These days, at least a few times a week, I find myself mumbling the words “What the actual fuck?” With the fabric of society seeming to unravel at an alarming pace, I’m surprised that I am shocked anymore. But I am.
Earlier this week I participated in a focus group in which we were asked to give our response to a commercial concept from a large company. The commercial began innocent enough with a second grade teacher asking students what they wanted to be when they grew up. Classic.
The first student, a boy, said “I want to be a teacher, just like you!” to which the teacher responded, “That’s wonderful! I love my job! It’s very rewarding.” Then a little girl said “I want to be an astronaut!” “Amazing!” the teacher replied. “You can do anything you set your mind to.” Next, a young black boy answers that he wants to be an engineer. The teacher responds, “You know, black men are more likely to have criminal records that follow them wherever they go, so that’s unlikely.” I’m paraphrasing, as I don’t recall the exact vocation or the verbatim response, but you get the gist. Another, presumably white child offers another answer to which the teacher responds with more words of encouragement. Lastly, a little Latina girl says she wants to be a professor. The teacher states Latina women are less likely to graduate from a graduate program, therefore, she shouldn’t set her sights too high.
WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK?
The commercial then offers the statistics to support their narrative and of course, Company X is the solution with their commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. “Go to http://www.company.com to learn more about what we’re doing to create a more just and equal workforce.”
How about not telling second graders that they’re less likely to find jobs because of the color of their skin or suggesting a ceiling is placed on their level of achievement based on a bunch of numbers? I realize they were telling a story to make a point, but why don’t we try promoting a different story? How about we stop promoting a story of what is and start to encourage people to tell a story of what could be?
I’m not asking anyone to ignore reality or statistics. But numbers without investigation can be void of any in depth analysis or reasoning. Has anyone stopped to ask what other factors may contribute to these outcomes other than racism?
To me, this commercial sketch simply shines a light on what really needs fixing – our education system. Of course, this is a much bigger issue to tackle and requires real work on the part of our government, school boards and teachers, not to mention parents’ involvement in their children’s education. Wouldn’t it be better to level the playing field early on to erase any excuse of racial injustice as best we can? Wouldn’t it be nice if kids weren’t taught, as is so often the case these days, that the color of their skin makes them either the oppressed or the oppressor? Why are we teaching racism to children where it often doesn’t exist? These are the golden years of life when race truly means nothing to them. As long as you play nicely and share, kids are likely to get along.
Reforming education is an uphill battle, but it just might alleviate what we have now – people pointing the finger at everyone and everything for whatever unfortunate situation they find themselves in. Much easier to call it racism, slap a band aid on the problem, and continue on with people misunderstanding each other.
I’m so tired of this negative programming. I’m so tired of politicians and companies pitting us against one another. I’m tired of hearing about the problems with no real solutions. Aren’t you?
What was most interesting to me was my comrade in the breakout group. She was as upset by the commercial as I was. Here she was – a successful, kind, intelligent (this girl took diligent notes and put my academic skills to shame), proud Latina – the younger version of herself being portrayed as a victim of the system. I found it highly insulting. So did she.
In the short time we worked together, I instantly took a liking to her. I respected her for no other reason than we were supposed to be a team and she was generous and kind with me. Because I felt a certain fondness for her, I’d sit down with her and listen with an open heart and mind despite the fact we likely would have disagreed on certain issues.
Furthermore, she pointed out, Company X didn’t offer any real solutions. She wasn’t even sure what Company X did and had to Google them.
I agreed. Company X appeases the social justice warriors and hires P.O.C and minorities. Fabulous. Now what? What are they doing once they meet their quotas? Are they fostering a culture of compassion? Are they offering courses to their employees to improve communication skills? I’m not talking about a specific course in race. I’m talking about courses in how to human better. How to listen to each other. How to create an environment with a priority on personal development and responsibility. There can be no corporate growth without individual personal growth. Period.
I can smell virtue signaling bullshit a mile away. And this. Was. It.
This is no different than MLB’s Rob Manfred moving the All-Star game out of Atlanta to protest the new voter legislation in Georgia which requires identification to vote. Great. You’ve done your virtue signaling at the expense of $100 million lost revenue in a city with the largest percentage of black people and moved the game to a city with stricter voter laws and a black population hovering around 10% – and that’s being generous. All the while you get to drive around in your limo ignoring the real issues that you are doing absolutely nothing to resolve. Well done, commissioner.
Neither of these are long term solutions to the real problems of racial inequity. True racism springs from a dislike of self. When you like yourself, are proud of yourself and the work you do in the world, there is no reason to hate another person, no matter the color of their skin. You can call it systemic all day long. But systems are made up of individual people so while companies can make some grand gesture in the name of solidarity, how many are really doing things to heal this divide in our country? None that I see. So stop sounding off with some politically correct bullhorn and start creating environments that promote individual growth and encourage people to listen to each other with grace and generosity of spirit.
Like Charles Barkley mentioned in this video that mainstream media didn’t make much of a peep about:
“Man, I think most white people and black people are great people. I really believe that in my heart, but I think our system is set up where our politicians, whether they’re Republicans or Democrats, are designed to make us not like each other so they can keep their grasp of money and power. They divide and conquer.”
Stop letting them.