Today is Friday, and we have another episode with Dr. Gail Hayes, the found of The Handle Your Business Girl Empowerment Zone. I know that we’re all struggling to have these authentic conversations around diversity, equity, and inclusion. We’re still code-switching.
We’re still struggling with what we’re allowed to say. What if we make other people uncomfortable? How uncomfortable are we allowed to make them? That’s what Dr. Gail and I are going to talk about today.
The Problem With Our Conversations Around Diversity
Ruthie: We had a little pre-show conversation that inspired this particular topic. We’re calling it, The Future’s Tapestry., I wanted to ask you Dr. Gail, what’s the problem with the conversations that we’re having right now around diversity?
Dr. Gail: One of the things that personally bothers me is that when we talk about diversity and inclusion, we usually lump everybody together. Right now, the current shift is mostly focused on Black people. We’re the ones getting killed.
You’ve got the women’s rights, LGBTQ+ community rights, but then you have civil rights. We’re not civil; we’re Black people. What’s wrong with people saying “Black people”? I don’t get it. That minimizes and dehumanizes us because we’re all of a sudden civil.
Therefore, we’ve become a horse. The LGBTQ+ community gets on our back. Women get on our back. We ran to the gate and they locked up. They left us outside because we are “civil”. We’re not human. For example, more white women got jobs than Black people. Every time there’s a shift where people’s rights are violated, another group jumps on the bandwagon.
I was in a big discussion with a lot of very powerful women. And they were like, “We’ve got to get in and we’ve got to do this for women. There are not enough women in the corporate arena doing this, this, and this.” And I’m sitting there blinking.
And she said, “And we gotta bring our brown sisters with us.” This was right after George Floyd got killed, and these are mostly all white women. She was basically saying, “We’ve got to let y’all in so we can get in the door.”
Right now it’s the time of the Black people, but they still want to call us civil rights. How are we ever going to get what we deserve if we’re civil, not people? It’s all about words. The word civil bothers me.
Why Civil Rights Is a Misnomer
Ruthie: Who gave it that name?
Dr. Gail: It was probably a white person.
Ruthie: Probably because they’re the ones who wrote the history books
Dr. Gail: I believe white people call it “civil” because they don’t want to deal with Black rights. We’re talking about Black rights right now, and I’m tired of other groups jumping on the bandwagon.
When we talk about D&I, diversity and inclusion, people say, “We have to be sensitive to gender.” No, y’all already been sensitive. Women’s right to vote was only for white women. Black women didn’t have a right to vote at the time. So I can’t support “womens’ right to vote” because that wasn’t for us. I have to support Black womens’ right to vote.
The LGBTQ+ had their moment when the White House was illuminated with the rainbow.
Even the Japanese got reparations for being interned during WWII.
When you’re talking about us, everybody is quiet and wants to talk about civil rights. Are you kidding me? The ground in America is still red with the blood of my ancestors crying out, “Give us our 40 acres and a mule.”
Don’t Say “Civil Rights”
Most of the things that people use were created by Black people, because we do the work. The man who created the blood transfusion- Dr. Charles R. Drew- died because he couldn’t get a blood transfusion in North Carolina.
Historical note: There is debate about the truth in this story about Dr. Charles R. Drew. He suffered severe injuries due to a automobile accident, and received emergency care with another Black man at a facilities-poor white hospital. He didn’t survive his injuries. However, it can’t be said one way or another if possible biases influenced the care received by Dr. Drew in 1950s Alabama.
So with the cultural shift, we will no longer deny Black people in the future. So I will be a voice saying, “Don’t say ‘civil rights’ to me. Say ‘Black rights’.”
I am certainly not civil. I’m disruptive. And as such, we need a disruption because people keep jumping on our back, riding to the gate, and not letting us in. I’m tired of that. I don’t want to be a mule anymore.
Give us our space and our place. Give us the honor we deserve, because we’ve always had to honor America and we need America to honor us.
“Civil” Rights Isn’t Specific Enough
Ruthie: Calling it civil rights- in addition to it being a misnomer- isn’t specific enough. There’s always room for other things to be discussed.
Dr. Gail: And other people are comfortable with that. They’re very calm. I had to stop people today when they were talking about D&I and you know, because they were saying, “All people.”
I said, “No, everybody else has had their turn. Let’s get real, all of your D&I people. I know it’s a bit much for you because you want it to be a comfortable conversation, but I’m going to make you uncomfortable. Please, if you talk about D&I, you must mention Black people first.”
Other people have had their day. They’re still getting rights. We have not. On the other hand, our rights are still dying . Every day, someone’s killing us. And I said, “And you can’t really say anything. I’m a former law enforcement officer.”
They started clapping, but I said, “You clap and I think that’s nice, but I need you all to listen.” And they’re all white and getting paid to do D&I. And I told them straight up, that that’s just like eating vomit.
White People as D&I Experts
Ruthie: That’s probably a good next step for this conversation. It’s not that white people can’t care about diversity, equity and inclusion. But when you say that it’s like eating vomit, can you explain what you mean by that?
Dr. Gail: How can you- as a white person- teach another person to be racially sensitive and you have not involved yourself in a conversation with a person of color? There should be a presence for a Black person, because right now we’re dealing with Black people.
When you talk about race in America, we’re not talking about Hispanic people or Latinx people. We’re usually talking about the descendants of enslaved Africans. That’s the group that is marginalized more than any.
Everyone else who comes here takes on the attitude of the majority, and they treat us less than. The Latinx and Asian communities devalue us as well because of what they’ve learned from the majority.
Teaching D&I Without the Right Input
So how are you going to teach D&I without the input of someone who can tell you what it looks like? This is an emotional issue. You need to understand the emotions of the people that have been deemed marginalized.
If you cannot, then you don’t need to be teaching it because you’re going to do the same thing over and over again and get nowhere.
And the only people they’re willing to pay are white people. I think that’s awful. I’m thinking, “Nobody here is Black except for me, and they’re all getting paid to do this work. And I probably need to shut up, because they’re probably taking notes and I’m taking myself back!”
It is very disrespectful for you to get someone who looks like you to teach a subject about somebody who doesn’t look like you. And then all of a sudden they’re elevated to the status of “expert”. There are a lot of white people who are experts at D&I.
And when they talk to me, they’re blinking because I am not an appropriate Negro. An appropriate Negro would say, “Yeah, let’s all do it together! I love it!”
My thing is, “No, no, no. If you’re not including one of us at the table, that’s wrong. Because you may have a hammer in your hand to hit us if we say something you don’t like. That’s the problem.”
Ask Us What We Want
So D&I is almost a joke in America. Ask us what we want. Don’t assume you know. People come up with these programs based upon what they believe are the problems, and then if somebody Black speaks up, they won’t listen.
I have one white friend who was just amazing. He says, “Gail, I’m a white guy. I can’t tell you what it should look like. Can you put together a racial bias training? I’m the last person on the list that should teach this.”
He’s the only one I know who was feeling this way. I know a bunch of white men are doing it, not even having confirmed it with a Black person.
The issue right now is Black and white in America. The others have already been somewhat pacified. We’re the ones who have not been able to access capital, housing, and everything else people take for granted.
Even the Latinx community has had the freedom to come here, come together as a community, and form their own banks. They have a financial base that white people have always kept from us. When we started building, they came behind our backs with jackhammers because they don’t want us to get anywhere.
Historical note: read more about The Black Wall Street Massacre in the 1920s. This is one of many examples to which Dr. Gail refers.
Obviously Not As Violent As They Say
Some of them feel threatened, but if we were as violent as they say, we’d have already burned America down. We’re not violent. They’ve been violent to us. Just treat us fairly.
Treat me the way you want somebody to treat your daughter, your granddaughter, or your grandmother. Treat me nice, because guess what? It’s pay-up time. The universe is paying stuff back now. What you put out there is back to your house.
Your grandchildren and children don’t like what you’ve done. They’ve seen your hypocrisy, so they’re out there with Black people saying, “No, no, no!” And they are burning stuff down.
And you might want to get ready for your son to bring home a Black girl. Your daughter may bring home a Black man. You’re gonna have some brown grandbabies! They’re seeing that we’re not who you say we are.
What are you going to do about that?
The Question “What Are You” in the Workplace
Ruthie: That’s like my origin story right there. My mom is white and my dad is Black. They’re seeing the number of multiracial people continuing to rise, it’s going to continue happening.
I’m excited to see what’s coming next, but I think it’ll be another one of those diversity topics. In the workplace, I’ve always run into this issue of “what I am.”
Dr. Gail: Who asks that question? Mostly white people. Why does it matter? What do you mean? My name is Gail. Then they blink and say, “What do we call you?” Why don’t you call me sister? Or friend? Why don’t you call Gail?
You want me to tell you what to call me when you want to talk about me behind my back. I’m not going to do that, because I’m gonna talk to you to your face. I’m going to call you an author, or a colleague.
I won’t say “the white girl with the blue eyes.” I’m not going to say you’re an Italian American, Irish American, British American. I’m not going to say any of that, so why do you want me to educate you on what to call me?