I am no stranger to a good debate. In fact, I quite enjoy a healthy conversation comprised of fact, experience and well-placed opinion every once and again. The operative word here is healthy and by healthy I mean all parties in the debate are allowed their perspective and are illustrating a unique perspective rooted in actual facts.
I have often heard from colleagues, friends, and family that having conversations about inequality and racism are difficult. They have said it is an argument you can’t win and so they just don’t touch for any reason. Conversely, I have taken a different stance. I have an extremely difficult time seeing society run amuck with incorrect narratives about groups of people. I have an even harder time seeing how injustice doesn’t just stop at narratives and propaganda but extend to gross violations of civil liberties.
I have been increasingly outspoken about how we are all participating in this matrix of social constructs that oppress and label groups of people so we can perpetuate the lie that one group is more superior to another. After countless conversations, some solicited and many more not, I have come to a few conclusions about why it isn’t necessarily a good use of my time to engage in racial conversations.
Here are my conclusions:
Most people have made up their mind about the history of events that led us here and why racism and inequality remain pervasive. In making up their minds, they have actively absolved themselves of any wrongdoing while making the assertion that every man has free will to overcome these significant obstacles that they intentionally created to have an enduring and lasting impact on the socioeconomic status of specific groups.
I’m a black woman which makes almost anything I say dangerous and aggressive. If I sat around spewing fake news all day that would be simple, people would simply say my ignorance is just another example of why black people have found it difficult to reach the upper echelons of society. That I pride myself on being well-versed in the issues, history, complete with reasonable explanations for the usual rebuttals makes me a threat.
Being a credible activist for what is right and just is exhausting. I’m not nearly close to fighting the good fight in the way that civil rights leaders did in the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s, yet there is a soul-deep lethargy that sets in when I find myself having to explain basic tenets of human decency, empathy, and fairness to people who see themselves as reasonably intelligent avatars.
I can’t help someone see beyond my color and the threat of my presence if they have decided that black means bad and white means right. It’s not always in my best interest to dialogue even superficially if you can’t separate fact from lies you have been indoctrinated with to preserve your social status. I am not your Racism 101 professor that you get to tap into because I appear to be tempered in my approach to the subjects at hand. I’m likely consumed by fire on the inside every time a white person finds my perspective unfortunate which is really code for I really wanted to like you Janine, but your desire to be forthright makes me uncomfortable.
As I mentioned in the last #BlackBlogsMatter post, my north star is peace. Don’t be shocked if my chatter sometimes goes quiet. I am tired for myself and for my ancestors. I have tried my best with some of you. Preserving me and addressing what I can fix among my own is starting to look like the best thing I can do for us all. Sometimes the loudest thing you can say is to say nothing at all.
I have been deciding what I want to call the theme of my Friday posts and then it hit me: Food-for-thought Friday. My goal is to share insights I have on a myriad of topics – either inspired by content I have elsewhere on the interwebs or just something I feel warrants discussion.
Today, I am sharing my latest You Tube video from “The Aristocracy of HR” You Tube Channel. If you aren’t already aware, I post a video per week there giving the behind-the-scenes or background on the article of the week. I also post the replays from my weekly Ask Czarina Live™ Periscope show so you should definitely subscribe, but I digress.
Last night, on my Ask Czarina Live™ show I discussed pay equity for women. I talked about the fact that I am disgusted with talking about it. I also shared the startling statistics in the pay equity discussion for women of color.
Did you know?
Although white women get paid 79 cents on every dollar of their white male counterpart makes, Black women make 64 cents on that same dollar. Latinas get paid 54 cents on that same white male dollar. Women across racial demographics who are disabled make 64 cents on the dollar as well. Which brings to light that even though there is a general issue with pay equity for women, the impact is disproportionately adverse when we break it down by race and even ability.
What I find fascinating is the inability of white males and even females to see how this may be a tremendous hurdle for women of color to overcome. There is a mindset that if we (people of color) simply do the “right things” that the problem of inequity goes away and we can all go home and resume our lives as successful professionals. Quick to speak up and offer up solutions, slow to listen.
I contend that it isn’t that simple. There is a system and an institution in this country that makes it near impossible in some cases for women of color to catch up. Even if white women catch up eventually, we will always be behind. That fact doesn’t change unless, white people recognize the issue for what it is and make some serious and intentional changes in how gender and race is viewed in this country. That’s the price of being the majority. What can I say – with great power comes great responsibility as they say.
Someone on my show mentioned, “People pay for what they want.” We could make the case that the fact that pay equity is still an issue is a sign that women overall are unwanted in the workforce. I can also make the case that women of color and those who are disabled are damn near invisible when you consider the spectrum of how much the powers-that-be choose to pay us.
There are ways we can advocate for ourselves as women on the whole, but the advocacy is a harder sell for some of us. This is a fact.
Here’s the food-for-thought: Don’t be offended or quick to offer-up a solution, when women of color speak about the reality of their own plight in the pay equity debacle. It isn’t an affront to white women or anyone else. Instead, ingest the data and decide for yourself if you would want the same for yourself or your daughter. What would you do? I think I already know what your answer is.
Until the next time…thank you for reading! I appreciate you immensely. Stay tuned for more food-for-thought next Friday.
As we continue to discuss diversity and inclusion concerns, it is important that companies that are serious about attracting, retaining and promoting diverse candidates understand how we think about our value in the workplace.
From a child, it was drilled into me that my skin color was not a roadblock, but an opportunity often seen as a threat. I was warned that I would have to work a gazillion times harder than any of my Caucasian counterparts to achieve success. To round out my coaching on getting ahead, I was advised to keep my head on, study hard, keep things formal on the job, work hard and it would all pay off.
More than a decade into my career, I see that my cultural and familial coaching has served me fairly well. In speaking to other minority colleagues over the years, I know that they were also told many of the same things growing up and have also found success in those tidbits. It might be sobering to read, but a person’s only barometer for how life works is experience. Having emigrated to the U.S. from the West Indies and South America in and around the 70’s, I don’t have to tell you what it was like for my parents and grandparents to assimilate into the “American way”; let alone garner gainful employment.
The disconnect between what I was taught and my real life experience is and has been startling. For one, I have found that most employers have no clue that their minority employees are carrying all of this. It is like the worst, best-kept secret. Subconsciously, minorities often believe that employers see them as less of a value. That perception has caused me to over-compensate with efforts that have had no real correlation to my success.
When your message as a company is simply “we are an equal opportunity employer” this appears to be more employer semantics that really says nothing more than “we will hire you, because we must”. Furthermore, if minority representation at all levels is scarce; I have more proof that you aren’t truly dedicated to promoting a diverse workforce. All things validating what I have been told.
To further test the validity of what I have been told over the years, here has been my reality:
1) For over 50% of my career, I have been the only black woman either on my team, in the region or in the company I worked for.
2) I have traditionally made less in compensation than most of my Caucasian counterparts. How do I know? People like to talk about what they make, especially when they make a lot of money- so there’s that.
3) More than once, I have resigned from a job because I was overlooked, overshadowed and underutilized in my job. This was in stark contrast to the applause for other Caucasian employees that were not nearly as productive or useful as I was.
4) I went to college, possess several certifications pertinent to my field as well as Master’s credits and have been managed three or more times by Caucasian women and men who not only possess less education than me, but have benefited from my efforts.
5) Lastly, I have had to fight for simple luxuries and leniency that was afforded to my Caucasian co-workers with no contest.
For the most part, minorities have been urged out of necessity to be better than everyone else to get ahead. To some extent, it is great advice. However, it becomes disheartening when being better isn’t the standard for everyone else and doesn’t result in the desired outcomes. It would help companies to market themselves and attract diverse candidates-if they understood how we approach our work in thought and practice. Once you understand, you have to have a genuine willingness for changing these cemented impressions, realities and perceptions.
The end game of diversity and inclusion has to be understanding and execution. If you don’t get that ‘diverse’ isn’t just a buzzword but a broader meaning for different- you aren’t ready to have a discussion about diversity. Companies have to be willing to identify, understand, and embrace the differences that exist among employees before they endeavor inclusion initiatives.
The truth is I have always navigated my career in excellence, because that is my standard. I have done this despite the unfair circumstances I have been met with. I’m not a fan of pulling the race card, but if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck…you know the rest. Also, when my knowledge, skills, abilities, and efforts are shelved for the purposes of rewarding other people’s mediocre efforts; it is hard not to see the truth in what I have been told.
As you consider you own diversity and inclusion efforts, how will you ensure that your diverse employees are fairly and equitably supported and recognized for their efforts?