Black Managers Break Their Silence about a Peculiar Racial Dilemma
By Steven Barboza
As the black owner of a hair salon with such celebrity clientele as Angela Bassett, Paula Patton, Phylicia Rashad, Diana Ross and others, Daisy Curbeon managed a staff of six hair stylists for more than 10 years.
A former runway model, she had worked her way up from sweeping beauty shop floors to styling for the stars.
After opening a salon on Manhattan’s posh Park Avenue, she ran into resistance from some of her own black employees, women who “dissed” her largely because of race.
“Because I’m a black boss, they thought they could come in late,” Curbeon said. “If they had some daddy-mama drama, they might not come in at all. You know, a white salon wouldn’t put up with that. But in a black salon, I’d have to deal with it and be sympathetic because I’m a black woman too.”
She added bitterly:
“There was too much familiarity and lack of respect because of race. Familiarity breeds contempt. People try to fit in like family, and then it becomes a problem at work.”
Curbeon’s difficulties no doubt were partly due to her informal management style, but her experiences are not unique; they’re just not widely discussed—in public.
In truth, many black managers don’t care to see themselves as too lenient on “their own,” so this “race secret” is glossed over among friends.
And business school professors are only now scratching their heads, trying to develop theories on how to deal with this peculiar racial dilemma.