My fellow black Americans, please stop grading blackness as if it is a badge of honor to determine whose ancestral lineage experienced the most inhumane suffering. To be sure, trust, there aren’t any trophies for whose black pain is the greatest and most traumatic.
The choice should not be between principled enforcement of law & order and the righteous outcry for social justice. In a rational, civil society; both can be achieved concurrently.
True story. Short post (not really). I was driving to Taco Bell one evening to order and pick up dinner. I am somewhat of a defensive driver. I barely graze the upper ceiling of speed limits. I am cautious of my surroundings. I respect the rules of the road. I have never been issued a traffic ticket. So, this particular evening was nothing out of the ordinary. I was in the middle turning lane when I realized a dark SUV had suddenly appeared behind me. As I completed my left turn – the light was changing from yellow to red – the SUV sped through the light and closed in tightly to my rear end. It startled me. At first I thought it was just another impatient idiot on the road, and then the police lights flashed brightly in my rear view mirror. Damn. I had absolutely no clue why I was being stopped. Taco Bell is literally 5 minutes from my home. I wasn’t speeding. I had used my turn signal. My plates were legit. I pulled into the Taco Bell parking lot. Suddenly, another SUV appeared out of the darkness.
Now, I have been stopped by police before, so I am not foreign to traffic stops. However, this moment felt different, I had never had 2 police SUVs swoop in with such velocity and basically box me in where I had parked. Lord. Did I fit the description of someone that ignited their aggressive pursuit? Generally, I have a personal protocol that I follow when being stopped by law enforcement. License and registration are already out so I don’t have to reach for anything in the car or on my person. I shut the car off and place the keys on the dashboard. I keep both hands on the steering wheel in clear sight. And I never enter into any excessive banter with the police. They ask a question and I answer. This night I was so shook, I am not even sure if I followed all my own rules. Of course, the police offered the usual line of questioning: Do you know why we stopped you? My reply was an honest no. They performed their due diligence and checked my license and registration. Everything was square. And then the officer offered the reason why I was stopped: He couldn’t read my license plate.
This incident happened months ago, and I have since procured new plates, so I am comfortable showing my old plates above. Take a look. A little worn, but clearly visible – 4FFZ24. I did not argue. I was instructed to buy new plates. I nodded in agreement and we parted ways. I carried on with the original plan and secured my take-out from Taco Bell. On my way back home, I stopped at a well-lit gas station to inspect my license plate. I took a picture, showed it to the gas station attendant, and asked him to repeat the plate numbers/letters back to me. He performed the exercise – surely thinking why am I doing this. I told him I was just stopped by the police because it was allegedly unreadable. He just shook his head in disbelief. I was irritated. I was rattled. But I was alive. Nevertheless, no matter how clean-cut I believe I am, no matter how by-the-book I carry myself; in the back of my mind is that nagging fear – what if I encounter that wrong one? What if on some indiscriminate day, my melanin is justification enough to trigger someone’s racial unconscious bias, leaving in the wake of my death a carousel of anger, anguish, ambivalence, and apathy? Wash. Rinse. Repeat. Yet, the stain of black blood on the fabric of America cannot be purged so simply. Trayvon Martin. Philando Castile. Eric Garner. George Floyd. Ahmaud Arbery. Botham Jean.
Once while pulling out of a parking space, an older white woman started screaming that I almost and was trying to hit her with my car. I rolled down my window to see what the commotion was and she started screaming and screaming. I tried to reason with her – that I wasn’t even in the proximity of hitting her. A guy walking by glanced at me and offered a “what is wrong with this lady” look at me. And then she started screaming for help from someone that was out of view. The last thing I needed was someone to appear out of the shadows with guns blazing. I peeled off and got the hell out of there. I have more examples if you have the time. But I digress, don’t mind me. I just needed to write. I’m exhausted. I’m sad. I’m angry. I’m on edge. I can’t begin to put my feelings into words, but I had to try to put my feelings into words. Don’t mind me, I just needed to write.
“The rich man who achieves a degree of greatness achieves it not because he hoards his wealth, but because he gives it away in the interest of good causes.”
A thoughtful gentleman clearly understands that his blessings are not of his own. His success is not a singular possession that lays clenched in miserly hands. He logically comprehends that he cannot exist as an insular entity-isolated from his community. No, his true greatness is predicated on charity and service to his community. His wealth, not necessarily in monetary terms, must be distributed to those who would definitely benefit the most. Blessed to be a blessing, a gentleman enjoys watching others thrive and succeed. He possesses no stock in watching others fail. Succeed as a collective, or fail separately. The choice is clear. It is imperative to use one’s wealth of knowledge, or wealth of finance to better those around you. Pay good fortune forward. Tutor. Volunteer. Donate some business clothes to someone in need. Today, someone is in need of your help. Heed the call. Give back!
“Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome.”
-Booker T. Washington
Sure, it would be easy enough to become enamored by the seemingly authoritative, accomplished status of a wildly successful individual. The mere presence of seductive visuals – such as expensive status symbols – has tremendous influence as they elicit, sometimes, misguided deference from the admirer. However, I challenge the reader to momentarily ignore such material objects. Instead, please divert your attention to the process that granted such accomplishment possible. What did that individual experience during their journey to success? Trust this: The strength of a gentleman’s character is forged on the anvil of adversity. Through weathering distress or difficulty, prosperity is procured by he who believes a challenge is an opportunity. An opportunity to steel your will and seize achievement despite any obstacles you might encounter. Don’t be impressed by person’s materialistic results. Those are nice and fine to look at. Nevertheless, be more impressed with the vanquished adversity that withered in the face of impending success. And then go forth and forge your own.
A man who fails to meet or exceed the level of expectation that he smugly demands of others should abstain from such demands in the first place. Intoxicated by grandiose delusions of false importance, said individual will never earn a modicum of respect from his peers, as he will be viewed as a fraud lacking substance and depth. Effective leadership does not consist of hollow rhetoric and anemic work ethic. Effective leadership does not belittle or ignore other viewpoints. An acolyte of arrogance, a practitioner of presumption and pretentiousness – please expect the absence of any deference from other individuals. You will duly receive what you give. A gentleman shall be judged by his deeds and examples. Ensure that you uphold the same standard you will hold others accountable for. Otherwise, a gentleman will never be an owner of credibility. Own your standard. Reinforce your credibility. Rightfully earn respect from your peers.
“The true accolade was not only my father saying he was pleased, but that my grandmother would have been proud of me.”
William H. Hastie
Whether it is chronicling my adventures as a father here on this blog or being acknowledged by an individual while out in public, I generally receive positive affirmations regarding how I carry myself as a father. I am not so arrogant to bask in imaginary adulation and admiration, I receive any compliment humbly and move on. Nevertheless, after watching the latest ESPN 30 for 30 about the life and times of Dennis Rodman, I began to ponder about what attributes does a man require to be considered a good father. What drives some men to be good fathers while others falter? Why do some men from similar backgrounds embark upon dissimilar paths? A tearful Rodman expressed the want to be a good father and admitted his shortcomings. Yet that penitence did not offer comfort or solace to his children that yearned for fatherly love, for his contrition was absent meaningful action as a father.
Now, it is my sincere belief that no man, when faced with the prospect of becoming a father, willingly and consciously wants to fail as a parent. Rather, I believe some men are woefully equipped mentally, emotionally, and intellectually prior to becoming a father. We are all flawed. And the stress and pressure of fatherhood only work to exacerbate those human flaws. Nevertheless, I humbly consider myself a good father. I have been asking myself why lately. I check all the proverbial boxes for environmental conditions that should be a strong indicator of failed fatherhood. I was born in Detroit, Michigan and raised in a single-parent household that relied upon public assistance to make ends meet. There were other extenuating circumstances, but I will retain some simplicity here for the audience. My point should be clear to the audience – growing up as a young black male in a large urban city had some challenges to be sure.
So, how did I become an exception and avoid becoming a negative statistic? Well, after a few days of thinking, I surmised that the foundation of being a good father is constructed upon sound moral character, fidelity to responsibility, and a clear understanding of sacrifice. The two most prominent figures in my life – my mother & grandmother – fashioned the template that formed the man that I am today. With the aforementioned attributes in my mind, I was mainly driven by two directives: I never wanted to bring shame or disrespect to my family and I wanted to be the type of man that they could view with pride. And now, that way of thinking is extended to how I raise my children. This is what drives me to be the man and father that they will view with love and pride. Gentlemen – what motivates you to be the best father to your children?
“I prefer to be true to myself, even at the hazard on incurring the ridicule of others, rather than to be false, and incur my own abhorrence.”
At the close of the regular business day, a gentleman is who he has to live with. If he constantly compromises his ideology for the appeasement of others, he is at risk of losing his identity. He is at risk of losing his credibility. Remaining true to your character is what makes you unique. Authenticity is paramount. It is essential, it is vital to a gentleman’s character. While it is often terribly difficult not to follow the crowd, you will receive the respect & admiration from people for standing on your principles. Most important, you will respect yourself. A gentleman should never acquiesce, he should never tacitly sacrifice his core beliefs because he is fearful of public derision. Stand firm. You are a gentleman of strong character and substance. You may incur differing amounts of ridicule, however, rest assured that those individuals admire your strength and resolve. And they should.
I’ve been in this game for years, corporate life is an animal, it’s rules to the game, so I wrote me a manual. It’s a step by step e-booklet for you to get your job on track – not your career pushed back. Yes, the corporate world can present quite the challenge for anyone, but for the gentleman of color, this world can be an entirely different animal. And for the uninitiated, the wrong moves can render a career stuck in neutral, or worst yet, gifted a box of your belongings and shown the exit.
Trust, there will be landmines that must be expertly navigated if career success is the objective. Your patience and resolve will be tested. There are so many times you can be confused with the other black guy in the office before it starts to wear on your nerves. You can only hear black slang from 1985 resurrected in 2018 as if it is brand new so many times before you want to scream. You can only hear the expressed fear from your non-melaninated colleagues about venturing into an urban area (which they never visit anyway) before your eyes roll out of the sockets. Never mind that you go to work everyday where a mass shooting could pop off at any moment by a disgruntled, middle-aged white male. Oh yes, I’ve had active shooter training, and law enforcement confirmed the standard profile of said gunman. You bite your tongue. You grind your teeth. But I digress, to survive the corporate office, you have to learn how the game is played. And then you must play it effectively.
I’ve checked in with some of my black brethren in the corporate hemisphere and solicited some opinions and guidance. Far too often, we sit in isolation and suffer in silence with no outlet. There is a generation of men of color entering the workforce for the first time with absolutely no idea what to expect or how to conduct themselves. This list is far from exhaustive, but there are some good directives that could prove to be helpful to someone. I have 20+ years in the workplace, and I have learned through trial and error. So, let’s get to it. So, first off…
- Allow me to point out the obvious, as you are reading through this post, you may think these points are applicable to any ethnicity. And that is possibly true. However, in some circumstances, there is a racial double standard pervading the corporate world. You will not be afforded the benefit of any doubt my friend. The hypocrisy is thick. Most folk just don’t want to acknowledge it. How do I know? Look at it on a grand scale. Politics aside, the current president carries himself in a, well, ungentlemanly manner. His supporters largely ignore his flaws in decorum and etiquette. However, President Obama caught hell for wearing a tan suit and kicking his feet up on the desk in the Oval Office. Yes, the outrage was pretty damn ridiculous. So, there is a mighty good chance you are going to run into those same people in the office. Be cognizant of that fact.
- Don’t be astonished when your colleagues are astonished. I was assigned a task by a doctor. He was so surprised by the quick turnaround time, he literally looked at me and stated he didn’t expect such efficiency. I once got a promotion and a fellow colleague expressed his surprise that someone else didn’t get the position I got – then he congratulated me. Well, thanks.
- Hey, superman lover – yes, I’m talking to you. Stop being a player around the office. You are asking for trouble. Best case scenario: You get shut down, your feelings get hurt, and your image is branded as a hound dog or dirty old man. Worst case scenario: You get fired and find yourself a part of a hash tag movement.
- To be sure, there are varying social and professional constructs that a gentleman must properly evaluate and then conduct himself accordingly. Your behavior outside of the corporate environment may not have a smooth transition to your office or cubicle. For example, I hold an affinity for classic hip-hop, and I can even recite the lyrics for Ice Cube’s Gangsta, Gangsta seamlessly. However, common sense dictates I would not recite said gangsta lyrics in front of my young children. Your place of employment is no different. There is a time and place for everything; business is business and the streets are the streets. A misguided attempt to “keep it real” in corporate America can go woefully awry – you’ve seen the Dave Chappelle skits.
- However, a gentleman of color must remain “real” to his identity. Now, this statement may appear as a direct contradiction to the statement above, so allow me to explain. While it is paramount for a gentleman to embrace and understand the culture of his company – and every company has a particular culture – a gentleman should not adopt an unnatural façade that compromises his integrity and comfort level. There is an episode from HBO’s television series Insecure where a character, Molly Carter, tries to join the “boy’s club” at her firm in an attempt to blend in. The results are unfavorable, as she is still socially excluded from the unofficial club. I don’t pretend at work. I don’t pretend to like or dislike things just to fit in. A gentleman should not go along just to get along.
- If you begin a statement with – I cannot because I am black – you’ve already defeated yourself all by yourself. Don’t be a cynic. Sure, the road may be paved with setback and disappointment, but you have to believe in the possibility of success with hard work and discipline.
- Contrary to some prevailing assumptions, everything is not a conspiracy against the black race. Does racism and prejudice exist in the workplace – of course, absolutely. However, every single uncomfortable circumstance or general unfavorable topic does not have to fall back on racial inequality. Seriously, it really does not. Under-representation of minorities in the workplace could be a result of the dearth of qualified applicants. Perhaps a certain promotion was not attained due to a better candidate also applied. A gentleman cannot fight every battle. Trying to achieve success in your field is exhausting by itself; a gentleman will burn himself out mentally & physically by taking on additional battles. Sometimes you have to take a moment to educate and other times you have to walk away.
- However, sometimes circumstances does fall back on racial inequality in the workplace. In those circumstances, the best course of action is to contact human resources or the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission). Best practice: document, document, document any events that pertain to the matter at hand. Given the grave nature of this circumstance, this is not a matter one should address alone. Present your issues and concerns to the appropriate personnel. If you are a witness to racial injustice in the office, your voice must be a tool of measured reason and truth. And don’t engage in office banter regarding the matter; not everyone needs to be privy to your business.
- And speaking of office banter – please keep it clean and professional. It is important your conversations are based on merit and facts. Gossip and conjecture has no place in the office, but sure enough, every office has some form of gossip. It’s best you avoid it altogether and get to the matter at hand – work. Because, when it is all said and done, you will be thrown under the bus.
- Because, as much as many individuals will deny it, prejudice and racism is as American as apple pie. It is tightly woven into the fabric of this nation, and some people will demonstrate their actions consciously or subconsciously. So, entering the workplace, a gentleman of color will probably have to work twice as hard as his Caucasian counterpart. Why? Stereotypes. Stereotypes that middle America is continuously exposed to via news and entertainment, and has been since the inception of this country. So, as a black man enters into the corporate world, you bear the weight of every historical, black caricature steeped in America’s racist past – primarily: the brute (angry, dangerous), the coon (lazy, buffoonish), or the Tom (docile, submissive). Sure, we can complain about the system, but these are the cards that have been dealt, so the game has to be played deftly and intelligently. We have to dispel every myth and stereotype just to prove we are on the same level. And even then, you will accused of preferential treatment because you’ve been deemed as “safe” by white management. Haters will hate, but you have to be your own champion and tout your accomplishments and work ethic – haters be damned.
- Therefore, don’t be surprised by some backlash from other people of color in the office. You’ve worked hard to attain your achievements. You are recognized by white peers and upper management. Congratulations – you can officially be perceived as an Uncle Tom or sell-out. If you dress with elegance, articulate oneself in a professional manner, and exude a measured demeanor; you can possibly be categorized as a “safe” choice that has been elevated as a token. This assumption confuses me, as some of our greatest civil rights leaders possessed the aforementioned characteristics, yet no one would dare label Malcolm X as a Tom. People will formulate opinions about you, but they will never understand how hard you’ve worked to attain your status. Don’t allow anyone to make you feel inferior. And never feel ashamed of your position within the company.
- And when you attain that status, it is incumbent upon you to give back to minorities entering the workplace behind you. To walk into an office and see no one that resembles you can be intimidating and quite sobering. People are tribal by nature. People will gravitate to those people that they share similar interests and culture. Don’t act brand new. Don’t throw anyone under the bus. Reach out and help someone.
- However, don’t be surprised if your welcome is rebuffed. I’ve tried to make eye contact and execute the “bro nod”, only to be straight up passed by in the hallway, as if I was as inconsequential as paint on the wall. Lesson: Not every black male will feel the need to join your “tribe”. As much as you want to greet that man with some “Wakanada Forever” dap, he may not reciprocate the same love. Everyone has their own origin story, so don’t take it personal.
- Loyalty is valued within the black community. However, don’t be afraid to place distance between yourself and someone who has established a reputation as a malcontent. Establish a network of like-minded individuals that are the best in their field so you can learn and grow.
- If you deem that your current professional environment is not conducive to your growth & development, it may be time to execute an executive decision and move on to another position or company, or maybe even venture out into the world of entrepreneurship. Severing ties with a company where career advancement is not a plausible possibility or the atmosphere is racially insensitive could be beneficial for you mentally and physically.
Do you have a story or tip to share? Please share in the comment section.
“Real education means to inspire people to live more abundantly, to learn to live with life as they find it and make it better.”
– Carter G. Woodson
To be absolutely sure, a gentleman’s life earns new significance when he not only identifies his purpose, but he also cultivates that purpose into something tangible that benefits other individuals. It is tragically irresponsible when an accomplished gentleman attains a certain degree of success, only to be miserly and penurious with his blessings. For the blessed gentleman that enjoys prosperity and favor, it is critical that he utilizes his influence to encourage, empower, and educate the under-served, often neglected sects of our society.
When benevolence and compassion no longer exists in the hearts and minds of men, the quality of life for both the fortunate and less fortunate gradually diminish. And the best quality of life is something we should all strive to achieve – for everyone. So, operating within your domain of achievement, I urge the gentleman to re-purpose his purpose and seek to promote excellence and success in the lives those whom are underprivileged. And going forward, hopefully, they will perform the same charitable act for someone else.
Do not be deceived by the theatrical bluster – albeit woefully dangerous and misguided – that is currently emanating from the oval office; it is but an obfuscation of leadership wrought with ineptitude, ignorance, and arrogance. Unabashed and shameless for all to bear witness, policy and nominations have been clumsily introduced, and not with the much-needed objective of improving the nation’s stature, rather the current direction is to monetarily expand and solidify a family legacy – country first be damned. And what remains is a wholesale rejection of basic decency, critical intelligence, and any semblance of reality.
Thus far, the political sleight of hand is seamless, executed with guile and purposeful duplicity. The goal is to pacify and placate a constituency – comfortable with ambivalence, content with apathy, or desperate for a return of days past – with promises barren of commitment, truth, and logic. And so, a varying class of individuals, indoctrinated with privilege and inalienable rights, have been seduced by showmanship devoid of substance. However, time will eventually become the bearer of truth, and when thundering rhetoric does not equal tangible results, the puppet strings will be laid bare for all to see. And when the realization of how badly the nation has been played is apparent, the biggest and longest con game will have been successfully executed by history’s foremost confidence man – Donald J. Trump.
“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”
As a parent, it is absolutely paramount that you ensure your child’s maturation is nurtured and cultivated for maximal, positive growth. To be certain, there are a myriad of unfortunate realities that work tirelessly to undermine and hinder your child’s development. Harsh realities such as poverty, crime, low self-esteem, bullying, and poor academic performance can lead to self-destructive behavior that regretfully transitions into adulthood. Moreover, if that adult decides to have children, there is a high risk that self-destructive behavior will be consciously or subconsciously transferred to the subsequent generation.
Truth: Some of the biggest bullies, critics, and abusers live right in the household. And that is a reality that we cannot tacitly accept. We have to do better. We must become increasingly more active by protecting and educating our youth, ensuring that they are intelligently prepared for the life that awaits them. We have to encourage. We have to impart meaningful wisdom. We have to enlighten them. We must unconditionally love them. We must fortify the integrity of their spirit and reinforce the foundation of their character. They deserve our parenting best – let’s get to work.