Heart of the Matter
I did not write this, but I saw this on a Facebook stream and this hit me so deep inside. For this is the life of every person of color. If these words are absorbed within you, you will begin to understand what happens both in business and in this world. These are life changing words. May you have the courage to see yourself within the context of this…and help drive change.
"From the moment I was born my life has been steeped in whiteness. Not just the MTV I grew up with or the Disney characters I loved, but the white history I learned from white teachers, the white art I learned to revere above all else, the beauty standards I knew I’d never live up to. I know what songs y’all like the most, who your biggest movie stars are, how you achieve the hottest hairstyles in your magazines, what fashion you’re appropriating. I know what your “ideal” family looks like, what your definition of “American values” is. I know what you find funny and romantic. I know your definitions of success.
But it’s more than that, much more. I had to learn to talk to my white teachers in a way that didn’t seem “too boisterous,” and I learned why enthusiasm would be disruptive from me yet welcomed by white boys. I had to learn what level of eye contact with cops seemed respectful, what seemed evasive, and what seemed challenging. I had to learn why clerks in the grocery store were following me. I had to learn why the same white people who clutch their purse around me when they have a coin will come running to me for help when they don’t.
I know what “articulate” really means. I know what “thug” really means. I know what the words “tough on crime” will do to you and us. I had to learn why a black President scared the shit out of so many of you. I had to learn how many times I could voice my opinion in a work meeting before I was labeled “difficult.” I had to learn how loud I could raise my voice before I was labeled “threatening.” I know why so many of you want to say “n*****” so bad. I know what face you make when you are about to shout it at me. I had to learn why so many of you think that people like me are why you are poor. I know why you co-opt our movements. I know why you still expect a thank you. I had to learn why your needs are default but mine are “divisive.” I had to learn how to not get suspended by white teachers, how to not get arrested by white cops, how to not get fired by white supervisors.
And to know all of that about you, I had to learn how race was invented as a function of capitalism to justify the brutality of genocide and forced free labor. I had to learn how slavery was repurposed into the prison industrial complex and the school-to-prison pipeline. I had to learn how your police force was created to return black people to slavery and maintained to control brown and black populations to manufacture a false sense of white security. I had to learn how the Southern Strategy was able to capitalize on the racism that you dared not see in yourselves, even though we could see it clear as day. I had to learn how the Irish became white when we could not. I had to learn how you could claim to rightfully own stolen land and how you still can today.
You have not had to know these things; even if you studied some of these topics in school, you did not have to know them. People of color, on the other hand, have lost so much when we’ve gotten it wrong. We have been fired for wearing our hair in ways you don’t like, for not hiding our bodies that you decided to hypersexualize, for having too many opinions, for answering too honestly, for using our own accents and dialogue instead of yours, for believing you when you said you didn’t tolerate racism in the workplace, for teaching history you refuse to acknowledge, for celebrating our beauty that you don’t want to see. We have died for walking with a certain swagger, for reaching for our wallets, for asking for help, for speaking with the wrong tone, for giving a menacing look, for playing our music too loud, for not walking away, for walking away, for marching in peace.
Your survival has never depended on your knowledge of white culture. In fact, it’s required your ignorance.”