I usually don’t like to intermix my personal life with Black Witch because this is not a personal blog but this is pretty outstanding…and in a bad way. Yay, asking for donations, [/sarcasm]
I just recently got a new job at John Hopkins University back in September. It was pretty cooland I was stoked because I prefer working in academic libraries. There’s just more stuff to do in comparison to when I was at the Library of Congress. I thought I would finally get myself back on my feet and be pretty ok because at the time, I was going through a super rough patch, as I had mentioned some bits prior.
Then I lost my job without warning on Dec. 15. My supervisor found me shelving books, told me to come with him and before you knew it, I was sitting between him and the libraries’ HR with a letter waiting for me. It read that basically, as of that moment, I didn’t have a job anymore and how they felt unfortunate to tell me this.
Guess why they were letting me go…
Because, apparently, I was under the longstanding suspicion (remember, I was just there for three months) of stealing other employees lunches.
I’m not kidding, check out latter half of second paragraph:
By the by, I actually had my lunch stolen while working there (which had never happened to me before in any of the 4-5 other libraries I’ve worked at). And I combatted it with having Ramen Bbokki (my favorite instant ramen cup) – a package with Korean written all over it – shipped to me from New York…which they got from Korea. I had figured whoever took my food was probably not going to touch it if they didn’t know what it read, especially since they yinked my Lunchables but left my Citron tea and Korean rice cakes alone, both written in Korean.
I love food, that’s no lie, and academic libraries are great for me because they have a far greater amount of free food events. Emphasis on the “free”. My stomach is too picky for me to steal food from other people anyways, I can’t even have too much okonomiyaki or pizza before my stomach goes, “Uhhh, I was feeling this…but now I’m not. Commence cramping!” and those are my favorite foods! I am a label reader, folks. Simply some things I can’t eat, even if I ate them before.
And if I was stealing foods…why didn’t anyone tell me I was under suspicion? I didn’t even know I was even being pegged for thievery until my therapist read my dismissal letter and said “You know they’re accusing you of stealing, right?” Even during the dismissal meeting, it didn’t come up. And suspicion isn’t the same as proof or indictment. Anyone can have a suspicion about anybody over anything. You can have the suspicion the president is a lizard person but, idealistically, it’s totally moot until you can satisfy what is known as the “burden of proof”. Burden of Proof simply means you’re free to suspect something but you need an example or some verifiable proof such as pictures, videos, detailed accounts, witnesses, documents, etc etc, to give that suspicion some standing. If you saw the president eyes blink sideways, have scales (beyond reason of “eh, he’s got a rash/ezcema/dry skin”) or blurt out a reptilian language when he slams his foot, and recorded it somehow or dragged another person to see, that can satisfy the minimum of burden of proof.
Also, suspicion can go both ways. For example, Hopkins has a pretty far reaching history of racial issues in Baltimore City. Hopkins is the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant/Montgomery Burns of Baltimore. They provide some good things but they also are good at maintaining harmful social structures. There’s a reason why many Black Baltimoreans (basically “Baltimoreans”, period) will say “If I ever get sick, don’t take me to Hopkins or Bon Secours.” Bon Secours because they’re nicknamed “Bon Se-Killers” due to crap care and Hopkins because no one wants to be a lab rat . For native Baltimoreans, JHU is a rich and big juggernaut that has very Ivy League perspectives on race, culture and other social structures. That can easily rouse suspicion of institutional and structural racism.
Speaking of which, I got tossed out for the “suspicion of stealing lunches” without even knowing (the other reason, I’ll touch on below) buuuuuut a co-worker can don an afro wig and do a near-minstrel act of pretending to be a lost street walker in the middle of the department during the afternoon but it’s waved off as just a thing that person does. Totes harmless, bro. Other workers thought it was a hoot – even took pictures! – and it doesn’t help that I was the only mobile Black person on the team at that point (there’s another who is stationary, mans the computers and keeps things running). If a Black student had sauntered in, it would have been on Instagram by now.
And it’s a little interesting that this isn’t even the first time I’ve been accused of stealing in my life. I’ve been followed in stores, I’ve even nearly had a cop pull a gun on me at university because he thought I was “robbing a warehouse” when I was just sitting on its very well-lit dock…because I was waiting for the bus and the bus stop at my school had no place to sit or shelter from the elements. I was dressed in casual cyber goth and with a chunky, huge bookbag but still had to show the officer my state and school id. And still, the dude felt that due to his suspicion, he had to pull up on me, blinding me with lights and stand behind his open car door with his arm akimbo on his gun while aggressively questioning a really confused and blinded English major. Did this officer think I was going to slam through a reinforced steel door with Saul Williams and Ben Jonson works? The funny part is that I’ve been in the warehouse before when it was open, it’s for the transit buses and has a soda machine that took my money many times. There’s your thief, the Pepsi machine in there that doesn’t understand the basics of legal tender and its role in the economic exchange of goods. But I’m the one harassed. What is with this anti-Blackness thinking that Black people are natural thieves? Even with zero proof? This accusation towards me is super trumped up and petty, not to mention fictitious.
Speaking of “parts”, let’s move on to the other reason I got such an unceremonious boot: I apparently said I clearly couldn’t drive a van (it’s a pretty major thing so books can get shipped back and forth from and to off-site containment) because I mentioned I had a condition when I first started. Now, why did I mention I had a disorder at the start when I should have kept my trap shut? Would you believe it’s because the department already had two very visibly neurodivergent people on the team and I stupidly thought “Oh, hey, this is a safe space. I don’t have to hide my disorder, which means I don’t have to worry about my work being impeded because I’m too busy guessing Schrodeinger’s Bigot. How great, I can be responsible about my condition since I receive regular treatment on it.”
Newp. I should have kept in mind that I’m Black and with mental illness, that’s two strikes against me. Basically, it doesn’t matter that I worked at the Library of Congress, it doesn’t matter that I have a degree or that I have an extensive background in books, conservation, literature, library science and book upkeep. Apparently, to do well at the job, I really should have just lied about my condition, went back to perms and started buying skin lightener. Because somehow that matters in my skills more than what’s on my resume.
Despite the fact that I very recently bought a car (to further stabilize my condition) and moved as well (again, to further stabilize my condition) while being super broke (did I mention you can donate? Because you can donate). This really blew a hole in me, not just financially (I had no prep so I had little money stored away…because no one even hinted I was losing my job), but emotionally because of how I basically got sideswiped with no warning or notification. I checked in with my supervisor, I tried to adjust to the environment, so on and so forth. I actually thought I was doing well, I was nearly out of my probationary period. Early Jan is when I would have been a regular Hopkins employee, off of probation instead of a noob.
I’m sure, at this point, you’re probably thinking, “Time to lawyer up!” Yeeeeeeeeeaaaaah, not that easy. Now, the whole firing is being investigated by the Office of Institutional Equity. I’ve no real clue when it will be over. I would really like for it to be over so I can get back to my job and return to earning wages like a normal person. As for lawyers, the convo tends to go like this:
Me: Hi, would like your help in a discrimination case. I was wrongfully fired based on fictitious and trumped up accusations based on racial and disability discrimination.
Lawyer/Law grunt: Sure! We cover labor laws and discrimination. What was your position and where did you work?
Me: I was a Library Assistant and I worked at Hopkins University
Lawyer/Law grunt: … uh, can we check if we can take your case?
:: A minute or two later or a call back ::
Lawyer/Law grunt: Uhhhhhhh, we can’t take your case. We’re sorry.
Remember, Hopkins is seen as quite a juggernaut here in Baltimore, most lawyers are pretty mortified to take on such an institution and understandably so. They’re daunting.
If anyone is flailing at the screen, saying “Go to the ACLU! NAACP! They exist! EEOC!!!!!” I juuuuust tried that. I didn’t run to them first because firstly, I had never gone through anything like this before. I was absolutely stunned and devastated. Secondly, they can be more greater-than-life than needed. Visited ACLU, they practically went “take a number”, called NAACP (who I have fleeting faith in, thanks to their interactions with Rachael Dolezal and Don Sterling) and they told me “Tell EEOC first”. Called EEOC, I got a computer voice that told me that I would be on hold for 54 minutes. I get that these organizations are not millions massive and they have a lot of work to do but I feel like it’s doing nothing. I can fill out their sheets and leave messages but what good would that be?
So, right now. Being so suddenly cut off, it really stings that what took my prestigious university library job from me isn’t me, it’s basic bigotry. I can’t help the fact that I’m Black, it’s not even a big deal. I can’t help the fact I have mental illnesses, I didn’t ask to have trauma disorders. Being Black shouldn’t have any bearing on my employment status. Having a diagnosed illness shouldn’t have any bearing on my employment status, especially since I was going above and beyond to try to stabilize the illness and try to explain things in a simplistic “I’m not a psycho” way so they could best understand.
I have no idea how long this investigation will be. It could be 2-3 months, it could be sooner, I don’t know. Please feel free to donate so I can keep everything up and going. They left me pretty much crapped out with rent, car payments, etc etc. There’s no limit to what money will be raised but I will set it to $3000 so there’s a goal. As per usual, feel free to donate. Since this is all such an emergency time, that means I’ll be posting about this pretty often. I won’t give any play-by-play updates but I will mention in the future if I do or don’t get the job back.
In addition, what frustrates/angers me further is that Hopkins just recently put out a program called Hopkins Local where the basic kit and kaboodle of it is that Hopkins is trying to “help” the neighborhoods affected by the riots by saying they’ll hire people from those neighborhoods, determined by zip code. Basically, Sandtown-Winchester would obviously fall into this because that’s where the riots originated and is one of the hardest hit neighborhoods.
I’m originally from Sandtown.
It doesn’t take a genius psychologist to find that I’m pretty sensitive about my original neighborhood being basically used for yuppie points/White Saviorism. The difference between me and the average person coming from Sandtown is that I already know I have a condition as a result of the traumatic environment I was raised in. I know I have chronic disorders, this is why I can talk about my illnesses at length. Most people in Sandtown are pretty ripped up mentally and have no clue that they have PTSD, DID, BPD, etc etc because of the absolute lack of sufficient mental health resources in those areas.
Let me tell you, when you have no clue you have a condition or a disorder, you’re more chaotic. You’re more chaotic and, frankly, you don’t know why. You simply have a short fuse, you lose time, that you’re hyper aggressive over the littlest thing, can’t trust anyone, etc etc and you have no idea why. At least I had the audacity and knowledge to be upfront and say “Hey, here’s what I have” because I got duped into being honest and believing that my workplace was a safe place because I saw other neurodivergent people. What is Hopkins going to do with the other folks who don’t know they have a trauma disorder but are asking for a job to have a change and a better life? Make more phony crap up to fire them as well before probation is over? If this is how Hopkins truly feels, why try to have things like Hopkins Local, so it can look like a PR ruse?
All I wanted to do was work in a library, now I got the book thrown at me for no reason.
EDITOR’S NOTE: I changed the dismissal letter with a better pic, one that includes Hopkins’ letterhead if case of disbelievers