The most terrible thing in all of this is that that is what we’ve told white people they need to do in order to be allies
Two years ago, and a couple of months into the pandemic, there was a vocal uproar on the heels of the Black Lives Matter movement.
At the time it felt like people from all levels of society were joining in the same chant: Raise Black Voices.
Even then, there was something immensely disappointing and discouraging about that.
I’ve written a bit about my frustrations on the creative side of this issue in the piece I Don’t Write Black Stories, which touches upon similar themes of existing in a world that has made up its mind about people of color — A consensus on which both white and black people have agreed upon, and which fuels everything from celebrity and influencer culture, to the everyday lives of average people.
But although the mechanisms are pretty much the same, i’ve never talked about the effect this mass movement has had on workplace culture, and even more so directly on people of color who don’t identify or partake in ‘blackness’.
To most, the idea of (up)lifting black voices probably seems revolutionary.
At its core, it stems from the idea that people of color are penalized in society for being black and must conform to standards of whiteness in order to fit in.
The solution, then, as most of these proponents state, is to encourage people of color to be our authentic selves, and to create spaces that enables us to tell our stories.
But the problem is there are a number of assumptions that are always being made. In the workplace, those revolve around the idea —
- That every person of color feels disenfranchised in the workplace (& for racial reasons)
- That every person of color identifies with and partakes in cultural blackness
- That your story as a person in your workplace is intrinsically tied to either 1) or 2)
All of these assumptions only give way to one problematic solution:
Encourage people of color to be their authentic selves.
Where authentic self = black.
For those of us who do show up as our authentic selves, both outwardly and inwardly, and in ways that don’t…