Why Alabama Is Not A Victory For Black Women
As someone who has championed the need for uncomfortable conversations about inclusion and diversity in tech, I am still trying to process my thoughts and I must say that I’m feeling some kind of way about this.
Black women have been the backbone of this nation since slavery, with absolutely no recognition or respect and here we are again.
Although many see this as some kind of victory, I have to admit that I do not. “People are giving black women the credit for defeating Roy Moore”
What I see is a temporary pat on the back that black women have always gotten for coming in and handling business by taking the load on our already worn shoulders. Why are we only called off the bench when the game is on the line? For me, this only reinforces and further disenfranchises black women.
Why? Because is not going to change because of what these women in Alabama have done. White women will still be underrepresented yet will still have the advantage of the privilege that comes with being white in most parts of the world.
And black women will still be underrepresented AND marginalized in a country that only sees their value when they are saving the country from itself.
Some may ask why I’m being so “pessimistic”? Why do I not “see” this as not only a victory for Alabama but also for black women? Because by next week, the celebrating will have ended and these very brave, inventive, and clever black women who managed to mobilize their communities for this vote, will largely be forgotten and it will be back to business as usual until the calls goes out for the next “fight.”
People with the power and resources to change just don’t believe that black women or any other group of people of color matter and until we can look this elephant that’s in the room, squarely in the eye, and deal honestly with this overarching issue NOTHING WILL CHANGE!
BUT THEY CAN…
As I travel the world speaking at conferences and events about the business and economic values of improving inclusion and diversity, I continue to be surprised at, although many event organizers value these issues, very few collect any substantive data on their efforts. For some reason, it seems that collecting data on these issues is seen as offensive, yet as a researcher, like it or not, I know that data has the ability to tell a story.
You cannot manage what you cannot measure.
In an effort to understand what was behind the reluctance of one of my business coaching clients to embrace even the thought of developing processes for measuring progress, I had them write about it and the answer was insightful.
If I measure, I might fail.
I have a slight bent toward perfection. (Okay fine, a rather impressive bent toward perfection.) I seek it in whatever I do, even though I don’t believe it actually exists. Worse, I’m convinced it’s harmful and brings nothing but stress and disappointment. Demanding perfection from yourself is terribly unkind. It’s also paralyzing. Why would I move forward if I know I could fail; why would I do something that could fall short of perfection?
Measuring also places the responsibility squarely with me. If something is measured, you can’t chalk failure up to some uncontrollable, mysterious outside force. I’ll be able to see where the problem is, in black and white. Can I handle that kind of cold, unambiguous feedback?
What I took from this is that some may just be uncomfortable with asking these kinds of questions, while others are afraid of making mistakes in this area.
Well let me help you with this:
- It’s time to get uncomfortable
- And you will make mistakes
But believe it or not, by collecting the data, no matter the story it tells about your efforts at actually improving inclusion and diversity in any significant way, this same data enables you to document and tell your own story. A story of sincere intention can easily be illustrated in the data you collect. It enables you to identify areas of strength and challenges, so that you can use your available resources efficiently and effectively. And more importantly, it becomes part of a playbook that can be shared with others with the same intention.
So no, I don’t think Alabama changed a damn thing for black women in this country but I do believe that when enough of us can take an honest, measured look at improving the state of inclusion and diversity, our efforts will eventually bear fruit for us all.