A Retroactive Invitation To Be Angry
Remember that boss that fired you years ago? Or the job that unfairly docked your pay without explanation? I invite you to get really effing angry.
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CW: This piece discusses sexual assault and misconduct.
There’s an article I keep coming back to. It’s called “Dear Bad Men: Divest From Your Restaurants Already,” and it was written by Meghan McCarron and published in Eater in 2018. The piece came out in the wake of a reckoning when dozens of white, cisgender, prominent men in the food and beverage industry were outed for the harm they caused their employees and customers, primarily in the form of sexual assault and misconduct.
When I first read the piece, it made me really, really angry. Meghan was one of the only authors I’d come across who dealt not just with the emotional and social ramifications of sexual assault, but also the financial fallout. Like the people who have to quit their jobs to escape their abusers—and then start at the bottom of the rung at a new job, or are forced to explain the gaps in their resumes.1 Or those who rebuff the advances of their employers, and are denied promotions or opportunities in retaliation.
What the piece laid bare: All the while, even when a person is actively causing harm to their staff—and even when they are outed for their harmful behavior—they are still financially benefiting from their position. In most cases, they never lose anything of substance.
We may not expect powerful and famous men to lose, or surrender, capital when they’ve done something wrong, but that doesn’t mean we couldn’t start: These credible claims of misconduct, at their most basic, allege that women were terrorized while men got rich. No apology will erase a majority share, and no HR consultant can undo ownership’s power and control. For this reckoning to truly change restaurant culture, these men should give up their ownership — their capital, in every respect — to more deserving parties, whether that’s their partners, employees, or the people they have hurt.
On the latest episode of Boss Barista, I talk to Sierra Yeo, founder of The Kore Directive, a diversity, equity, and inclusion organization based in the U.K. Sierra and I discuss why she started the Kore during the interview:
I honestly do say to so many people that the Kore saved my life, but it basically started when I left a really toxic place of work and had experienced all sorts of things from managerial bullying to racist incidents to just a really toxic work culture…
I sank into a major depressive episode for something like six months after that because I was so angry. I'm sure you felt that way, but I felt so angry and disillusioned and disenchanted and thought, “There’s gotta be more than this.” I don’t want to give up a whole career in coffee just because this has happened, but by God I was close.
Sierra goes on to reveal that it took her eight years to find a job where she felt safe enough to share her true experiences and opinions with her managers and colleagues. Eight years.
Sierra’s interview reminded me of that old, long-simmering anger I felt reading Meghan’s story. Although Meghan’s piece focuses on sexual misconduct while Sierra discusses bullying and discrimination, both have to do with career advancement, worker safety, and who gets to succeed while others languish.
Unfair work practices are costly, and I mean that literally. They cost employees who experience them actual financial gains. Imagine if Sierra had those eight years of safety and comfort at her job back, and where she might be now. Imagine a time when you—yes, you—could not circumvent an unjust situation, and instead had to either leave a job or deal with retaliatory actions from your boss. Now, go back to that moment, and remember that this unfair treatment from your boss didn’t cost them a damn dime.
Thinking about these moments made me angry back then, and it makes me angry now. It makes me angry about all the theoretical instances of employer discrimination that I know happen every day at work, and it also makes me personally angry to think of the career moments where I’ve taken two steps forward, three steps back. It can feel like running in a hamster wheel after a prize that’s physically unattainable—and the prize is a stable career and financial security.
Sometimes the ramifications of an unjust work environment aren’t immediately apparent. Harassment, discrimination, and assault are so normalized in part because the threat of being the one to “call out” an employer is so high. But then, whenever one of these “bad men” does step up and apologize for their behavior, it can feel like a dam of pent-up emotion bursting in slow motion. It’s staggered, and unpredictable, and that makes it especially volatile. You never know when you’re going to wake up, remember the harm someone has done to you that you’ve buried or were gaslit into believing wasn’t true, and feel really fucking angry.
So here it is. This is your invitation to feel retroactively angry. There’s no time limit on realizing that yes, actually, you do feel wronged and need to talk about it. Or maybe you just feel angry generally about the way power is structured to protect those who already hold it.
This isn’t just about catharsis. Anger is important because it allows for forward motion—we can be angry and still confer forgiveness, reimagine a new system, or just find peace of mind. And while anger is so often weaponized—you might have noticed that white men seem to be the only people who aren’t punished or penalized for their anger—I’m here to tell you that it is OK to feel angry, and to express that anger. For Sierra, her anger was generative, and led her to the Kore. For you, it could lead a hundred different places. Feel it, find it, and see where it takes you.
Before you go…
I published what I’m lovingly calling a rant about coffee beers with Burum Collective. This was a delightful article to write—and I’d love to know what you think about coffee beers.
I haven’t read this book yet (it’s on backorder at bookshop.org) but I’m eager to get ahold of Laziness Does Not Exist by Dr. Devon Price. If you’ve read this book and have thoughts on it, please let me know!
When the pandemic started, I got really into puzzles. Then I stopped. Then I got back into them. I wasn’t sure why, but I later realized it’s because they help me shut off my brain while staying laser-focused. Most puzzles are of old-school watercolors, which isn’t a bad thing, but gets a little repetitive if you’re blazing through them like I’ve been. I’m eager for Le Puzz’s online store, full of puzzles of puppies and weird candles, to open next month.
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