Thanks for Your Advice, but I Need to Be White to Follow It

When you give advice to a Black person from a place of white privilege, don’t expect us to say thank you

Photo: Astrakan Images/Getty Images

I am an anti-racism writer. I share my experiences so that people understand that racism is real; it is not the collective hallucination of Black people the world over.

I write from a place of pain and trauma. It hurts to relive my experiences, but I feel the need to share them with the universe to generate empathy, compassion, and hopefully change.

Often — White people mainly — get aggressive and defensive about what I write. It manifests itself by outright insults, gaslighting, and bullying. Others look down from their pedestal of white privilege and give me advice that could only possibly work if I were White like them. They think they are allies in the fight against racism when they are not. They give what they feel is great advice on a host of issues and expect profuse thanks. What is it that they don’t understand about me, a Black woman, not basking in white privilege as they do?

When I struggle to find employment, an HR manager or artificial intelligence program Googles me the moment I apply for a job. Within a second, they know I am Black; within a minute, I’m automatically disqualified from the pool. A rejection letter follows.

What needs to stop is the systemic racism that has infiltrated humankind and technology to not even give me a fighting chance. White people, how do we concretely change this?

I don’t need to hear that I need to network more, introspect more, have a more Eurocentric hairdo, or worse, keep on applying for more jobs. Been there, done that. Albert Einstein once said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” Why should I continue to do stuff that doesn’t work? Because eventually, maybe one day it will? Nah, I’m not naive enough to believe this, at least not anymore.

The facts are clear: This is a White person’s world, and I am begging at the gates to get in. From time to time, they do let in a few Black people, but you’ve got to play a role — and that’s a price I’m not willing to pay.

So in the endless dance of humans and artificial intelligence excluding Black and Brown people from reaching the top — by the way, only four Black CEOs lead Fortune 500 companies today — I want to have an authentic discussion about how we disrupt systemic racism altogether. Maybe if we stop it in the business world, society will follow suit?

Corporations can dismantle systemic racism — it is reachable. They can put down bold targets so that at least 50% of candidates interviewed for any job need to be Brown or Black. HR managers should not even be allowed to submit an entirely White pool to hiring managers. It should be an absolute no-no.

All it takes is an authentic will to do so. Investors are the lifebloods of corporations: What if the top 10 institutional investors developed a set of social justice targets that companies need to attract investors? What if they simply didn’t invest in companies that did not have an inclusive workforce? True diversity would come to companies at lightning speed.

Institutional investors recently launched the Environment, Social, and Governance (ESG) Index, which measures how responsible companies are when it comes to ethical investing. According to Investopedia: “ESG criteria are a set of standards for a company’s operations that socially conscious investors use to screen potential investments. Environmental criteria consider how a company performs as a steward of nature. Social criteria examine how it manages relationships with employees, suppliers, customers, and the communities where it operates. Governance deals with a company’s leadership, executive pay, audits, internal controls, and shareholder rights.”

Only when systemic racism is eliminated — no, let me be bolder, eradicated — then I can follow your advice, White people, not before. Think of this like a race: If I can’t even get to the starting block, how can I compete?

For example, some will only invest in companies that actively reduce carbon dioxide footprints, meet critical social criteria like diversity and inclusion, and have impeccable integrity and compliance (governance). There is a set of standardized measurements to ensure that all companies are evaluated equally. When companies score well in meeting ESG criteria, they attract some of the most wealthy global institutional investors, which augments shareholder value significantly.

My only beef with ESG is that it tends to be more assertive on environment and governance criteria but weaker on social issues. There needs to be a way to be bolder and specific in terms of more enhanced social measures for systemic racism to be blown out of the water altogether — especially in corporations.

Only when systemic racism is eliminated — no, let me be bolder, eradicated — can I follow your advice, White people, not before. Think of this like a race: If I can’t even get to the starting block, how can I compete? Let’s get me to the starting block, and I’ll follow all the advice you give me.

I write about racism, but there are so many other things I would like to write about instead. Help me dismantle racism so that I can get to that.

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