Dealing with racism and microaggression in the workplace — Knock it off, Karen
The “White Collar Bullsh*t” conversation on the latest “REVOLT BLACK NEWS” broke down racism happening in corporate America, silence as a form of consent and working in the white collared industry as a Black person.
Inspired by Sean “Diddy” Combs’ successful “State Of Emergency: The State of Black America & Coronavirus” town hall, “REVOLT BLACK NEWS” is a platform that is designed to report news from the perspective of black people for black people.
Last night’s (June 23) “REVOLT BLACK NEWS” episode titled “White Collar Bullsh*t” covered the systemic racism and microaggressions that Black America faces in the corporate workspace, capitalism and what really happens in job’s human resources departments. Host and executive producer Eboni K. Williams was joined by Soledad O’Brien, Jamillah Bowman-Williams, Omar Johnson, Donae Burston, Sharon Chuter, Barry Givens, Ingrid Best and Kerby Jean-Raymond.
“Move B*tch, Get Out The Way” is the title of the first segment and Williams goes straight into addressing the racial biases at jobs for Black people. As she introduced one of her role models and host of “Matter Of Fact with Soledad O’Brien,” O’Brien appeared on screen to first discuss her shocking departure from CNN. “There was just [a] new administration [that] came in and I was not his flavor of the month. That happens a lot frankly,” she confides. The TV personality continues to say that while she was offered to stay at the network while cancelling her former show, O’Brien knew that her name and award-winning brand would be too big and well-respected to be demoted to a fill-in utility player.
“The decision was mine, so I can’t really blame anybody. No one kicked me out, I could still be working there today I guess if I wanted to — probably not. But, if someone doesn’t see a vision for you that you see for yourself, I think you sort of owe it to go and do other things,” O’Brien adds.
The two leading ladies in media continued to speak on Black women being anchors on the weekends at news outlets. “The audience who’s consuming the content you’re delivering, they do see that vision, but it’s inside your own house. It’s internal that [the] vision isn’t realized,” Williams chimes in after O’Brien spoke briefly about lack of diversity at her previous places of employment. “You can’t expect people to have vision for you. You have to have vision for yourself and I think you’ve done that. I certainly tried to do that, but yes, screw it,” O’Brien follows as she praises Williams.
Before this segment wrapped up, Williams and O’Brien briefly discussed the truth behind hiring processes, and Amanda Seales and Gabrielle Union as key examples for popularly sought after talent leaving their jobs due to their poor personal experiences as Black women talent on major networks.
Up next, Williams covers Kentucky’s democratic senate primary, the FBI investigation for the noose found in NASCAR star Bubba Wallace’s garage stall, and one of the ex-Minneapolis officers charged for aiding and abetting murder in George Floyd’s case, J. Alexander Keung, who was freed on bail and confronted while grocery shopping. Other topics included Rayshard Brooks’ funeral, the spike in COVID-19 cases across the country and removal of the eviction moratorium. “This can leave a lot of Black and brown people without a place to live. This is really going to have a devastating effect in our communities, so continue to be generous, to donate, to give, to support folks that still do not have the economic resources to pay the rent that are now going to become due,” Williams advises REVOLT watchers.
Pull Up or Shut Up campaign founder Sharon Chuter and “Dear white corporate America,” letter writer Omar Johnson join Williams up next to discuss who’s really calling the shots in corporate America for the “Shot Calling” portion of “REVOLT BLACK NEWS.” On the inspiration and drive behind #PullUpOrShutUp, the former executive at Louis Vuitton briefly shared her personal experience in corporate America and noted that this generation is giving brands a run for their money. “The millennials and Gen Z require social activism from companies to support. Corporations only listen to two things: bottom line,” Chuter says, as she continues to explain the power behind the Black consumer and creating awareness to not buy where you aren’t hired.
As Johnson and Chuter discussed the lack of diversity in executive boardrooms and the disruption of pipelines in corporate America, Williams expressed that some white executives would have to give up a seat at the table. Johnson offered a different set of opinions, as he reminisced on his relationship with Interscope Records co-founder Jimmy Iovine at the beginning of his career. “The give to me is not the seat, the give is a hand up into what’s next,” he says before Williams thanked them for their contribution to this “transformational moment.”
After an ode to Pat McGrath Labs doing the work in the beauty industry for Black people since day one, Kerby Jean-Raymond and founders of Ben & Jerry, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, speak on the importance of Black consumerism, the unfair treatment of Black people in corporate workplaces and empowering all people whose voices have been suppressed.
“What About That Action?” moderated by Ingrid Best included Jamillah Bowman-Williams and Donae Burston for a discussion about the difference between caring about Black culture, but not about Black people. “More now than ever, there is a microscope across all industries of the gap that truly exists for us as African-Americans,” Best kicks off the conversation before Bowman-Williams speaks on the importance of having necessary conversations about race at work. “My question is really, we know inside there’s so much racism perpetuated inside of corporate America, inside of all of these big, huge economic giants, [but] what are they really doing at home to make sure the experiences of their own Black workers better?” Bowman-Williams challenges.
The three continue to discuss consistent hiring of Black people only at assistant and entry-level positions, being pigeonholed, and Burston’s La Fete du Rosé brand purpose to provide traveling experience for underprivileged kids. “With all the things going on in the world and once George Floyd’s murder spread across the United States and corporations started jumping in, we changed our travel initiative for the short-term and decided to give to Color of Change, and also to organizations that help serve as a resource for pipelines into the wine and spirits industry,” says Burston. He continues to speak on the importance of not being the last Black figure in the wine industry, diversifying, and bringing others up as entrepreneurs.
“From College Campus to Corporate America” spoke to young Black college graduates about their fears about moving into the corporate space. Rehonda Lewis shares her prediction of companies hiring Black people to up their diversity numbers instead of for their exceptional qualifications, while Cannon Johnson faces the reality of being not being promoted at work strictly based on the color of his skin as a Black man. “A lot of us are not taken seriously even if we do have a degree and entering corporate America, we don’t have the same, I would say, fairness,” Jazlyn Rice admits. Zaria Veiga Brown expresses her concerns about cultural competency, or lack thereof, as well as enforcement of anti-racism policies that companies are scrambling to put into place.
Last night’s “Building Black Wealth” segment featured author and tech entrepreneur Barry Givens. Williams praised him for disrupting the adult beverage industry with his latest mixing technology with Monsieur, an automated touch screen cocktail machine that can easily take the place of any mixologist at a movie theatre or bar. As he recounts his experience on the other side of consumerism when going to the Kentucky Derby, Givens tells Williams about the disbelief when derby-goers would look to his one white employee as the founder of Monsieur, but not himself. “They would immediately look to him,” he shared, “and would totally not even believe or assume that all of the other Black people that are around any of us would’ve created it.”
Williams said in her closing remarks, “We all know about the police brutality and the violence that goes on in the streets. But, for this episode it was important for us to uncover and call out how corporate America has been keeping their knees on our necks in the workplace for years.”
We are no stranger to the racial bias against Black and Brown folks in corporate America, but please note that brands have more work to do than simply releasing their diversity numbers on an Instagram page. Doing the work includes genuine allyship, being on the right side of history, and not just hiring more Black people because it looks good on your yearly review. Brands cannot love our culture, appropriate it, discredit us, and then don’t treat those who they take from unfairly. Employees, microaggressive and suggestive behavior and racial-bias driven assumptions have got to come to an end. HR, hire us at more than the assistant level, but not just because we’re asking you to, but because we’re qualified for it.
Let’s end the white collar bullsh*t and make some room at all levels for Black and Brown people at the table, shall we?
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