Are You Seen As Assertive Or Aggressive? It Can Depend On Your Race

0a1c7401354d0c08888e184d40bc31de-originaNew Data on Emotional Tax for Men of Color

Image courtesy of Maria Badasian.

By Jared Cline. Think about a situation where you might feel “on guard.”
To take an example not related to race, gender, or ethnicity, let’s talk about this bar in my hometown.
Maybe you know the type of place. No way to see in from the outside. Everyone there probably knows one another. The kind of place where, if you walked in, the music would stop and everyone would turn to look at you.
“What’s he doing here?”
I never went in that bar—didn’t want to put myself through that experience. I’d rather be relaxed when I go for a drink. Somewhere I feel like I can be myself.
We’re at our best when we’re comfortable like that. We’re our most creative, our most involved, our most collaborative. And this isn’t just true of a tipple—we work better in these conditions, as well.

The Emotional Tax
One thing straight, white guys like me usually don’t have to be on guard about is our gender, race, or ethnicity. There’s a pretty simple reason for that: in the United States, where I live and work, guys like myself are a majority group at work (with the rare exception of Catalyst!), in government, and in society at large.
That makes it easier for me to navigate life here—and it can make it harder for me to see how things might be different for people of another gender, race, or ethnicity.
Catalyst’s latest report, Day-to-Day Experiences of Emotional Tax Among Women and Men of Color in the Workplace, sheds some light on what’s called the “Emotional Tax” for people of color in the workplace. The Emotional Tax is an undue burden levied on individuals who identify with Asian, Black, Latinx, and multiracial backgrounds as the result of unfair treatment.
People of color endure a unique set of challenges at work, such as “microaggressions,” those everyday verbal and nonverbal slights, insults, and snubs that chip away at their dignity on a daily basis.
At work, exclusionary behaviors like these result in feelings of being “on guard”—which can lead to higher attrition, a decrease in innovation, and lots of lost sleep.

"I feel like I have to prepare for war."
— Thaddeus, multiracial, male, age 38; senior-level executive
Gender Stereotypes and Men of Color
Over one-quarter of men of color respondents said they are on guard in anticipation of bias against them because of their gender.
Why might men of color report being on guard because of their gender?
In the United States, researchers find that White men often benefit from dominance behaviors consistent with stereotypically “masculine” ideals. However, men of color are more likely to be penalized for the same behaviors.
Latino men. Latinos, especially those of Mexican national origin, endure stereotypes in some settings that describe them as emotional and “macho” with negative connotations. They may be seen as too aggressive and too dominant. At the same time, Latino men can feel compelled to perform in accordance with “macho” norms.
Black men. Black men are often stereotyped as aggressive and hostile—for example, research demonstrates that people associate violence and street crime with Black people. Behaviors that are regarded as assertive when performed by White men may be seen as aggressive when enacted by Black men.
Asian men. Asian men are stereotyped as passive and non-dominant. When they act more assertively—contradicting the stereotype—they may be penalized in the workplace.
Understanding how men of color can pay a price for behaviors that are rewarded in other men is key to building processes that promote more equitable treatment.

At the same time, men of color who have a personal understanding of the everyday consequences of racial and gender bias can use that knowledge and experience to become a force for creating inclusive workplaces and championing gender diversity.

For more, check out Catalyst’s report, Day-to-Day Experiences of Emotional Tax Among Women and Men of Color in the Workplace.
f3c223e56ea53d74eb3dd4cda12dcbfb-huge-weJared Cline is the Community Manager of MARC (Men Advocating Real Change), an initiative of Catalyst. Get in touch if you have any questions about the community, would like to write a blog, or are looking for ways to collaborate. He can be reached at

Posted by MARC Catalyst on Feb 16, 2018 12:02 PM America/New_York

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