It’s your problem, not mine: Fixing racism starts with white people

After May 25, 2020 — -the early weeks following the murder of George Floyd, my LinkedIn inbox was flooded with inquiries on how one could help as well as messages of support and solidarity. While I appreciate the sentiment and eagerness to help by my white colleagues, like so many Black people who have a diverse network, I too became completely overwhelmed.

I took many meetings, gave recommendations on readings, shared my perspective, spoke on several virtual panels and podcast over the past several months focusing on race, inclusion, and how we can best move forward. For the past seven years I have been completely transparent, spoken with much conviction around the need to address race, and continue to be intentional about doing my part to raise awareness whenever it’s appropriate to do so.

Like many of my peers, elders, and ancestors who came before me, I have placed the burden of speaking our truth in hopes that it will land on the ears of white people who need to hear it. With this burden I have grown tired, weary, and cynical to the point where I am not sure how much longer I can bare the weight of trying to speak reason to those who show sympathy, but lack the gravity of empathy to go beyond lip service toward the cause.

There appears to be a heighten awareness of systemic racism from business leaders and an effort to want to change. I am seeing more Chief Diversity Officers being hired, Black people being promoted to senior level positions, millions of dollars donated toward social justice organizations, anti-racism programs and forums being conducted; however, if history truly does repeat itself, these times are not so different than those times of past civil unrest.

Will these newly appointed Chief Diversity Officers have the autonomy to do more than be the token face of diversity and point of contact to the employee resource groups? Will the corporate culture embrace these Black senior level employees and respect their perspectives as an equal?

Will the donations actually help underserved communities orsimply become part of the operational funds of outdated social justice organizations? Will the anti-racism talks lead to more inclusive environments and highlight the humanity of people of color, or will they be dreaded by white colleagues and over indexed by the people of color in the company?

If history truly does repeat itself, then more than likely all of these efforts can be summed up to performative allyship.

Racism is an autonomous machine, one which I am not fully privy to it’s internal design and function. It’s a machine which was well designed, tested, proven effective, has pivoted and advanced over time. Racism is working exactly as it was intended to and it has fostered a broken society filled with broken people on all sides. Lately I have been questioning myself, how am I to fix it?

Understand, this is not me giving up hope, but rather it’s me coming to terms that I cannot fix a problem which I never created — -and the same can, and should be said for all people of color who have been oppressed and marginalized due to racism.

Yet, what do we see? Black and Brown people of every hue leading the charge on anti-racism. We are yelling from the peaks, valleys, and everywhere in between about racial injustice. We have been doing so for decades, generations, hundreds of years — -and still nothing has changed.

With every progressive step forward toward equality, we are swiftly reminded of how far we have to go. This reminder comes in the form of gentrification, health care disparities, lack of resources in education, the wealth gap, venture funding, and this degenerate currently called the President of the United States.

Donald Trump has made this clear by ending “un-American” diversity training in the federal agencies, sending a direct blow to addressing racism in the workplace. While so many people seem shocked and taken aback from Trump’s executive order, I am not surprised as this is very Trump like. You have to give it to him, he is probably the most transparent president ever, even in the midst of all the lies the spew from his mouth.

While I am in the ever growing camp of phuck Donald Trump, part of me agrees with Trump in that diversity training needs to end. The current form of diversity training that is often practiced has not proving to be effective. We are approaching nearly 40 years of diversity training and we have not seen progress since the early 1980's.

My wife works in the government sector, and the programs that are recommended of her team are a joke and indeed are a complete waste of tax payer dollars. But, we all know that Trump’s disposition to end the race oriented training is not in lieu of a better process, but rather him simply being a racist.

Diversity training is falling short not because of a lack of competent instructors, but rather a lack in people who truly understand how to fix racism in this land. And no, I am not throwing shade toward people of color who have made it their personal mission to push inclusion throughout American organizations.

Racism is a problem for white people to fix.

Now, some of you may think it’s a problem which all of us have to do our part to address — -I am here to tell you that is not true.

All of us do have to raise awareness of the issue of race, all of us do have to confront racism head on when it is in our presence, but only white people can fix it because white people created it.

The ultimate form of white privilege is going to those who are deemed victims of racism and oppression then asking them for help in understanding how to become anti-racist. It’s the same logic of asking a victim of sexual assault or harassment to teach a class to sexual predators on how not to be a predator, which doesn’t make any sense at all, right?

So many of us people of color are teaching, shepherding, creating spaces for white people to become enlightened to our pain, but all of this effort is merely doing nothing more than stroking the ego of white privilege.

Leaning in on Black employees, reaching out to their handful of Black colleagues, is not an effective way to build a racial justice lens. In fact, it is a lazy attempt to build understanding and a ‘pat yourself on the back’ approach to building empathy, even if it is approached with the right intent.

Race and racism is a construct meaning it was created or constructed by a group of people for their personal gain and benefit. Historically speaking, the concept of race came about in the 16th century (1500’s) by Europeans who used it as a form to sort and separate the different nations/tribes of Europe and to aid in distinguishing people who were not in the likeness of Europeans. By the 18th century, racism came into existence as many European nations, along with the aid of the Church, decided to colonize and conquer other lands.

To justify the murder, rape, pillage and overall brutality against people of color, a key question was asked by European leaders, do people of color have a soul? During this time period, slavery was quickly becoming a major economic engine and Europeans deemed Africans, Indigenous people of Americas, and all people of color as savages, with the exception of the Chinese, who were considered semi-civilized, and as a result believed it was morally just to enslave people of color.

Now when we look at top companies, especially in industries like technology and venture financing, think of the racial dynamics. A lot of white people, followed by Asians, and not so many other people of color.

This construct created more than 500 years ago seeped into every fabric of our global society, but was given birth and matured in the land that today is called the United States of America.

Looking at the history of law enforcement, during the colonial period, privatized “night watchmen” were formed to protect the assets of the rich. These men were usually criminals themselves. By the 18th and 19th century, night watchmen evolved to police forces and were formed to capture runaway slaves in the south while during the same time police forces in the north where formed to keep control of immigrants who have made their way to America.

This explains why there is so much tension between law enforcement and communities of color.

Structural racism in the U.S. housing system has contributed to stark and persistent racial disparities in wealth and financial well-being, especially between Black and white households. In fact, these differences are so entrenched that if current trends continue, it could take more than 200 years for the average Black family to accumulate the same amount of wealth as its white counterparts.

Through this lens of history, we should now understand why certain groups of people are subjected to oppression, brutality, and marginalization. Knowing this history and it’s roots, how come people of color are the ones constantly leading the charge to right the wrongs created by white people?

Moving beyond the construct of racism, we have to realize it is a tool to maintain power and control, just as it was intended to do so 500 years ago. In order for racism to end, white people have to be the ones to end it because they are the ones who created it, perpetuate it, and refuse to tackle it head on. If you don’t find this to be true, simply open your eyes and look at the varying communities throughout this nation. Too often communities of color are under-invested and divested.

Speaking to the Black experience, at the time of this writing, we might as well be called the one percenters because we receive only 1% of all venture funding, only 1% of us are venture capitalist, 1% of us make up the top executives in the S&P 100 (3 of 279), and 2% on average of all tech employees…which equals 1.25% or simply 1% for a nice even number.

How many more Black murders at the hands of law enforcement have to be recorded and shared on social media before some white people can believe inherent bias and racism is a problem? Imagine the lives of the people who were not recorded and became a hashtag.

While we are focused on systemic racism, truth of the matter is the system is not the problem. The problem ultimately lies in the hearts and the minds of people. This is why in order for us to end racism, my white brothers and sisters, in mass droves, you have to take an honest inventory of yourselves and be the ones to lead the fight against racial injustice. Being an ally is not enough. Speaking in solidarity only goes so far. We need you all to step up to the mantle and really take the lead in dismantling the hate, fear, and insecurities of your direct tribe and fellow brethren. We need more than equality, we need equity, we need to be seen as worthy, we need to be respected.

If you have read this and feel uncomfortable, good. My hope is that my words have caught your attention. Now, go and do your part to fix the shit you created and we can all move forward, together.

Tea Lover | Creative + Engineer | Director of Experience Design @VMLY&R | Chief Visionary Officer @ Goodwim Design | Woke before it was a trend!

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store