You know your Black History Month is going to crap when elected officials are wearing blackface paint, teachers are telling kids to play slave plantation games, high end fashion designers are using racists symbols and imagery, and a tween is shot 28 times while asleep in his car at a Taco Bell.
Maybe you don’t watch the news – it is rather depressing at times. Contrary to what some of my Facebook friends and Twitter followers might think, I do not search the news cycle for these stories.
I do have a platform – it’s not the biggest but it’s a nice size platform of followers, friends, VIPs that I have cultivated over the past 20 years or so. I feel it’s my responsibility to share these stories when I see them – especially since I am a black man and member of the Human Resources Community. Human Resources is supposed to be the place where employees can go for fairness, protection, and… justice. We are often known as the “Workplace Police” – not that I like that branding because I don’t, but believe HR is not only the place where an employee should be able to go for truth and fairness, but I believe HR should be the ones making sure that all employees understand what inclusion and acceptance really means.
While it seems that most HR people (online anyway) are content to talk about happier things while pretending that these things don’t exist in our workplaces and life, I can’t be that way. It’s unrealistic, irresponsible, and dangerous. Sharing real stories of the isms (racism, sexism, & ageism) doesn’t mean you are negative – it means you are empathic and trying to help educated others about the harmfulness and damage associated with these seemingly never-ending deplorable actions.
Here are just a few racially insensitive headlines from February 2019:
A Portland Police Sergeant told the Precinct, “If you see a black homeless person, just shoot them.” So if you are the HR person over there, should he be fired for that?
Here’s another crazy one, Six police in California shoots a 22-year man named, Willie McCoy to death while he was asleep in his car at a Taco Bell. They claim he had a gun in his lap and had woke up – which naturally means to riddle him with bullets. Could there have been a better way?
Also, this month we saw the Governor of Virginia, Ralph Northam exposed as a person who wore blackface in the 80’s. In fact, he wore blackface so often he couldn’t remember which pictures he was and was not in. Then the Attorney General Mark Herring admitted he also wore blackface back in the day.
Also, in Black History Month 2019, Gucci, Adidas, Burberry, and Prada came under fire for racially insensitive ads – Adidas released a shoe called “Uncaged” which happened to be an ALL-WHITE shoe! (all white shoe for black history month? They couldn’t put the red, the black, and the green on it?
As for the Gucci, Burberry, and Prada missteps, you have to see this for yourself.
And look, there is more, like Madison’s Trust Elementary in Ashburn, VA that thought it would be fun to play a game reenacting slavery by having black kids pretend to run away. How would you feel if your child came home and told you that they had to pretend to be a slave at school today?
Hate crimes are up 17% since Donald Trump has taken office– it is not lost on my that the actor Jussie Smollett has allegedly staged a hate crime. He is a member of LGBTQ community, activist and actor on the hit FOX series, “Empire”. If it is true that Smollett orchestrated his own attack and paid two acquaintances to “rough him up” so he could leverage the attack for a pay raise from FOX or to boost his activist profile, then it is not only a shame but will unfortunately cast doubt on the stories of real victims of crimes – hate crimes especially. However, no one should let these allegations cause them to wonder if someone is really a victim or not – what we should do is allow for the legal process to run its course.
We also still need BLACK HISTORY MONTH as a tool to educate one another regarding the contributions of African Americans to the fabric of America. And if employers and human resources can see that African Americans have made so many positive contributions to music, fashion, technology, science, medicine, business, civil rights, comedy, humanity, and entertainment, then maybe we can all view African Americans as human beings deserving of love, sympathy, and kindness – that we add value and are valuable – and deserve to live. Instead of being dehumanized, marginalized, silenced, and used as tokens.
The best way to do that is through education.
Celebrate Black History Month.