Black Blogs Still Matter Because We Can No Longer Afford Silence

Black Blogs Still Matter Because We Can No Longer Afford Silence

Today not only marks the first day of February, but it also marks my first official day back on the blog. It is also the beginning of Black History Month and the revered Black Blogs Matter Challenge. Today’s theme is Black Blogs Still Matter.

Black blogs still matter quite simply because our silence as black people can no longer stand. By now, many of us have built our respective brands and rapport in various lanes. Even with the prestige, accolades, and recognition that comes with blogging for some time, there remains ignorance of epic proportions. Plainly, there are still people who like what we write about, will greet you with a smile at an event, but still lack the ability to hold space for you to be authentically, culturally and aesthetically who you are as a human and in word. How disheartening it is to realize that your ancestors were silenced or shunned for speaking their truths and here we stand in 2018 where not much has changed? The key difference is we will no longer be silenced, we don’t care what it costs us and we will be heard.

In the last year, I have learned it is more important than ever to speak up about matters that affect the black community and the society-at-large. I cannot afford the silence any longer. I cannot afford the silence any longer not because it is costing me money; on the contrary, it is still costing me, my soul. I don’t want to work with your brand if you want to censor me. There are plenty of bloggers happy to scoop up every dollar and coin of yours so long as they can say they worked with Brand “X”. I don’t want you as a client if you hold bigoted views, there is a special kind of consultant or small business out there to serve not only your business but satisfy your insatiable craving for racist banter. I am not interested in being your friend, colleague or online buddy if I’m only palatable when I meet your white standards or threshold for political correctness. I don’t want to attend your swanky event if you haven’t awakened to the fact that your speaker rosters and blogger teams need to be diverse. Inclusion at such events needs to look like I don’t sit through your dinners or group outings feeling like a foreigner in my own body. You may find my position unfair, but it is unfair to be held to standards that others never have to consider reaching. Yet, I smile, do the work and blaze ahead accepting those circumstances in which I am subjected to less than equitable conditions.

Almost 7 years into blogging, the beauty is I have no cares of who I please. I have learned if I please myself first I will attract the right people, opportunities, and clients. I would be remiss if I didn’t say, this mantra is already in play as many of you have written to me over the years expressing how thankful you were for my candor on difficult subjects. Thank you for holding space for me.

It was never the intention of this blog to “go lightly”. Whenever I tackle a topic it is with precision and the truth. I expect callousness from celebrities, politicians, and others who permeate the upper echelons of society. What I hadn’t expected to see was the lack of empathy, privilege, blatant disrespect that I have witnessed within our own HR community. Nonetheless, it is when you see what is wrong in the world that you have choices to make.

You can:

1) Accept that this is what it is and what is going to be and remain silent.

or

2) You can see it all as an opportunity to share a different perspective.

 

I have chosen the latter. If you learn from me during the next 15 weeks, I have done your job for you. If I have shared my truth unabashedly in the next 15 weeks, I have freed myself and empowered others like me to do the same. This is not Racism 101 or Diversity and Inclusion 19 at some university or Continuing Ed. Black blogs still matter. My voice still matters and it for that reason alone that I will continue to do the work and share what is true. I hope you will hang in there with me.

I Used To Love D&I: Why I’ve Fallen Out of Love With Diversity & Inclusion

 

I USED TO LOVE D&I

Diversity and Inclusion was not my intended path. It was something that I knew very well at the ground-level being most often the only black woman in the companies, departments, and teams I worked for. Nonetheless, it wasn’t my focus to be a diversity and inclusion professional in the way that some may choose it as a field now. My work in HR brought us together. Whether it was the first D&I training I had in my first job where I spent three hours picking stereotypes out of a hat and affixing them under posterboards labeled “Black” “Hispanic” “Asian” or my long-stretch working for federal contractors who saw diversity as a burden rather than an opportunity; it is safe to say that I should have seen that the course was being set for me to have an impact in this arena.

The Impact

I had an impact ( and the journey continues). I saw the wayward relationship Talent Acquisition and HR as a whole had with Diversity. The annoyance of bosses of mine when asked about their hiring practices. They never had logical justifications for why they didn’t have a more diverse slate of candidates for jobs and I learned in the long run that they simply didn’t care. Watching the awkwardness of these relations and the contention at meetings, I often offered myself as the lone soldier that would either solely champion diversity efforts inside and out of the company or I became the one ally that Diversity had from Talent Acquisition. I went on to do some good work (never enough in my opinion). I became a regular face with local organizations that served the differently-abled population. I helped to train their people and even created some unique opportunities for internships and regularly paid positions for a few. I spent hours and hours for years combing through curriculum and tailoring it to what the market demanded to help my community organizations best empower their students. I fought for At-Risk Youth and got some of the most diligent and bright young men to work in fields they could never have dreamed of. It was good. I was doing good. That was until I realized that very few cared as much as I did about these people. I saw people. My employers saw these people as “good faith efforts”. Do you see the disconnect?

The Struggle is Real

You know you are in bad shape when you are working for a differently-abled person who doesn’t see the necessity in making a way for other differently-abled people. Add the red-tape of getting budget to move some of my programs ahead, even when I identified state funds that wouldn’t need to put a dent in anyone’s operational budget; the times that white people with no qualifications for the jobs they were being recommended for were dropped on my desk to execute an interview process and sometimes a hire. Perhaps you can start to get a glimpse of where my relationship with diversity went wrong. For whatever reason, there are companies that believe that putting a person of color or a differently-abled person in a diversity role means instantaneous success. Judging by the comments of Apple’s VP of Diversity (who has since apologized for said commentary), that is simply not true. In fact, it has been my experience that often times being a woman of color in diversity is a struggle. I remember being extremely excited to work with the African-American women who held diversity roles at two of my last jobs. In every instance, they all disappointed me and on some level, it wasn’t their fault.

You see, you can’t be a Black person or Latino person and start closing the gap for your own people in a substantial way. This is the trickery and illusion of diversity. Let me be clear, you cannot intentionally and substantially close the gap of employment, upward mobility and all of the other socio-economic factors where Blacks, Latinos, and even Asians are adversely-impacted. Even if all of the numbers around hiring, workforce census, metrics around people of color ascending to leadership or the lack thereof all align and express that there is a problem; in many companies, this will be regarded as you are hiring more Blacks, Latinos or Asians because they are your people. Instead, you have to speak about “diversity for all” white, blue-eyed men included with specific “initiatives” earmarked to attract more diverse groups.

Keep in mind we had a biracial, (but regarded as a black mostly) in President Barack Obama. If he articulated the disparities faced by diverse groups of people — supported by data and then went forward with closing those gaps ( and he did this to the best of his ability), he would be seen as being a president for serving individual interests. In other words, he would be somehow pegged as being discriminatory for eliminating barriers for people who really need it. This was the real and actual reality of his presidency. The same rings true for people of color in diversity and inclusion. Unless we are addressing the whole we can’t have programs for the select few who truly need our efforts and our help.

The Answer

You may be wondering: Why is it like this? I have an answer for you. Diversity & Inclusion is the American Red Cross of Racism and all other “isms”. Companies have decided that it looks good to be taking an action or actions towards diversity and inclusion except many of us know that there is no real change to the plight of people of color or any other marginalized group being made. It looks nice. It makes the company look attractive to say “they value diversity and inclusion”, but in practice, many do not practice what they preach. It is the reason why Unilever who is the parent company of Dove can be a part of a myriad of diversity-related coalitions and alliances and still have Dove be tone deaf enough to release their recent ad that simulates a white woman removing dirt from her body as a result of using their product that really ends up being a black woman.

 

 

Diversity & Inclusion is like getting a band-aid after you get bruised or wounded and suddenly someone says you have healed no need for that band-aid anymore and they rip it off without concern for your pain. So, I have asked myself what does it all matter in the end? If we are going to continue the diversity & inclusion dialogue, conferences and summits all highlighting the star-students of the bunch while being thoroughly-oblivious to how that doesn’t nearly speak to the other 80-90% of companies who couldn’t care less or care, but play helpless, or do just enough to ensure that they don’t jeopardize contracts or possible litigation — ask yourself what good is it all doing?

This my friends is the truth about diversity and inclusion. It stinks. It needs an overhaul and/or dismantling and it is virtually useless if the practitioners who touch it on a day-to-day basis don’t care about the only thing that matters in all of this and that is humans.

I will keep up the good fight, but I prefer to fight for people over lofty concepts like diversity and inclusion.

I have been doing deeper dives on this topic on my weekly livestream show “Ask Czarina Live” if you are interested, feel free to watch the replays here.

A Business Curse Word For The Ages: Diversity

Image courtesy of Flickr.

Image courtesy of Flickr.

 

I’ve spent the better half of my career immersed in work environments that had to keep a watchful eye over things like diversity & inclusion. The work felt like something I should be proud of — seeing as though it is predicated upon providing equal opportunity to people who have often been outcast based on everything from race to physical disability. At the same time that I was busy being proud, I found something interesting among my HR peers and other internal partners. This interesting tidbit was: Nobody “really” cared about diversity and inclusion.

Sure, we had several funded and active programs to quote, unquote “level the playing field”. We met regularly to look at how we were making strides with our Affirmative Action Plan and goals. For good measure, our leadership would even make it their business to make a very poignant and seemingly genuine speech at our African-American Affinity Group Scholarship Dinners or our coveted Black History Month Celebrations.

Still, very few in the organizations I’ve both worked for and heard about via the anecdotes of similarly-situated colleagues truly cared about diversity. It could be read between the rolling eyes, I witnessed when white hiring managers were forced to pull together a competitive slate of candidates instead of hiring their friends or others from their network. It was evidenced, when in one company I worked for — the administrative pool was 80-90% white and left us consistently having to answer to our partners in the Diversity Group about why we could never manage to hire more people of color with such high availability and capability numbers.  It became blatantly clear that no one cared, when even in HR, people of color were better educated and had stronger backgrounds than the bulk of the white professionals working for the company – yet we had to consistently answer to these people who had no clue. The disdain, jealously, and surprise oozed as I watched my white counterparts half-smile or as others call it “smized” with wonderment in their eyes as I spoke up for myself in meetings. The kind of “who hired her, she’s so articulate and smart” looks, but I digress.

I spent over 10 years in HR and really never met a person that wasn’t of color who truly cared about Diversity. Scratch that, even people or color gave up on the promise of diversity in time when they realized the purported efforts never matched the actual outcomes in real life. It in turn made me want to fight for the people I served more. It is the reason that I not only revived the otherwise defunct, African-American Affinity Group at my last job, I also ran and got elected to President in the group while working in HR (which had never been done and was frowned upon). When it came time to work with a national organization to help reformed youth who ended up in the prison system and I knew it was simply a superficial endeavor on the part of my then-employer — I raised my hand to manage the program. There were no shortage of hurdles I had to overcome in getting these stellar gentlemen hired for a program that was allegedly supported from the top. Oh, but somebody tell me again about how ‘diversity’ is so important.

Somebody, anybody share that statistic we have all run into the ground about how teams and organizations are more “innovative”, “productive and “profitable” with a diverse team and leadership behind it. Now that I have effectively left “The Matrix” that is Corporate America, I see why both the concept and application of diversity is troublesome for so many companies and the people that run them.

Here are some thoughts and questions I have:

1)  When we really break down why any diversity, inclusion and or anti-discrimination laws exist we must automatically return to the root cause of it all which is the anti-color sentiment on which the U.S was built and continues to run (a.k.a slavery, Jim Crow Laws, Segregation, Mass Incarceration of POC etc.).

2) If it is truly part of the founder or CEO’s moral and ethical fabric to have an “appreciation” or “love” of all human beings and their unique contributions, why do you need a group or department or a law to guide your efforts to not only include all human beings; but see that they are given a  a fair chance to be hired, developed and afforded equal access to opportunity?

3) How is it that companies have Affirmative Action Plans that get diluted and minimized to quotas in which they hire just a few POC, females etc. to appear diverse enough to keep their government contracts; but still leave some cushion for the latitude they crave to hire their golf buddies, neighbors or family members (who possess little to no requisite skills)?

“Diversity” is like a curse word in business. What it screams to CEOs is that you cannot just hire people who walk, chew, think and look like you. For the most part, they all want clones of themselves at every level of their company and the only time it even strikes them as plausible to look beyond themselves is when they can’t find the acumen they need to be profitable in their sea of clones. You shouldn’t have to be coerced or convinced to hire someone different if you are truly for all people. Diversity meetings shouldn’t have to happen every week or every month if you genuinely care and champion it. Moreover, the government shouldn’t have to regulate how you do business by dangling the carrot of money in front of you to not discriminate and provide equal opportunity. The fact that all of the practices I just mentioned are so pervasive, let’s me know that less of you care about diversity than you are willing to admit.

Before you go building that new diversity program or hiring that new Director of D&I, I would highly suggest you think about why they are needed in the first place.

I recently had the pleasure of speaking with my friend, Mark A. Dyson host of The Voice of Jobseekers Podcast along with another friend, Chris Fields, Owner of Resume Crusade. We discussed many of the double and triple standards I discussed in this article. If you are interested, take a listen below and share your thoughts in the comments. We appreciate you!

Three Tips For Implementing Real-Time Diversity Conversations

Image courtesy of Unsplash.

Image courtesy of Unsplash.

Diversity is on the tip of everyone’s tongues right now. The interesting thing about diversity is people generally give it attention at the 11th hour when missteps and poor practices have already done damage. If some new regulation calls for diversity and inclusion training , diversity mascots  experts are dusted off and asked to provide just-in-time training to show compliance.

As HR practitioners and more importantly business owners, we must all agree that a just-in-time or post-incident training is not a solution to ensuring that we foster inclusive workplaces. Whereas we have been trying to mitigate the instances of intolerance, harassment and exclusion in the workplace – we now have events and circumstances outside of the organization forcing us to have more timely discussions with staff.

The volume is turned up on racial and bigoted rhetoric. Politics are all the buzz as we move towards nominating candidates for the presidential race in the U.S. Through it all, tensions are high online and off. Do you think for a second none of this has the potential of spilling into your workplace?

If you think not, you’re not watching closely enough. More than ever, your employees need to know where you stand and how you expect them to conduct themselves. Times of controversy call for compassion, understanding and real-time diversity conversations.

Here are some tips for implementing these conversations:

1) Be timely and consistent in communicating. It doesn’t matter whether you are addressing concerns internally or externally- you will need to be timely and consistent. Waiting too long to address diversity issues of the moment- can elicit trust issues and undermine your ability to authentically connect with your staff.

2) Make it clear where you stand and what you expect of your employees. I once worked for an organization that allowed the confederate flag to be hung in the offices of leaders. Just a short twenty years ago, this same organization had employees hanging nooses in the offices of African-American employees. To date, it isn’t abundantly clear that they support a diverse workforce and it isn’t implied because it says so on their webpage.  I share this to drive home the fact that you have to walk the talk. Diversity and Inclusion is not just a policy or beautifully-written EEO statement. Diversity should be a part of your organization’s moral fiber. Your employees deserve to know where you stand and what will and will not be tolerated.

3) Keep it simple. Keep it real. Have you ever taken stock of the gestures and faces your employees make before you or any other leader starts speaking in a training or meeting? Employees are like your customers in many ways. They hate contrived messages. It pains them to watch you squirm through a conversation on race knowing that you don’t even believe the words coming out of your own mouth. Keep your message simple and be real. You have to trust that you have fully-grown adults working for you- that are capable of engaging in open dialogue on diversity, inclusion and other difficult topics.

It is our legacy in HR to create policy, procedure and programs. With pressures for businesses to show and prove their dedication to social causes – it is very clear that HR and the business have stock in managing the moral reputation of the company. Using these tips are just the beginning to the effort you need to put into a sound diversity and inclusion strategy.

In my latest “Ask Czarina Live”, I talked about what happened to MAC Cosmetics when they let a diversity debacle go too far. Check it out below.

Have questions about how to take this one step further? Contact me. I’ll answer you in a future “Ask Czarina” video.

Ask Czarina Live: The Rise of the Black Female Entrepreneur

Ask Czarina Live Intro Screen (1)

 

A few month’s ago, I was searching for articles on female entrepreneurship. I needed statistics and facts around this topic. I was beyond pleasantly surprised to find this Entrepreneur article called: The fastest-growing group of entrepreneurs in America. This article not only summarized the state of entrepreneurship for females, but it highlighted a statistic- even I was not aware of. The statistic was: The number of African-American owned businesses grew 322% since 1997. So, while entrepreneurship by females in general grew 74% from 1997 to 2015, black women blew that statistic away.

Image of Biddy Mason Courtesy of Wikipedia

 

I believe there are many reasons for this rapid increase in female entrepreneurs and even more so for black women taking this leap.

In this episode I will share the following:

  • What I believe is contributing to the rise in females becoming entrepreneurs in general.
  • What factors may be contributing to the rise of the businesses owned by African-American Women?
  • What does this mean for the future of work?
  • Great statistics, but is there room for improvement?

If Entrepreneur can put this topic on blast, so can I. We are going to explore all sides of female entrepreneurship this week.

To get your palate wet for this week’s discussion, check out these articles for more insights:

Who Runs the Business World? Women!

Turning Corporate Lemons Into Entrepreneurial Lemonade

From HR to Entrepreneurship: Honor the Journey

Businesswoman Janine Truitt Talks About the Lessons of Entrepreneurial Dreams

 I’m calling out all mompreneurs, womeneurs, solopreneurs, entrepreneurs, boss ladies, and even aspiring female entrepreneurs to join me on Thursday at 11pm EST/10pm CST/8pm PST for “Ask Czarina Live”.

Good News!  I promised you that I would be posting the replays of “Ask Czarina Live” to “The Aristocracy of HR” You Tube Channel for those of you not ready to take the Periscope plunge. Fortunately, I have been enlightened that an app named Katch.me exists. Katch.me saves all of my Periscope episodes so I can share and download my episodes. If you’re on Katch, you can check out “Ask Czarina” replays there. Otherwise, I am happy to announce that my replay from last week is up on “The Aristocracy of HR” You Tube Channel.

As usual it will be fun, fresh, and insightful. I look forward to seeing you there.

Want more? Click here to watch the latest “Ask Czarina” episode. Subscribe to “The Aristocracy of HR” You Tube Channel to be notified when new episodes are published.

Honest Diversity Conversations Recap: Bias Leadership

 

Created with Canva.com

Created with Canva.com

On Wednesday 9/9/15, Steve Levy and I kicked off the first of three webcasts hosted by College Recruiter called: Honest Diversity Conversations. The aim of these webcasts is to step outside of the realm of the typical diversity conversations. We wanted to open the eyes of business owners and HR practitioners alike to the issues and missed opportunities that exist when we don’t consider the impact of what’s going on in society, their homes and most importantly the impact of our policies and procedures.

Last week we concluded our Honest Diversity Conversations webinars. Our final discussion was about: Bias Leadership. There are so many ways that bias leadership can manifest itself in organizations. What was clear by the end of our discussion, was that race relations, bias in the workplace among other nuisance variables improve when you take care to put the right people into leadership positions. When you do your due diligence to choose the right leaders, they ultimately do what is right. This brings me to another important point- have we loss our moral compass in the workplace? In many cases, I believe we have. There is so much emphasis on impacting the bottom-line that we forget the impact we have on our employees. This omission of thought is very often unintentional. However, employees don’t want to hear what you didn’t intend. All they know is there are instances and situations where their progress and well-being are not being examined or treated consistently and equitably.

Did you know?

2014 was a record year for retaliation claims filed with the EEOC. According to a February 2015 article by SHRM, 2 in 5 (42.8%) of the charges the EEOC received in 2014 alleged retaliation against an employee pursuing discrimination claims. If your leadership is tuned into the workforce for both good and bad cues – how does something like retaliation reach the numbers the EEOC is reporting? It essentially means that HR departments and leaders are not practicing what they preach, In HR, it is quite customary  to have a non-retaliation policy. The piece that many employers don’t get is you can draft and implement any policy you want. The issues arise when you are inconsistent in how you apply said rules and more importantly when the “rule book” mysteriously changes depending on your race, creed, gender etc.

These discussions were not your typical diversity discussions. It was created to discuss and enlighten the masses to what really goes on in practice, with intention, and many times in ignorance. We sincerely hope that you will feel empowered to continue these conversations in your own organizations.

For links to the first two recaps and extra teasers see below:

Job Seekers and Conversations About Diversity Issues in the Workplace

Honest Diversity Conversations Recap: Race Relations and HR

Honest Diversity Conversations Recap: Discrimination & The Hiring Process

How to Address Discrimination During the Hiring Process

Watch our last Honest Diversity Conversations Webcast on Bias Leadership below.

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