I became so annoyed by a line of questioning when touting the praises of a minority-owned business recently, l just had to ask this – why is it that Black people in business are often scrutinized in ways that borders on insulting – even by some of the best, well-intentioned people who consider themselves enlightened?
Why are there so many questions about “qualifications”, even with proof of excellence from past clients?
Why is it that when we open our mouths to discuss what people of color have lived in real time, we are often questioned and shut down by those who feel they have the authority on data-driven stats and facts as they know them?
Since when has data superseded people’s experiences?
How can one claim to be progressive, yet find themselves not being trusted by the very people they claim to stand up for in the gap?
How can you teach, if you will not first be willing to learn? For some of you, there is a deep well of empathy for people who are considered less fortunate, until the person you are supporting does something you do not like, and then they are written off amongst your feelings of being aggrieved.
Are we not all allowed the same rights to making mistakes, too?
Why is it, when we are seeking people of color to be on our boards, they must be impeccable and credentialed from the womb in order to be considered?
Had it occurred to anyone that we often aren’t impeccable on paper, because we were not taught the processes needed to be such? Do you not then see that those board members are often not able to identify with those they are often purportedly there to serve?
Who takes us to “lunch” and gives us what we need to know without judgement, the way other cultures have been doing for generations?
Where are our often-missing mentors in the places where only angels dare trod with these preparations?
It is one thing, if opportunities for growth are presented and blown; it is quite another to not give those opportunities based on assumptions and judgements we frame as innocent “questioning” to gain clarity.
If we truly want to live in a place that we say accepts all people, here are a few things you can do:
1. Shut up, and listen. You are not the authority on all things deep and righteous. People who are in the midst of these awful scenarios are already traumatized enough without adding your tone deafness to it.
2. Either you are ALL in or not. Straddling a fence that works for you, only ends up alienating the one who needed you to be fully present.
3. Stop telling THEIR story, to show how you stepped up to “save” them from their horrific life. Having to relive it through your tales of how far they have come and what role you played in that will not end well. They will despise you, while you are stumped as to what could have possibly happened.
4. It is okay to say you do not know. You can’t be an authority on everything with data. No matter HOW much you have, it will never trump lived experiences.
5. If people of color do not want your help for whatever the reason, do not suck salt and internalize those feelings. It is NOT about you.
There is more to add, but you get the point.
Check your internal compasses while you are outwardly trying to be Good Samaritans. Ask questions and LISTEN to what is being said, not what you want to hear.
I need us to stop adding trauma to what may be otherwise traumatic experiences in our tone deafness.
People need kindness and compassion – not saviors.
Think about these things the next time you have a candidate of color in your sphere, and shift to a better place.
We thank you in advance.