What Does Racism in Corporate America Look Like?
Updated: 4 days ago
After spending three decades in corporate America doing human resources and diversity work, I've seen firsthand how racism in the workforce plays itself out. My own journey of spending that many years in organizations and ultimately being fired for the very thing that I'm sitting here talking about today is too important not to share.
Racism may seem like an uncomfortable topic to discuss but it's key that we don't turn a blind eye to it - especially in corporate America. It's important that we dare to use our own voices and discuss what's happening between black and brown people.
Code-Switching is All Too Common Among Brown and Black people in the Corporate Workforce
I talk often about a term now that we're using called 'code-switching'. I use the term 'fronting' as well which means a lot of black and brown people have to go into these organizations and mask who we are.
How ironic is it right now that the entire country is having to mask up due to the pandemic? This is something brown and black people have done forever. We hide who we are. If we speak or do something that makes people uncomfortable, automatically brown and black people become performance problems.
Many of us joke about the Karen memes and references on social media these days. There's that famous video going around where the black people are marching and Kevin and Karen are out flinging their guns around. Well, there's a gun in corporate America and that gun is called the performance management process. What is happening is that process has been tailored and is manipulating brown and black people out the door.
What is behind it is that we have to please our corporate colleagues by submitting and bowing down to them and bow down to the slave master mentality that is rampant in corporate America.
Racism in Corporate America is Closer Than You'd Think
I know it's controversial for me to be saying this now especially as we're at the tail end of a new election. But we're also seeing an increase in the numbers of white women who are supporting racism. These women are the women that hold management jobs. Don't think because they are not wearing a pillowcase over their face that they're not actually in these organizations doing the same work. They will sit in leadership team meetings and say things like: "I'm a diversity person, we're going to get our numbers up. We're recruiting, we're doing all these things." But that's the mask.
What is happening is they are bigots behind the scenes and when leaders don't see what's happening, it's the subtleties of how they're treating those folks in the organizations.
I coach many women, mostly black women, because it is happening to black women rampantly. If we don't bow down, then we are problems. I was taken down by a white woman - and she lied to get me fired and tore my life apart. This is what's happening to us.
But you know what? If you are a corporate America executive and your pay is now being tied to progress, you're going to have to start dealing with the bigots in your organization and you're going to have to start dealing with what I'm calling the middle management ranks of where the power is and where black and brown people are being kept from power. Remember, racism is about access and power.
Let's Work Toward Mitigating and Eliminating Racism in Corporate America
For more about this and if you want to talk to me about this, you can certainly reach out to me here on my website or email me directly at Cindi@CindiBright.com. I look forward to continuing this conversation with you.
Cindi Bright is a Seattle based speaker and consultant on topics of race, diversity, and social justice. She hosts HeartBeat radio a weekly program discussing the issues impacting brown and black people. She spent over 30 years in corporate America as a human resources leader/executive. She is known for her candor, honesty, and humor. Her work is aimed at personal and business transformation.