a problem at our own university. And there was nothing I could say to convince him otherwise.

Read the full article about workplace racial inequity by Charlice Hurst at Stanford Social Innovation Review.