passive smoking no, passive racism yes

The smoking shelter is a welcomed respite for those people who are grinding away at their day-to-day tasks in the corporation that I work in. My office suite is near the loading bays for the entire building so there’s a mix of blue and white collar workers that have to share the smoking area. Men and women from different backgrounds, working in IT mixed with the hard-nosed no-nonsense inventory managers and inventory transporters.

In the wintertime, when the cold winds and numbing precipitation falls we all huddle together underneath the glowing filaments of the space heater clutching our cigarettes and cups of coffee. We all wax longingly about warm weather, vacations, and how we can get out of the cold… but when the climate changes so does the socialization. I am very sensitive to race relations and I would like to consider myself an open and accepting person. Now, it could just be me and my over-analysis but I see passive racism in the smoking shelter.

One can attribute this phenomenon to the social schism between white collar workers and blue collar workers. Furthermore, one can say that people just click with other people in their own department. People talk shop, in their own jargon, but is that a way to shun people from interaction? I could understand that people just don’t want to sit in a box of smoke, inhaling second-hand and their own first hand smoke. Mechanics aside, what is the motive? I really can’t say but from what I see, I am hurt by the turned backs and the misdirected glances. I often find myself sitting on one of the few chairs in the shelter while a group of people look at me square in the face and walk on by. Conversely, that same group could be occupying those seats and when I walk into the shelter I do get an obligatory fleeting look, but no more. Others not of the same ethnicity or culture don’t even bother and would rather stand out in the elements… passive racism?

In interest of full disclosure, I generally don’t engage people so I could be perpetuating/perpetrating this… or this could totally be in my head. I don’t particularly want to talk to these people, but I don’t want to be dismissed either.

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