Let’s start by defining what a “coon” is. A “coon” is a black person who values what white people think of them more than they care to honor their culture and the suffrage of the racial group they identify with. A “coon” seeks to be accepted and praised by white people while seemingly enjoying any and all humiliation, marginalization, bias, prejudice or mistreatment expressed towards them by white people.
“Coons” are the bud of innumerable jokes within the black community and at the same time equally loathed by others in the community. For the purpose of providing an example, Omarosa Manigault is widely known as a “coon”. She is a black woman who despite what everyone else sees as an ego-maniacal racist in our current president (who I will not name) decided to join his cabinet as Director of Communications for the Office of Public Liaison for the White House. To some, it just looks like she had a previous relationship with 45 and as a result of their friendship – she took a job she was offered. Sounds simple? Except, there is a little more to it if we dig deeper. I cannot say with any certainty what her specific motivations were for taking a job with the devil himself.
However, if I am to use the data that I have available, I will wager that she took the position to further her waning notoriety and influence. The fact that she did that knowing many of the disgusting views her former boss held is why she gets labeled a “coon”. Like a good “coon” she also thought as many of them do – that it would be different for her because she has presented herself as a supportive, non-threatening black woman. She was willing to sacrifice her own self-worth and maybe even some of her natural self-serving ways of being to be associated with a white supremacist. This is seen as self-hatred in the black community and while it has often been reduced to the derogatory nomenclature of “coon” this is the existential problem we are dealing with as it pertains to individuals who follow this pedigree.
In communities of color, individuals are never standing for themselves alone. As a person of color, you represent yourself and your community. It is a heavy burden to bear, but still, it is a fact-of-life we all assume and understand from an early age. There is a myriad of reasons why black people become “coons” a few examples are:
1) You grew up around white people your entire life and were taught that they are vehicles to progress your social status making your mere association with them a positive catalyst for your existence.
2) You grew up being taught “white is right” and that black people are in a constant state of striving towards learning and knowing more, but never achieve mastery when juxtaposed against white people.
3) You were taught that “white people” are trustworthy over people of color in every situation and always have your best interest at heart. Note: This is synonymous with the messaging and positioning of slavery times that Massa was beating you for your own good in an effort to refine your heathen and innate ways.
4) They secretly or unknowingly hate everything about being black or (more generally a person of color) because their conditioning tells them that everything from their religion to cultural norms lies well outside of what white people think is normal, so they choose to manufacture a representative of themselves that they think is more socially-appealing.
Being deemed a “coon” is the extreme of self-hatred black people harbor towards themselves stemming back to slavery times. However, I would wager that all of us whether we are deemed a “coon” or not sacrifice a little of our existence every day in ways that make us cry ourselves to sleep or pray for a “better” way of living. My entire career has included opportunities, trade-offs, and circumstances in which I had to assess whether being loyal to my culture and people was more important than a paycheck. Personally, I have always chosen the people over the perceived losses I may incur. I’m not ignorant to the fear that is attached to walking that road of choosing values, ethics, and community over livelihood and prestige.
Sometimes you have to bite your tongue and get to a certain place before you can exude the bravery. It takes a lot more self-exploration and integrity to honor yourself above self-serving activities that serve to forward a white agenda shrouded as an opportunity for progression for your career, life etc. Trust me, I get it.
Thankfully, I have the courage and license to confidently decline opportunities especially when they are in gross misalignment with who I am and what I stand for. That means if you ask me to take lesser roles on a project or in curating an event where white people who are less qualified than me have the spotlight, the answer will be “no”. If I have to sign-on to do any work that will adversely impact my community in any way, the answer is: “no”. Unfortunately, money and influence are everything to some so much so that they have absolutely nothing without it. That is an existential crisis of epic proportions. Money and influence are great, but at what cost? In Omarosa’s case, she thought she was making a power move and ending up coming up short in the end. How you start is how you end.
When we talk about diversity, inclusion, and equity in the HR world, do not stop short of understanding whether your policies, rules, and culture create cultural pitfalls designed to make people of various marginalized groups choose “white” over choosing themselves. It is a dangerous pitfall and one that breeds resentment. There aren’t enough town halls, focus groups, culture days or employment branding to save your retention efforts if you continue to make people of color choose your agendas over what is important to them. A word of caution.
I had the privilege of attending S.H.E. Summit two weekends ago as press. My attendance at the event was the culmination of a two-year promise I made to myself to get there. I stumbled upon this event a few years ago while on Twitter. I saw the hashtag trending and it immediately peaked my interest. I started reading all of the goodness on the hashtag which lead me to Claudia Chan’s website and from there I was hooked.
I have been to quite a few conferences over the years – each of them with a different mashup of pros and cons. Here’s what I appreciated about S.H.E. Summit:
1)The speakers were relatable. Each speaker shared their stories honestly and ended with sincere calls-to-action that spoke to their dedication to seeing all women thrive. Part of what energizes attendees to take action with any information acquired from your event is: Their ability to see themselves in the speakers and/or the stories being told.
2)They didn’t miss the opportunity to include men in the discussion. From the men who attended as a attendees to those who graced the stage, there was an important dialogue at S.H.E. Summit around how the empowerment and progression of women is affecting men. This is a conversation that is usually scoffed at by hardcore feminists, but I appreciated the difference in perspective.
3)Their programming was designed to address the whole woman, not just parts. When have you ever gone to a conference where you can get professional inspiration while finding out that there is underwear that exists to eliminate the god-awful maxi pad all women have to endure during that time of the month? Yes, this happened. We had the privilege of hearing from dynamic founder and serial entrepreneur Miki Agrawal of Thinx, Period Panties ( sorry not sorry, guys). Miki has created panties that are powered by technology that allows women to ditch the pad. Not only were there unanimous gasps in the room by the women in attendance, but we were all so captivated by her charge to remove the shame that is often synonymous with menstrual cycles for women around the world.
Miki wasn’t the only captivating voice that day. We also had the pleasure of being introduced to Tiffany Dufu, Author of Drop The Ball ( due to be released in Feb. 2017). Tiffany spoke to me personally because she shared her story of striving to be a perfect mom. She called her particular condition “Home Control Disease” (HCD). HCD is a condition that she defines as “having the need to have everything done a certain way – her way”. After her attempts at perfection failed her consistently, she started to redefine what success looked like.
For Tiffany, success boiled down to these three things:
1) Having a purposeful career
2) Cultivating a juicy partnership
3) Leading a healthy lifestyle.
With a new definition of success and letting go of perfection, she decided that it was okay to “drop the ball”. This meant that she would forgive herself if she missed responding to birthday party invites. It also meant that, she only manages what she can and lives with the imperfection of everything else. This is something I personally grapple with as I try feverishly to manage my three children, wife duties and my business.
Although I well know that I’m not alone in my mommypreneur plight, it was reassuring to know that it was okay to “drop the ball” if it means more peace and less pressure in my life.
Claudia Chan, Founder of S.H.E. Summit
If these two ladies weren’t enough to whip us in shape, we got hit over the head with the “Women & Money: Why We Struggle in the Relationship & Practical Steps to Financial Empowerment” panel. This panel encompassed Judy Dougherty, VP and Head of Strategic Initiatives at Prudential, Deborah Owens of Owens Media Group, Lisa Nichols, CEO of Motivating the Masses, Silvia Tergas, Financial Planner at Prudential and was moderated by S.H.E. Summit Founder, Claudia Chan. Their message to us was to not leave our financial futures up to chance. What I appreciated about the discussion was that it talked about the difference between wealth versus income. Deborah Owens of Owens Media Group cited that “wealth is an inside job”.
Typically when we hear about acquiring wealth, it is spoken about as something tangible that we can go out and conquer. It was refreshing to hear them encourage us to do the internal work first so we know how to sustain and build upon the income when it comes.
As you can tell, S.H.E. Summit was chock full of inspiration and activation to get you moving towards chasing your dreams. My overall takeaway was: Success should be defined individually. Much of the pressure and shame women and men feel around how well they are doing in life stems from very general definitions of success that are rooted in how much money you have in your bank account or the items in your closet. Walking away from the S.H.E. Summit I felt empowered to help the women in my life and my clients to redefine success on their own terms. When you are focused on the things that are important to you and you are actively taking steps to achieve your goals – you are indeed a success.
I was a Snapchat and Instagram beast that day. Check out some of the highlights of my day below:
I was on Facebook last week and happened to see a headline that actor, Will Smith had some choice words for “The Donald”. I clicked on the headline and watched the video of his press conference in Dubai for Suicide Squad. When probed by a member of the Dubai press about the negative reviews of Suicide Squad he said the following:
” I feel like at this point in my career I’ve earned the right to fail. Right. So, I’m going to take shots and I’m not going to hit them all; because I’m going to be trying really wild, aggressive, creative things. Some of them will be critically-acclaimed, some of them will make money and some of them will be Wild, Wild West.”
It resonated with me, because it reminded me of my own journey and relationship with failure.
Perfection be damned!
We are the most imperfect-perfect society. Most people are so broken, so lost, still learning, still striving and yet we will do everything in our power not to appear to be an overall failure. It starts when we are young. We are coached, molded and forced to put on appearances whether at church, family functions and school. The messages we receive are that mistakes are okay, but don’t make too many of them. How does something as imperfect as a human rise to such a level of perfection?
We rise to the occasion as much as our spirits can take us and eventually we all fall short. It is in those moments of imperfection that we recognize that we are fighting an uphill battle. Those messages of “failing just enough, but not too much” feel inhumane; but still we have appearances to upkeep.
Why does failure feel so permanent?
The funny thing about failure is: It isn’t permanent at all. When I look back at my failures, there isn’t one that completely destroyed me. You couldn’t tell me that while I was going through it, but not one destroyed me.
I’ve been through a lot. Once you have overcome the fear of failure, you figure I got this. That is until your dreams and aspirations grow even larger in size. So, here I am again wanting to expand and reach for the stars and guess who is back to torture me – our frenemies, fear and failure.
To be honest, failure is uncomfortable. It doesn’t feel like comfort food on a rainy day. It’s like the night you drank too much and prayed to get past it; while also promising never to get drunk again. In this way, much of how we approach failure has to do with mindset and approach.
Let’s explore why failure feels so permanent and what we can do to change it.
Reason 1) “If I fail, everyone will know I failed and judge me for it.” Oprah once said that every guest she had on her show from celebrities to the KKK had one thing in common- they wanted to be understood and seen for who they are. We all worry about others seeing us fail and the opinions and/or judgments that will follow. Particularly in this digital age where everyone is so visible; failure feels very public.
Newsflash: Time fades everything – especially memory. What you think people remember about your failures is very unlikely the case. No one person should have that much power over you and your climb to success.
Reason 2) ” I feel like everything is crashing down on me in this moment of failure.” I would be remiss if I didn’t discuss the feeling of failure and how this exacerbates the whole experience. As humans, we generally set out to do something and in return we expect our efforts and intentions to yield the perfect outcome. When things don’t align in the way we imagined, we generally feel like nothing can ever be better again because of that failure. Depending on the magnitude of the failure, those feelings of sadness, guilt, pessimism can last for a long time.
Newsflash: It’s important to go through those emotions, but you can’t live there forever. It’s the whole “being tired of being sick and tired”. The woeful feelings get old. Ultimately, things do get better. It requires a change of perspective and working on your approach to failure.
Reason 3) “Failure is bad and in return what I set out to do was bad.” Let’s be clear most of us don’t know how to fail and recover from it. No matter how many times we try to re-frame “failure” it is still ingrained in us as something negative. Most of us want to be seen as a success. Until recently, success was the positive end of our efforts and failure was the negative outcome of our efforts. It sounds easy enough to say we should revise our definition of success to include a healthy helping of failure, but our prior conditioning doesn’t want us to be great.
Newsflash: Let’s not romanticize failure as if all failures are equal. There are failures that result in casualties and some that are rather benign by comparison. Sometimes it really is as bad as it feels. Still, there is a lesson to learn and a wrong to make right. The grit and strength you have to use to get there is what success looks like.
Like Will Smith, I feel like I have earned the right to fail. It is a revelation you have when you have spent much of your life trying to walk a straight line. Perfection doesn’t exist. While we are all out here trying to figure out our purposes and life missions – we might as well let the failures teach us and lead us to success.
Share your feelings about “failure” with me below.
Aristocracy of HR community, the time has come for your Czarina to take a break. In 2013, I started off my year by speaking about “introspection and execution” (see here for that post). I made some promises to myself and put some things out in the universe that make more sense in 2016 than they did back then. It’s time for me to make good on what I promised myself, but first a look back and some updates.
Here’s what I promised myself in 2013:
Three Affirmations, Three Executions:
1)Be a signal in the noise that is the world of work. I may not be the loudest signal now, but I will be that signal that makes you stop what you’re doing and ask what is that noise? You won’t ask it out of annoyance; but you will wonder where it came from and how you missed it the first time around.
2016 realization: The signal is clear and received. I have found my lane and I am thankful for the platform I continue to build.
2)I will do something extraordinary and assist those that endeavor to do something extroardinary. There is something magical about being a part of something that is bigger than all of us. I want to collaborate, coordinate, create, envision, innovate all in the name of HR. It has already begun and the story behind this will unravel as the year progresses.
2016 update: I have done some really cool things since 2013. Many of my accomplishments have been in HR, but most have been outside of the realm of HR. It’s important to take stock of where you are, where you have been and relish in your accomplishments. I am tardy to the party on this.
3)I will introspect and continue to live life with purpose. The spirit requires balance and as such I will need to examine all that I do and adjust as necessary to maintain balance and productivity. I’m not running myself into the ground like I did in 2012. Consistency, SEO, clicks – it all sounds good, and I care, but not at the demise of my well-being. If one aspect of my life is out of sync- it’s all out of whack. My personal time is making a comeback this year.
2016 update: I’m still doing my best to not run myself into the ground. I have found that finding balance between work and life is not a destination, but rather a journey.
When you are a one-woman act it all comes down to you. The articles, PR, the editing, running your business, hosting a livestream show, juggling three kids ages 7 and below etc make for many focuses, quick wardrobe changes and many hats. I have been doing this and much more in my quest for success since 2013. However, I have to consistently remind myself of why I went into business in the first place.
Three main reasons why I took this leap into entrepreneurship were:
1) To be more available for my kids.
2) To get out of the rut of rising the ranks of an organization that gleaned no personal or professional satisfaction.
3) To have more flexibility to fully enjoy my life.
This year, I have decided to make good on my promises to myself about flexibility. That means that I am taking deliberate actions to play as hard as I work, while managing my tribe and their affairs more efficiently. Please know that this is not a perfect science. Any Work-At-Home Mama knows any good plan can be thwarted by life and your kids – despite our best of intentions.
Here are some things I have put in place to make good on these promises I made to myself:
1) I am being intentional about flexing my work week. I’ve cut my work days down to four days and it may go to three at times. I will obviously continue to put in the necessary hours to keep my business on a growth trajectory ; but I am no longer working for the sake of working.
2) Building in dedicated time for family and myself to decompress from the work week. We all deserve time to zone out and just be.
3) Whether it is ordering groceries or hiring a virtual social media strategist to keep my profiles humming – delegation at this point in my business is necessary for the maintenance of my sanity and continued growth.
All of that being said, I’m taking a break from the blog and social media for the next two weeks. I will return on July 18th. There will be no real-time instagramming, snapchatting, livestreaming, facebooking or awe-inspiring workforce wisdom coming from this here blog. I need a moment to regroup and relax – which is something that has become a priority for me.
Through the magic of delegation and various platforms you will continue to see my posts and shares.
I am really excited to spend quality time with my family during this break. Most importantly, I am excited to wake up and know that there is nothing I need to do other than put on my swimsuit and head to my cabana near the pool.
I want you all to know that I appreciate all of the support, shares, kind words and encouragement I get from you all. It means a lot to me and keeps me going and grinding.
I hope you all are enjoying your summer so far. See you back here in two weeks.
See below for some of my favorite content for 2016 and things to look forward to.
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.