Running on CPT is a Racist phrase originally used against Black people to generically describe their lack of time management — but it can now also be effectively used on anyone who is perpetually late.  “CPT” translates to “Colored People’s Time.”


While “Running on CPT” is never a compliment, last week I believe I ran into that phrase’s Racist opposite.

I was in a Starbucks one night and I overheard a conversation between a Black couple sitting next to me.

She was angry.  He was trying to calm her down by shushing her and by raising an open hand above her head and slowly lowering his arm as if pressing down a volume control lever.

HER:  “Don’t you shush me!”

HIM:  “Take it down.  You’re making a scene.”

HER:  “I have to get up early tomorrow morning!”

HIM:  “So do I.”

HER:  “Yeah, but I have a White Man job, and you don’t!”

As their conversation rattled back and forth between yelling, more shushing and ongoing, failed, open-palm, volume tuning — I began to connect “CPT” to its Racist opposite: a “White Man Job.”

It seems a “White Man Job” is a job in which you cannot be late or you’re fired and, I guess, if you “Run on CPT” then you lose your “White Man Job.”  At least that was the stretch of my momentary Starbucks analysis of those Racial cultural memes.

If “CPT” is a derogatory term for Blacks — is “White Man Job” the insulting opposite for Caucasians or not?

40 Comments

  1. Though I am neither white nor black…but any stereotype is derogatory – I think.
    The term “White Man’s Job” has a superior effect -imposed – may be!
    CPT is over generalised.

  2. Katha —
    Are the ideas of “CPT” and “White Man Job” invoked in India? If so, do you have different terms for those cultural parallels?
    The feeling I took away from that overheard conversation was that “White Man Job” meant a “traditional” and mainstream job that you had to show up on time to keep. I’m not sure why that’s labeled “White Man” when, to me, it is “Ordinary” — but, then again, I’m a “White Man” so my ordinary expectation of being on time for work may be the exception.

  3. Thanks, Katha! This was a difficult article to image. You can go for the abstract and the right-on — but finding a non-stereotypical mix of intention and context is always a challenge with this sort of story.

  4. Hi David,
    Any country with economic imbalance in social strata will have these kinds of stereotypes – India is no exception.
    I understand what you are saying, wanted to echo it but conveyed something else…
    The expectation of a “white man’s job” is same as any regular job I guess – where you are expected to maintain professionalism – which might not needed to be maintained in some other jobs…
    I will give you a very crude example –
    The lady helps in my household can bunk without information, then can come back next day saying she had an emergency –
    but can I just afford not to show up in an appointment then try informing later?
    I don’t have that luxury I guess, that is unexpected of me – but my helping hand does.

  5. That’s a third definition of “bunk,” Katha! Thanks for the info. It’s always good to learn something new every day.
    It is interesting that some people don’t think the clock should matter when it comes to working — except when they’re supposed to stop at the end of the day. Then they’re out the door on the 5:00pm dot! SMILE!

  6. I understand the difficulty of finding such image David…
    Just loved it – especially the “hands”..
    I saw some painting somewhere like this – in black and white – completely forgot the name of the artist!

  7. Hi Katha —
    Image inspirations are all around us. It’s fascinating what we remember and what triggers other memories that are shared, but do not belong to us.

  8. Hi David,
    It’s embedded in the lifestyle I think.
    To illustrate a little more –
    The lady who helps us had a small chunk of land which used to fulfill the basic necessity of the family – the crops provided food for the year, the excess amount sold supplied clothes and all – bare minimum.
    Their entire lifestyle revolved around their own family, land, and their cattle.
    It’s the lure of raw cash that drove the lady out of that corner.
    “Value for money or time” will take time to come.
    Change is absolutely obvious David, but adapting is tough…

  9. Good point, Katha. It’s funny, though, that the farmers I know are incredibly time-specific and intensive. They wake up at the same time every day to feed the animals. They milk the cows on a tight schedule. They even go to sleep at the exact same time each night. A farming life is incredibly regimented in the USA.

  10. I understand what you are saying David…
    As I unknowingly landed in the midwest and was mesmerized by the greenery – I visited couple of firms there.
    I am supporting the laid back attitude that I noticed in small time farmers in India – I am just stating the fact.
    When it comes to commercial firming – people owning huge land, doing business with other states and all – they are equally regimented here – they can’t afford to goof up.

  11. Yay for the Katha! I know you are busy taking care of business in India. It’s always so refreshing to have an in-depth conversation with you.

  12. Thank you David!
    Knowing you is an experience and so is the discussion – it’s always enriching – I miss it so much when I can’t chip in!

  13. I am just flattered!
    Make sure you get the patent in your name only David – or else everyone will have the cloned Katha all over!
    A platoon of Katha will ruin the exclusivity!

  14. I’ve never heard of CPT. That’s awful. Certainly folks still make plenty of racist comments so I don’t know why this should surprise me.
    It’s too bad that a white collar job has to be labeled a white man’s job. But that’s the reality. When I worked in corporate America (commercial insurance), there were maybe one or two African Americans employed there in professional positions. Undeniable institutional racism.
    A black woman in a white man’s world. Being a woman is tough enough.

  15. Hi Donna —
    Yes, CPT is a terrible label to apply to someone and anyone can be painted as “CPT” now — it doesn’t matter your skin color even though its origin was against the Black Community. A “White Man Job” doesn’t have to mean white collar. Any job — garbage collector, street sweeper, sewer inspector — that requires you be on time is considered a “White Man Job” and I agree that’s a pretty sad claim to make.
    It is hard to find success in a world set against your skin color. Big cities are easier to break into as racial barriers are destroyed — but there are still lots of Racist pockets in America where a Black person will never be given a chance to move up the chain of command.

  16. I just assumed white man job meant white collar job. I don’t know why I interpreted her as having a high-level position, a suit rather than a street sweeper.
    And the Starbucks usually means you’ve got some discretionary income.
    By the way, you must have really good hearing. I can never overhear other people’s conversations.
    I guess it’s all that loud music I listened to as a teenager!
    But I do enjoy going out and about and imagining scenerios between couples. It’s always interesting to watch couples interact. You can learn alot about a relationship observing two couples at a casual Saturday or Sunday morning breakfast outing.
    Some couples don’t even talk to each other!

  17. Donna —
    You’re right about the overhearing. I guess it’s the Playwright in me that is always seeking out the unique and fascinating conversation. When people are shouting to be heard above the music, it isn’t too hard to overhear… SMILE!
    Watching couples is a fascinating event. You’re right that their silent communication says more about the health of their relationship than anything they could ever speak.