So before anyone calls me out for not loading any content in a while, I think we all can agree that a lot has been happening over the past several weeks. Aside from my daily IG interactions of my career tips and advice...I've wanted to say something but not really sure where to begin. If I'm being honest, I've been penning this post for about a week now and yet, nothing has shown up on the page, because I haven't been able to find the words. So this post will probably be raw and unpolished. I decided I just wanted to write, and let my thoughts flow and it will be what it will be.
The workplace is experiencing a definite shift. Aside from learning how to work and co-mingle during a Pandemic, people are also trying to adjust to an emotionally charged workforce. People are dying from COVID19, and black people are dying from being black. People are rioting, people are protesting, hopefully people are voting. People are clashing, wanting to be heard, seen, felt, appreciated, validated, loved, recognized and equal. Like I said, there is a lot going on. As the country is reopening, and people are returning to work and back to social activities, those concerns aren't going away. People are returning to work...bearing the weight of all of that on their shoulders. So what happens to the office dynamic? How do we take a moment and acknowledge what we all are feeling in one way or another without doing more damage to the already fragile social structure? I think my answer to that is "carefully". To my white and non-black coworkers, I would definitely suggest you acknowledge that your black coworkers are experiencing a range of emotions. So jumping in with some random "I'm your ally" speech might not turn out in your favor. But black people are not new to this, so while there is momentum to have a conversation, we invite you to discuss and learn. Okay...I feel my strength coming on, so let's get into it.
Let's talk - Yes...let's continue this discussion at work. While I wholeheartedly support companies hosting town halls to discuss racism and the company's approach to diversity and inclusivity...I also want to know that my coworkers see me and recognize that an entire community is in crisis. Let's grab coffee, or lunch and have a discussion about what's going on. I don't want to hear that you are an ALLY because I honestly think it's a passive conversation. Like never in my life have I ever said that to someone. If you need help, and I can help, I'm just going to tell you that I will help. Period. This allyship feels corny to me and sounds like something non-black people created to make black people feel safe, or to pacify them, but its empty and void of real action. Like a Twilight Zone moment. Just be present for me if I need it. Most people are open if you want to talk about how we can be better humans for each other. Let's talk about how, if you are in pain, or vice versa, I will do what I can as a human to ease that pain. I'm not one for big speeches and random BS...I just want to know will you be down for me or not. Ask me about my experience, and let's understand our differences and similarities. I don't hold any white person, personally responsible for slavery. So please don't feel inclined to apologize to me for what your ancestors did. Yes, I understand this climate we live in, makes most people feel like they owe their 7 pounds of flesh on behalf of their great great great grandfather. And depending on the situation, that could be true, but don't lead your conversation with that one. It won't go well.
I don't care that you have other black friends - It's just not a good thing to say. It comes off as a validation of your whiteness. Like you would never hear non-white people say they have XX friends. What is the intention behind making that statement? To prove you are not a racist? You realize that it is counter productive right? I have friends that are culturally and ethnically different from me, but they are my friends. They don't give me any validation other than we have a relationship. Don't use anything or anyone as a badge. I will judge you based on our interactions and we can go from there. Please don't share with your black co workers how much you love black people. Or what your family does to be charitable for black children or that you donated to kids in Africa. If you don't have that relationship, this isn't how you build one. Trust me.
Yes, you do see color - I had a coworker, whom I absolutely adored and still speak to from time to time. He said to me that he doesn't see color. Especially as it relates to hiring and looking at candidate profiles. Yes, I 100% understood what he was trying to convey with the statement. But the truth is, saying you don't see color is passive and oppressive. You're telling me, a black person, that you can't, won't or refuse to acknowledge my most obvious characteristic. The moment you meet me, you see my color. Yeah, I get it. Black people are cover a range of tones, hair types and features. Nope, we don't all look alike despite what you've heard. But when you do recognize or when you are told, don't pretend it didn't happen. Saying you don't see color also tells me that you can and probably will refuse to acknowledge the pain associated with the brutalities and violence inflicted upon black people; and why wouldn't you. If you don't see color, then you don't see that police officer choking that black person to death for a broken tail light, shooting a 12 yr old for playing in the park, killing a man with his hands up and following police instructions...you know what I'm saying. Saying you don't see color makes it easier for you to ignore the systemic oppressions of black people. Only a white person or non black person or non person of color, has the luxury of not seeing color.
Black people and People of Color - So...can we just holler at the elephant in the room please. Black people are NOT people of color. Black people were enslaved in America. Not just the africans that were stolen, shipped as cargo and beaten into submission. But free people, modern day black/ African Americans...were and are still enslaved in America. People of Color (POC), Indians, Asians, some Latin nations, non white countries that do NOT consist of black or black Africans (not including white Africans)..these are people of color. The experience has not EVER been the same experience. Lumping all people into a non-white category is also passive aggressive and oppressive. It's passive aggressive because you can again, refuse to acknowledge the pain inflicted on an entire community of people. Specifically, black people. It's oppressive because by doing so, you can continue to inflict the same oppressive approach on black people, and refer to the non black people and say "look how well they are doing in this country, people of color are thriving". To be clear, I know and acknowledge other people of color that have immigrated to this country deal with their fair share of racial and discriminatory crap as well. But they have NEVER and when I say never I mean EVER, been captured, brutalized, enslaved, murdered and imprisoned for sport and for profit in this county. THIS is the line of demarcation. THIS is one of the many reasons black people and People of Color are NOT the same demographic.
Hire me and Pay me because I'm worth it, I deserve it and I earned it - So I'm not about to make an argument for Affirmative Action...but I'm about to make an argument for Affirmative Action. Because companies refuse to see color, it's easy to refuse to see my resume or my application. If by chance I slipped through because you didn't catch my name...you can also refuse to see me in an interview. The effort and energy black people have to show to be equal, knowing full well that in most cases, we have the ability run circles around most of our competition, literally and figuratively; and the rationale that we are often overlooked, underpaid and under represented, is in itself, the justification for Affirmative Action. Affirmative Action has never been about hooking up random black folks and blocking white folks from opportunities they deserve. Quite the contrary...it's about this. Making sure that you can't "not see color" and prevent black people from progressing at the same rate with the benefits of technology, education, commerce and economics. This is, in a nutshell why Affirmative Action is needed.
It's okay to not understand - I was in a meeting where a white woman, with good intentions, wanted to share with us, her black coworkers that she understood racism and slavery. She proceeded to tell us a story about when she was 10, her parents moved to African. While she was there, her skin got darker (I'm not making this up fr), and her accent changed. So she (her words), sounded more British than American. When she returned home some years later, they went back to their home (her parents kept their house and stuff...still her words), and she reconnected with her friends, they shunned her. Because of her dark skin and new accent. They treated her differently. Based on that experience, she wanted us to know that she understood racism. It was hard. She had to find new friends.
If you don't understand, please just say you don't. Or better yet, don't say anything. Trying to correlate your new TAN to the overall black experience in America is again, something that only a non black or non person of color can do.
At the end of the day, your black coworkers really just want to be treated with respect. And while all social interactions shouldn't remain business as usual, the organizations need to do more to make work environments feel safe for all employees, and be inclusive for all employees..your black coworkers just want to be respected, accepted and acknowledged. We are not angry, dangerous, aggressive, menacing, ominous, wild, argumentative, bullies, negative, seditious, recklessly impulsive, irrational, violent, criminals, tyrannous or inferior. Anymore than our non black counterparts are. If you want to know how to engage us when you see us, think about how you want to be engaged...and respond in kind. I would love to say that if we deal with each other as humans first, we'll be fine. But that is also somewhat contentious, especially since black people were considered 3/5ths human...but that is another post in itself. But despite what you heard, and what you've been taught. We are 100% human. We want what humans want. To live, to love, to flourish and to thrive. If you understand that...then you understand us.
As always, these are absolutely my thoughts.