Like many Black people, I work in a predominately white space. I am one of only three people of color, and two of those are black. Also like many Black people, I am in a position where I am the gatekeeper for the office and for access to those above me. There are no people of color in positions of power, and at my former job, there were no people of color in C-level management.
Over the past week, we’ve seen countless corporations and businesses pledge their support to end racism and to create spaces that are inclusive of all people. I smell BS. Many of these same companies have boards filled with white people, top-level executives that are white, anyone with a position of power is white. Many of these companies treat their black employees as expendable. And I say this as someone who has been subject to this treatment as well as witnessed it. White women are complaining about shattering the glass ceiling when they hold more power than black men. Most black women if they are promoted are kept at middle management even though they have the skills and experience for far more.
Every company that has sent me an email or posted a black photo on Tuesday telling me they care about systemic racism and what black people have gone through in this country, need to prove it. Talk is cheap, show me. How many employees of color do you have? How many HR complaints have your employees of color made for racist comments? How were those complaints handled? Are the people at the top all-white? I won’t apply to a job if when I go on their site, I see nothing but white faces in the company, and at the top. You’ve already shown me that my experience will not be valued.
Show us your marketing. I was following a clothing company that consistently only has white models on their website. Their clothes are cute, but I had never ordered from them. I then all of a sudden noticed that they were posting black influencers on their Instagram. Many people noticed and commented. They admitted they needed to do better but lied and said that they always had black influencers on the site. A quick scroll through their page showed that as of the past month they had been highlighting black people, but I didn’t see many past that.
We’re not dumb. We’re angry. And we know when you are pandering to us. A quickly crafted email by your marketing team does not equal doing the work. Acknowledging there is a problem is the first step, but the real work comes with creating change. White people look around your workplaces and tell me how many people you see that look like you? How many people of color are in positions of power or are they all assistants? When you get interns how many of them are black or a person of color? Or do they all look like you? Don’t tell me that there aren’t qualified people of color applying to work for your company when we all know unqualified white people that are at the top every day. Miss me with that.
I think the time has come for Black people to only invest in our businesses. White people know that our dollars are needed. Black spending power in this country alone is about $1.4 trillion dollars. Could you imagine if we put that money back into our own communities? That’s what these companies are afraid of. And they should be. We’ve always had the power, it’s time for us to prove it to ourselves.