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My Voice. My Power.



I recently spoke on an NAWSP webinar, "Beyond The Hashtag: Using Your Voice, Power, And Influence To Create REAL Change." It was a raw, in-depth conversation about how to be part of the change that America so desperately needs. The panel was led by Cynthia Barnes, Founder & CEO of National Association of Women Sales Professionals, and a woman who proves that you can accomplish what you set out to do and overcome adversity, come hell or high water.

I was joined by three distinguished Black leaders, all of whom know first-hand the toll systemic racism takes. Liz J. Simpson, founder of Stimulyst and a thought leader on women entrepreneurs was also a 2019 INBOUND fellow. Kevin (KD) Dorsey, VP of Inside Sales for PatientPop in Santa Monica, is a plain-spoken sales leader who gave a knowing nod my comment about the importance of “seeking” diverse talent. And, Ken Harris, President/CEO of the National Business League and a Black business champion.

If you want to see the panel and let me know what you think, jump in here.

I came into the panel having been asked to speak about how White women can best support their Black colleagues. WOOO HAAA – that was no easy assignment. I started by contemplating how insidiously systemic racism is. Then I went granular, thinking about what I’ve learned through my research and personal experience. 

At a systemic level I think the first step is to admit that you - make that we, White people - have racism within us. We were born into a racist system that privileges us. Having racism, and the privilege it provides us, infused into our cultural, social and economic experiences is just reality. Just as Black people carrying generations of pain is a reality. I am by no means comparing White privilege to Black pain. I’m simply saying they are both realties and both need to be accepted as real.

The question then becomes what you do with this reality? You have choices. Do you become a white supremacist? Do you ignore the racist learnings that have been bred into you and pretend they don’t exist and thus pretend not to be racist? Do you own that systemic racism and white privilege have been bred into you and then get on – and stay on - the anti-racism bus? 

I will admit I was in the middle category throughout my childhood. Ignorance, even knowing ignorance, is sometimes easier than reality. Then my brother became a police officer and visited upon me much of the same violence he bragged about perpetrating against Black & gay men and women of all colors. I eventually fled. But, my experience of him catapulted me onto the anti-racism bus. I admit, I sometimes fell off. However, it’s been 20 years since I’ve been firmly and vocally on the bus. I still make mistakes. 

Then I thought about the granular things I have learned, the tangible things a White person can do to make a difference for a Black colleague or a colleague of color. Here are a few thoughts. And, believe me, I know there are many more.

  • Stop “checking in” to see if your colleagues are “OK.” They’re likely more OK than you are. 

  • Speak up. If you see something say something. Immediately.

  • Speak truth to power, even when it puts you at risk. You’ll sleep better.

  • When you screw up, say “I’m sorry”and mean it. We’re all human.

  • Acknowledge that white culture should not be the default culture. Really acknowledge that – to yourself.

  • Trust the wisdom of Black people and stop needing to take charge, to be right. Stop being white saviors.

  • Own the fact that knowledge and experience are not the same thing. Experience matters - a lot.

  • Unconscious Bias training is for everyone. Yeah, that’s you – and me.

  • Your part in pay equity might mean sharing your salary, your base, your client book. Whatever you can share to level the playing field. Just do it. 

  • Seek out diverse talent. Stop saying you can’t find them. It’s on you.

  • Quit celebrating 100 years of suffrage like all women have had the vote for 100 years. Most Black women really didn’t have access to the vote until the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Acknowledge that.

  • Stay visible to police when a Black person is involved. Your presence demonstrates solidarity – and might save a life.

  • Tell your kids the truth about racism and America’s racist history. Then listen to them - they’ll likely have a thing or two to teach you.

So, I gotta say, this was more than a little hard to write and, maybe, a bit too preachy. It wasn’t meant to be. I don’t know how else to say what is inside me, except by being direct.

Jean

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