This didn’t seem to fit any existing topic, and I thought it would be interesting to talk about various problems that come up at work. The particular item at hand is racial, but I’m sure there are lots of difficult-to-deal-with situations in other contexts, like gender or age.
Anyway, here’s the item that prompted this. I heard about this through the grapevine, so consider this mostly accurate:
A 3rd-hand friend owns/manages an agency that hires out doulas - women who provide mid-wife type services to pregnant women. This owner has periodically received inquiries from potential clients who wanted their doula to be a particular (shared) race. The owner does not happen to employ any doulas of that race, so ends up turning these potential clients away. Recently, the owner attempted to hire a doula of that race in order to satisfy that demand, and apparently the interview went south. This is where the story gets hazy, but it seems like it came out that the owner was interviewing this doula solely because of her race, and the potential doula took to a Facebook group to drag the owner/manager for being racist.
I feel pretty confident that the owner/manager likely behaved badly in the interview, but I want to put that aside. My question is what the owner should have done in the face of those client requests. Potential options:
Tell potential clients that she has faith in all of her doulas and that she doesn’t assign doulas based on race, nor would she feel comfortable doing so. If that’s not ok with the potential client, tough luck.
Tell the potential clients that she doesn’t happen to have any doulas of that race on staff, but she would be happy to refer them to another agency. (This might involve some kind of alliance with another agency, I guess.)
Do what she did - attempt to diversify her group of doulas. The problem here (in addition to the potential for seeming uber-racist in the hiring process), is that there are often doula switches resulting from uncertainty about delivery dates - a doula might plan for a July birth but be out of town for an early delivery. In that context, a single doula of a particular race probably wouldn’t suffice.
I think this is complicated. Ultimately, I believe the owner should have taken the first approach. (I analogized it to me going to a massage parlor and demanding a white masseuse - I think they should kick me out rather than cater to me.) What gives me pause is that in this scenario, the potential clients are black and looking for a black doula. I know that black people already experience disparate medical treatment, and I know that there can be real benefits for minorities who share a background with their doctor. So it doesn’t seem completely terrible to me that a pregnant black woman would want a doula of her own race.
Curious what people here think, and to hear about other sensitive issues that come up in the workplace.