Necessary Conversations About Race

In my last post I said that conversations about race may be awkward but are very necessary. A woman sent me a comment that said, “if  you didn’t mention race so much, it wouldn’t be an issue. You’re perpetuating division.”

Issues like the scarcity of people of color in the technology industry and the excuses and false belief that there is no pipeline to fill jobs necessitates a real conversation about race.

I’ve attended numerous meetings and conferences on diversity and technology, and can’t tell you how many people of color particularly (but not solely) Black and Hispanic who have left jobs because they felt under estimated, under utilized and like a perpetual outsider. Most recently a Black man in his mid-30s said, “When I was first hired, I kept hearing how smart and talented I was, but it didn’t take long for me to feel like an invisible man. My director would ask everyone else for their feedback or invite them to problem solving sessions, but all I heard was how happy she was to have me, but never was I ever asked for input or ideas.”

An invisible man isolated on white background

An Hispanic woman in her early 40s said, “i’ve been in tech for over twenty years, but I’m still only included when it’s time for a diversity potluck. I got tired of it and started my own business.”

One of my diversity leadership coaching clients admitted that he wanted to interact more with people of color in the organization but didn’t know what to say, so he said nothing. He was worried that he would be seen as a “privileged white guy,” or that he wouldn’t know how to  relate to Black employees who he assumed all came from poor, single mother families.  The good thing was that he was willing to talk and willing to be  uncomfortable in order to be comfortable and a good leader.

Diverse teams
Diverse teams

The fact that so many White people believe that all Black people are poor, the lumping of all Asian people and all Latino people into groups without understanding the different cultures amongst Asian and Latino people necessitate the conversation on race, along with all too common thinking that race in America is just about Black and White people.

We need the kind of conversations that dig deep down into the core of our belief systems, from our past and present experiences, and be willing to be uncomfortable and say “we don’t know.”

Action # 2-

When trying to address the issue of race, let the people with whom you are engaging  know that you feel uncomfortable but that the conversation is important. Everyone needs to assume positive intent while acknowledging that intent doesn’t always equal impact. Be willing to share the impact.

If someone begins a conversation and shares their discomfort, listen and assume positive intent. If people are willing to learn, be willing to educate. We can all learn from  each other.

Ready to start the conversation, need a sounding board or just have questions? Contact Simma@simmalieberman.com or call 510.697.8226

We’re here to create comfort from discomfort.

 

 

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