Thank you for reading Maude.

I would be remiss if I didn’t ask you about your profile picture--is it ironic? If it isn’t, I’m concerned about how this image choice might impact indigenous people and humbly ask you to reflect on that.

Okay so your questions…

I don’t know if your friend was offended or not, honestly she’s probably very used to these kind of microaggressions by now, but I try to steer clear of commenting on people from immigrant backgrounds accent or lack of accent because I don’t know what it cost them emotionally and psychologically to be able to sound like a white person. I’m also really aware of the fact that how we sound can change based on who we are around, this is called code switching and it is a protective mechanism that BIPOC use to avoid unwanted consequences of appearing too “other.”

Speaking up about your daughter and your friends daughter seems to me like an act of using your privilege appropriately, even if you did not intend to be doing so. Black girls receive more severe punishments for similar behavior than their white female counterparts. As a white woman, your words carried power when speaking to school officials (who I’m assuming were also white?) that your Jamaican American friend did not have access to, giving you the opportunity to advocate for her daughter in a way that she herself would not be able to do.

The law firm situation is a little bit more tricky and questionable because this woman is not your friend, she is a subordinate. This means that even if she did find your words offensive, she is not at liberty to share her opinion with you without risking her job, a job it seems that she desperately needed. I encourage you to further examine what you mean when you say the woman sounds ‘unprofessional.’ Is she rude? Is she chewing gum while on the phone? When she answers the phone, does she fall to mention the name of the law firm? Or is it just that she sounds Black?

If the woman is not speaking inappropriately to clients and the main issue is that you can tell she’s Black over the phone, her behavior is not unprofessional, yours is. If this is the case, you owe her an apology.

If there are specific ways in which her word choice is unprofessional, try to comment directly on them. For example “When you answered the phone yesterday, you said ‘hey’ And we would really prefer if you would start all greetings with hello, good morning, or good afternoon.”

Thank you for reading the article and engaging with it in your own context.

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.