Tag Archives: Racism

WHY I AVOIDED THE “R” WORD

For the first time, I owned my experiences that I learned to avoid calling racist for fear that it would create roadblocks to my success.

Author S. Renee Smith

Like many people, I’ve had anxiety about the pandemic and concerns regarding the economy. As I watched the murder of George Floyd and the unfolding events thereafter, I moved from sadness to anger to reflection to curiosity!

My personal interest and position as a Chief Corporate Responsibility Officer invited me to many conversations about racism, inequality, diversity, and opportunity. I’ve watched with amenity the protesters and their persistence to drive change.

I’ve even had moments when I thought of myself as a coward because I wasn’t among the thousands of people who risked their lives to march in the scorching sun, hold signs, and chant, “I can’t breathe” to demand a shift in racist behaviors. 

It wasn’t until family and friends reminded me that I was in the fight when I spoke up in boardrooms about over medicating black and impoverished children and the need to recruit more black police officers. And that each time I fought for my humanity by challenging leadership when I was mistreated due to the lack of inclusion, I was impacting change. Further, I helped gift the world with generations of future leaders when I founded an academic scholarship for black students (now an endowment at DSU an HBCU) needing assistance to help navigate university corridors that would otherwise have been closed to them.

I came to realize that by sharing my story in my first book, There Is More Inside (2005), about my three white friends who “came to me and said that they could no longer be my friend because I was black,” and in the same book encouraging diversity was my way of influencing transformation. Here some of what was published:

“In social situations, I notice that people segregate themselves. It has been proven that people are more comfortable with people who look like them, but it has also been proven that there is tremendous power, insight, and creativity in diversity. Because I believe in the power of diversity, I try to keep an open mind in all situations.

 In social situations, I make it a point to meet someone different from me. I’ve met some amazing people employing this method. I especially like going to tables where people are different from me. Yes, it can be intimidating, but I simply walk over and say, “Hi! Is anyone sitting here?”

It seems like time stops as they all look at me in a daze. I then hear, “Oh no, help yourself.” I do this because I think it is essential to send the message that I’m comfortable with you and myself — regardless of our differences — and that I don’t have to only be around people who look like me to feel secure. If you get to know me and I get to know you, our lives will be enriched because of our time together. Sometimes I’m received with friendly, open arms, and sometimes I’m not. And that’s okay. “

Today, I wouldn’t say it’s okay–because it’s not. The Black Lives Matter movement has sparked confessions of white privilege, disclosure of disingenuous diversity and inclusion programs, and utterances of shame for failing to recognize personal biases and behaviors that uphold a system that mistreats people of color. None of us benefit from continuing to cause America’s soul to ache. We have to continue to press and push for equality and fairness in wherever space we occupy.

General C.Q. Brown’s (the first Black U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff) speech What Am I Thinking nails it! As tears rolled down my face, I saw myself in his stories. I felt his pain, saw the distress in his eyes, and heard the impact of racism on him and his family.

Most importantly, for the first time, I owned my experiences that I learned to avoid calling racist for fear that it would create roadblocks to my success.

General Brown’s power and eloquence in reflections provide “Why?” the time is now. This is a God glory moment. The United States Declaration of Independence declares that “all men (woman) are created equal.” In living the fullness of who I am, I want to live out that decree in love, understanding, and peace and I’m willing to do the work that will help get us there. How about you? 

If this article speaks to you, please like, add a comment and share it with others. Thank you in advance.

© All rights reserved 2020 S. Renee Smith is recognized self-esteem, branding, and communications expert, and author of six books. They include Self-Esteem for Dummies, 5 Steps to Assertiveness – How to Communicate with Confidence and Get What You Want and Harness the POWER of Personal Branding and Executive Presence.

Why You’re Not Worth the Hassle; Companies No Longer Dealing With Brand Busters

Swiftly disconnecting themselves from Roseanne Barr’s racial and political views,  ABC’s wise decision to cancel her show and talent agency ICM Partners‘ good judgment to no longer represent her is a significant sign that employers are keenly aware of how talent can negatively impact their brand and business.

Brand busters aren’t just celebrities. Starbucks recently scrambled to manage a public relations crisis when an employee in Philadelphia called police because two black men asked to use the bathroom before placing an order. Although  Nick Setyan, an analyst at Wedbush Morgan said closing 8,000 stores for bias training only cost about $7 million in comparison to the expected $24.4 million in revenues, what isn’t accounted for is the bruise on Starbucks’ brand. A bruise that costs millions to manage consumer,  employee and current and potential franchisee  perceptions.

While freedom of speech was established to give a person the right to express any opinions without censorship or restraint, organizational leaders are moving promptly to respond to employee values and credibility disconnects as a result of protests that can go viral and make a huge dent in sales and a company’s brand message.

With privilege and power comes responsibility.  Social media is a tool available to all of us to become influencers who shape an interconnected global society. Yes, Roseanne Barr is out of a job but so are cast members and other professionals who worked on the show.

When we “speak our mind” we impact the lives of people we love and work with and for. Before your next tweet, post or live video remember the following:

1. There are real people on social media. Just because you are alone when you post a comment doesn’t mean that real people aren’t going to read it, be impacted by it and respond accordingly.

2. Companies have a brand to protect first. An organization’s first priority is protecting and preserving their brand. If a network will cancel a show with 25 million viewers, I assure you, your value proposition isn’t worth saving either.

3. Don’t underestimate your impact. Recruiters check out your posts and employers do too. Don’t let you personal views with people override your common sense to be an effective, respectful communicator.

Copyright 2018 S. Renee Smith. S. Renee is a self-esteem, branding and communications expert, coach, speaker and author. She is available for development workshops to help employees understand how they can build and protect the organization’s brand message while increasing their value proposition.  For more information visit srenee.com. Or call 888-588-0423.