4 Reasons to Stop Using the Word BIPOC…Like Now!

I pride myself on being a continual student of life. I am always looking to learn more about what I do not know. I also know that if I am going to continue to do my work in the area of diversity, equity, and inclusion, I can never become too arrogant to think I have it all figured out. Enter the word BIPOC, which is a word I am afraid to admit I just learned about in 2020. I first thought it meant “BIsexual People of Color.” In what I have learned about this term, I have come believe that this term is problematic for several reasons and organizations especially should stop using the term immediately.

According to the New York Times, the term first started appearing in social media circles in 2013. The term started to gain more prominence in 2020 in the wake of protests over the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and others. Since then, the term has sprung up everywhere. Organizations such as the BIPOC project are centered on a mission to “build authentic and lasting solidarity among Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC), in order to undo Native invisibility, anti-Blackness, dismantle white supremacy and advance racial justice.” They also state that they use the term BIPOC to “highlight the unique relationship to whiteness that Indigenous and Black (African Americans) people have, which shapes the experiences of and relationship to white supremacy for all people of color within a U.S. context.” While I respect their mission and the sentiments of others who identify with this word, this term should no longer be adopted into our lexicon for the following four reasons.

  1. The term “BIPOC” is like a double negative (or double positive if you prefer).

If Black people are “people of color” and our indigenous or Native American people are “people of color” than the term itself is repetitive.

  1. Black & Indigenous people don’t have that much in common.

While the term BIPOC exists to express solidarity, it groups together a group of people whose histories could not be more different. The experience of Native Americans is like no other and is an extremely understudied aspect of American history. Native American history is often told from the perspective of the people who arrived on boats as opposed to from the perspective of people who were on the soil whereas black people were brought to this country through the transatlantic slave trade.

Both black people and Native Americans have experienced great oppression but their stories are also complicated by the fact that some Native Americans were also owners of enslaved Africans. Then of course, we can talk about the African American soldiers known as the Buffalo Soldiers who killed Native Americans in the 1800s. So what do these two groups really have in common? Queue reason #3 to stop using BIPOC—whiteness.

  1. Uniting around whiteness is not the way to go.

Black people and Native Americans have experienced severe forms of oppression at the hands of white colonizers and enslavers. Native Americans were also enslaved by colonizers. There are indeed countless examples of Native Americans and black people working towards unity, demonstrated in the 20th century by the fight for equality and civil rights and black & brown empowerment movements. The point here is that historically, most of the times that Native American and black solidarity has been demonstrated has been in response to white oppression. Is this reason enough to combine these groups in such a generic fashion? We cannot build movements based off of opposition to another group because real solidarity does not fully exist if it can only exist with a common enemy.

  1. Why do white people just get to be white?

I have seen so many terms used to describe nonwhite people throughout American history from Negro, colored, and Hispanic, to Indian, people of color, and LatinX. Now we have BIPOC. Throughout all of this, white people just still get to be called white. Not only is this annoying because, last time I checked, white is a color too, but also because the more terms we come up with, the more white people are viewed as being the original people and everyone else is colored into that white narrative of originality. Putting white people basically at the center of creation is not historically accurate. I have written more extensively about the broader problems the term “people of color” creates and why we should not use it so I will not revisit that here. I will just say that the more time we spend coming up with new terms to describe nonwhite groups, the more we actually strengthen the narrative of white Eurocentric dominance in America.

At the end of the day, I do not have the right to challenge how any one individual chooses to identify with a culture or identity. I am speaking to the challenges that exist on a collective level when we continually create new terms for people who ultimately do not have that much in common, as we have done with the term “people of color.” I argue for us to be intellectually energetic enough to treat each group with the respect they deserve in the same way we do white people. Both white people and Native Americans owned slaves but no one has come up with the term WIPOC to express solidarity. Let us tell the story of Native Americans, black people, and all cultural or racial groups with the individual respect they deserve. This is crucial in your commitment to create communities where everyone is celebrated and not tolerated. Let’s GO!

The Rule of 7: Testing Your Commitment to Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion

I have truly enjoyed engaging so many companies, schools, and individuals about pressing issues related to diversity, equity, and inclusion. I have found that most people are serious about challenging themselves on seeing where their biases lie and doing something about it. One challenge that I have seen, however, is that too often, people with whom I interact ask me what books they need to read or what terminology they need to adopt in order to not make a mistake and be called out for being racist, homophobic, etc. While the concern is understandable, this is not the way to achieve true diversity, equity, and inclusion and definitely not a way to become antiracist. It’s more of a way to check off a box saying “I did this so I’m good.” I would like to propose a simple, but more in-depth measure of seeing how serious you are on diversity, equity, and inclusion. I propose The Rule of 7.

Rather than checking the box or reading an assigned book, The Rule of 7 is personal. Only you know the answers to these 7 questions and therefore only you know what you are supposed to do about it. The real questions is do you have the will to actually do something about it or are you going to stay comfortable and not rock the boat? You can come up with your own list of 7 questions or you can do it as a group of friends or even at your job. The goal is not come up with an easy list. This should be a list that challenges you to become better on this journey. The reason why The Rule of 7 can be powerful is because it speaks to what you’ve already done versus what you’re doing. The 7 questions could include:

  1. What do your 7 closest friends look like (or the 7 closest friends of your children)?
  2. Who are the authors of the last 7 books you read (or books bought for your children)?
  3. What do your 7 closest neighbors (in terms of proximity) look like?
  4. What did your last 7 teachers look like (or the current teachers of your children)?
  5. What does the cast of the last 7 shows and movies you’ve watched (or that your children watched) look like?
  6. What did your last 7 hires look like or what do the 7 closest members of your work team look like?
  7. What do the last 7 toys you bought for your kids look like?

I could go into more detail about each question but they are all self-explanatory. If, for example, you’re white and all the answers to all or most of your 7 is “white,” you have more work to do. If you are black and your answers are mostly “black,” you have work to do. I would also say that if you are a member of one group, say Latinx, and your responses to the most questions are mostly “white,” you also have some work to do. For those of you with children or students in your life, this is also important because you may be programming them in way that reinforces a narrative or superiority or inferiority in their minds in the same way you may have been programmed.

If this article is too vague for you, that is the point. The goal of this article is to challenge you to work on your own or with colleagues and friends to actively challenge your biases and do the work to diversify your experiences and practices. I can give you books, documentaries, glossaries, and TED talks for days. At the end of the day however, you have to do the work to challenge yourself on your thoughts and experiences with diversity, equity, and inclusion when nobody is watching. Lastly, if you want to go to a deeper level, spend time exploring why your neighbors and teachers all look the same or why you do not work with anyone who does not look (or think) like you. That is an entirely different reading list for you. Are you ready? Let’s go!

3 Reasons Antiracism Efforts Are Failing At Your Organization

The year 2020 has been called the year of America’s racial reckoning by some. It’s been called a time where movements for racial and social justice exploded on the national scene. I have to be honest. I am not convinced. As a student of history, I have learned to analyze the difference between what activist Joe Madison calls a moment versus a movement. Was #metoo a moment or a movement? In my opinion, it has turned out to be a moment in history because I have not seen wholesale systemic change in how women are treated in the workplace beyond certain individuals like Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein, and others rightfully having their careers and fame challenged and more or less ended. I feel a similar vibe happening with the work of antiracism.

I have been engaged in so many powerful trainings and talks with organizations on the issue of antiracism, defined by some as “the policy or practice of opposing racism and promoting racial tolerance.” From the human resources to the executive level, I have been truly impressed by the sincerity by which these organizations have taken issues of racial or social justice head on. Below I am sharing three reasons why the antiracist efforts of your organization may not be working.

  1. You do not fully understand what antiracism is.

Is antiracism just a word at your company? Are you and your colleagues really learning vocabulary that speaks to the challenges we face today? Can you and your colleagues explain the difference between racism and systemic racism or a microaggression and a stereotype? Words matter. Definitions matter. I have had multiple situations where I had to work with an organization on just agreeing to the same definition of a term like antiracism before we could move on in any other part of the discussion and it was completely worth it because in times when this was not done, we had to backtrack and start over with definitions.

This is an extremely important step because if I’m looking at systemic racism as a “a form of racism that is embedded as normal practice within society or an organization” and you are looking at racism from the lens of “I never owned slaves so I’m not responsible for racism” or “if you just work hard you can overcome anything” without even acknowledging the “systemic” part of “systemic racism”, any training we do is going to be unintentionally sabotaged from the beginning. Invest the time necessary to get on the same page before you move forward.

  1. You are too focused on the problem and not the solutions.

Too many organizations have focused their antiracism efforts on reading articles and books and talking about them. This obviously must continue but it cannot be enough. For many nonwhite people, especially black people I have spoken to at some organizations, antiracism training is just the replacement term for diversity training. Saying “Black Lives Matter” is the new version of saying “We value diversity.” Organizations that have been more successful with their antiracism efforts have shown that black salaries matter and black employees matter. In short, they understand that representation matters.

Organizations that have hired more nonwhite people at the executive level, granted more power to their directors of diversity, and have increased representation of nonwhite people across the board are experiencing greater employee satisfaction and are celebrated more by their customers, exemplified by MSNBC naming Rashida Jones as president of the network and introducing more shows hosted by black people such as Tiffany Cross and Johnathan Capehart. It is represented by President-elect Biden not just saying he believed in diversity but making his cabinet more diverse including adding Native American congressperson Deb Haaland to his cabinet as well as appointing the first openly gay cabinet member in Pete Buttigieg.

  1. Antiracism is a fad at your organization.

I remember during the summer of 2020 seeing “black lives matter” signs going up everywhere from Dell to Starbucks. Even republican senators like Mitt Romney had marched for black lives and verbalized the phrase. Microsoft’s advertising department got in trouble after an email surfaced asking that they paint a #blacklivesmatter mural while the protests were “still relevant.” This led to a powerful response by artist Shantell Martin, who partially wrote that “Education and Accountability must occur in order to see REAL change. Supporting equality only when it’s popular is in itself a form of racism.”

While the aforementioned situation does not represent all of Microsoft, it does express the sentiments that I have seen by some leaders of organizations and companies that see work on antiracism as the flavor of the month. The fact of the matter is that, especially in the age of social media, your company will indeed be exposed positively or negatively. Your organization would actually be better off doing nothing rather than putting forth a half-hearted measure that will create more problems than you are trying to solve. Make sure your efforts are sincere and you are more likely to get buy in from most parties involved.

     Going forward.

At the end of the day, it is important that your organization steps back to truly assess what your goals are when you state that you want embrace antiracist policies. I have stated before that even though I am an antiracist and committed to the work, I am not a big fan of the word because it literally focuses (by the definition of the word “anti”) on what we are against as opposed to what we are for. It is similar to the late Mother Teresa stating that she would never attend an anti-war rally but would attend a pro-peace rally.

If you really want to assess your antiracist efforts, you should look at what progress your company has made eight months after the killing of George Floyd, which was one of the major catalysts for today’s antiracist efforts along with the killing of Breonna Taylor. In the same way you have not heard their names on television lately due to potential social justice fatigue, is your organization experiencing antiracism fatigue or just not moving forward? The three steps above may help you but only if you and your organization are sincere about the work and honest about exposing the challenges your organization faces in order to make sure that you are part of a movement and not a moment.

Sexism isn’t the ONLY reason for Dr. Jill Biden hate

Famed scientist Isaac Asimov wrote in 1980 that in the United States, there is a “cult of ignorance in the United States” and that the “strain of anti-intellectualism” boils down to the idea that “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.” While so many have rightfully pointed out the sexist and misogynistic overtones of Joseph Epstein’s Wall Street Journal article suggesting Dr. Jill Biden drop the title of “Dr.” from her name, the other major issue that merits our attention is how it highlights how deeply many in this country resent intellectual thought and critical thinking and this notion has been spearheaded by President Donald Trump.

We live in a world today where we no longer watch the news or search the Internet looking for information, but for affirmation. We surround ourselves with people who think like us and then expand that into our social media spaces. It’s the mentality that would lead a voter to say that everyone she knows voted for Trump, so he must have won. Maybe it started in 1987 with the end of the Fairness Doctrine; the policy implemented in 1949 mandating that networks provide a balance of opinion in their broadcasting. The end of this policy led to the rise of “infotainment” spearheaded by talk personalities like Rush Limbaugh. Fast forward to today and most of us have a strong roster of podcasts, audiobooks, social media people we like, and news networks that all enforce what we already want to hear. What too many of us have heard over the last thirty years is a decreasing disrespect towards education and intellectual thought.

I remember when President Obama ran for his first term. One of the main knocks against him from some critics was that he was too “professorial.” Yes. A former college professor was criticized for sounding like a college professor. Critics prepared his style with his predecessor, President George W. Bush, who was someone you could just sit down and have a beer with. I recall thinking that I never want to just have a beer with the President of the United States and it has nothing to with the fact that I don’t drink. I want to have a leader who I believe is smarter than me on issues related to leading my country. Fast forward to the 2016 election and we have President Trump boasting that he was the same person he was since he was in the first grade. Little did we know that he was just getting started.

Over the course of four years, President Trump questioned or outright demeaned the credibility of every institution we had because he was smarter than them all. He said he knew more about the military than the generals. He said he knew more about viruses than experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci and knew more about everything than anyone else including taxes, visas, infrastructure, renewable energy, borders, and even more about Senator Cory Booker than Booker knew about himself. Add to this the creation of “alternative facts” spearheaded by multimillion dollar book deal recipient Kellyanne Conway, and you have a society where someone’s real educational achievement means nothing and is therefore constantly undermined. On a weekly basis I endure comments on social media from people whose first line of attack is asking how someone like me was “given” a PhD or stating that someone with a PhD wouldn’t be as stupid as I am. It’s literally their opening move.

As we prepare to usher in a new president, we need to also usher in a period where intellectualism is respected again. I may actually be more excited about Dr. Jill Biden than I am about Joe Biden. Dr. Biden is not just someone who values education, but is an educator herself who has always supported teachers. Contrast that with First Lady Melania Trump’s plagiaristic shadowingof former First Lady Michelle Obama and this country could be on track to becoming a respected intellectual giant once again. Finally, we must look deeply at our educational system from elementary school and beyond to ensure that we are teaching civics once again in addition to providing a curriculum that allows students to think intellectually and critically as opposed to checking the right answer on a multiple-choice exam. These steps will aid us in creating a world where the term “doctor”, regardless of the specialty it covers, will forever be celebrated and not just tolerated or outright disrespected.

Trump cutting off aid while Americans are dying is treacherous

Today I woke up to read the headline: “Trump administration overrules Jerome Powell and cuts off Fed emergency lending programs.” Not only is President Trump attempting to steal an election where he lost the popular and electoral college vote, he is literally starving Americans by cutting off money to hard working people literally trying to survive a pandemic. This is treacherous. This is not leadership and as upstanders, we cannot be bystanders to this.

Millions of Americans are literally starving, don’t have a job, or are losing their homes or a combination of all three. Suicides are on the rise and, by the way, we’ve lost over 250,000 people to the pandemic. Families will have to meet by Zoom this year for Thanksgiving, if they can afford a computer and have enough money to pay for access to the Internet. With all of this, Trump is not only not creating real programs to help people, he is cutting off funds that already allocated. The is savage, inhumane, and a betrayal of his oath of office. America deserves better.

The President is not a leader for us on Coronavirus

President Trump said that as our leader he had to do what he had to do as he urged us not to let the coronavirus dominate our lives. When the President has to worry about losing a job because if covid, losing a business because of covid, becoming his child’s teacher because of covid, losing insurance because of covid, losing his physical or mental capacities because of covid, losing a loved one because of covid, or losing his own life because of covid and possibly dying alone, then the President of the United States can talk about being the leader for all of us on covid.

The President is a leader in spreading this virus. From his joyride at Walter Reed to his removing his mask before possibly infecting whoever was waiting for him in the White House or spreading the virus via helicopter blades, Trump never has and never will have the ability or desire to lead by example in ending the coronavirus. He uniquely has the ability to spread two viruses at the same time: the coronavirus and the virus of hate and this is all happening while he takes advantage of the best healthcare that is free to him while attempting to rip away the Affordable Care Act from those who need it most. President Trump is not a leader. He is public enemy #1.

Breonna Taylor deserves better

191 days all for a charge that had nothing to do with the killing of Breonna Taylor. The charges of wanton endangerment were made against apartments other than Breonna’s that were shot into. Taylor’s life was taken and no one is accountable. This is why we march. We launched a global protest for 6 months to only be denied the possibility of justice once again. State attorney general Daniel Cameron has made good on his campaign promise to make the police untouchable. Until white people know what it’s like to fight 6 months for no charges, to March for 191 days for no charges, and to bring our case to a global stage only for no charges, there will continue to be an empathy gap in America. Justice delayed is justice denied yet today we’ve been denied even the attempt at justice. Breonna should be here today. She didn’t die. She was killed and Cameron couldn’t even bring himself to say that. The fact that so many of us aren’t even surprised speaks to the decades of injustice we have had to endure at the hands of the police. #blacklivesmatter #BreonnaTaylor

COVID-19: Tough Times Don’t Last but Tough People Do!

Great speaker Robert Schuyler stated that tough times don’t last but tough people do. I really find myself coming back to that quotation a lot during these COVID times because people are going through different challenges, be they physical or financial. There are challenges as it relates to what’s going on with our loved ones or even in our own personal lives. But you have to remember that at the end of the day, you’re not given anything that you don’t have the ability to handle. And one of the things I often say in many of my speeches is that there may be challenges that I have been given that if they were given to you, you might not be able to handle. And on the flip side, there might be challenges that are given to you that if they hit my doorstep, I may not be able to handle.

I like what Les Brown said that oftentimes, we’ve been picked out to be picked on and sometimes you just feel like life’s always beating you down and always trying to get at you and take something from you. You have to understand, at this particular time, that this is something that it’s just testing you. There’s a difference between school and life. In school you get the lesson and then you get the test. In life you get the test and then you get the lesson. I want you to think about how you’re being tested today and how you’re going to pass this test!

How are you being challenged right now and what are you doing that’s going to allow you to be able to step up to the challenge? You have to decide to fight because once you stop fighting for what you want, what you don’t want automatically takes over. As soon as you give up, you’ve lost. One of the things I want you to remember is to understand the importance of community and the importance of reaching out and asking for help. Like someone once said, ask for help, not because you’re weak, but because you want to remain strong and you are strong!

We are all strong people and the strongest people get tested in the strongest ways. So don’t put yourself in a position where you feel like you have to go through all of this alone. Put yourself in a position where you tell yourself that you’re going to thrive! Reach out to your community and ask for assistance and offer assistance too! As the late Bill Withers sang, “Lean On Me.” It’s a powerful and this is a song that I’ve been playing in some of my fitness classes at the end because it’s something that we need to do. You need to lean on people and you also need to let people lean on you.

Another thing we have to do is you have to decide that you are going to come out of this on the other side in a better way. One of the things I realized when I was going to be home with all of us in terms of my family was to commit to getting myself into better shape before this shutdown happened than when I went in. I had to say that to myself because even if I didn’t say that I would have been succumbing to what some people are already calling the COVID-15 or COVID-30 as it relates to gaining 15 or 30 pounds from not being able to maintain a regular exercise routine. I’ve had some setbacks in this process but I am still on the path. Without that affirmation, I would have given in to my injuries and my appetite would’ve taken over, trust me!

I knew I was going to have to make certain dietary changes. I was going to have to maintain my workout program with adjustments. Before the quarantine I had to wake up at 5:30 to get the kids ready and out the door to school by 8. Now I don’t have to do that so there are two and a half hours to get it in at least 30 minutes to work out. We’ve also started doing bike rides as a family together and weekends in, which also wasn’t really happening before with our schedules.

This is just one example. What can you do where you’re at, what can you do with what you have right now where you are? Are there new opportunities to find a workout or the new opportunities to find and spend time with the kids? Are there new opportunities just to do anything different or special right now that you weren’t able to do before? We can talk about all of the challenges that the COVID situation presents, but it also presents a lot of opportunities and you have to ask yourself, are you positioning yourself to take advantage of them? These are some of the things I want you to think about as you go through your week, as you go through your month, the next couple of months, and possibly beyond.

You CAN get through this. We just have to do some mind shifts, some changing of our thinking, and lean on the people that we need to lean on. Set your intentions from the beginning so that this whole crisis and pandemic doesn’t set them for you. If you’re able to do these things, you’ll be able to take control of your own destiny and you’ll be able to take control during this crisis. And just remember, you’re never alone and never, ever, ever give up. Tell yourself every single day that you are not alone, that you’re not going to give up, and that you know you’re a tough person who’s going to last through these tough times. We are going to get through this together. I wish you all the best. I hope that you continue to do your best and forget the rest and let’s get through this together! I know you can handle this because you’re not giving anything that you don’t have the ability to handle! Let’s go!

Changing the Climate on Climate Change (a poem)

Our house is on fire

From this climate quagmire

Yes our house is on fire but more and more of us are inspired

And we’ll keep reaching higher until some of these bank CEOs are fired

We have less than 11 years but we will have no fear

Because we understand that the science couldn’t be more clear

And these banks are not as innocent as they seem to appear

As they defund climate change

We won’t shun moral outrage

You see we’ve done the work, we’ve followed the money

Financial companies putting Mother Earth on one knee

From Bank of America to Chase JP Morgan

These toxic investments are killing her organs

From the lowest to the highest funder of fossil fuel expansion

We will Chase through all types of distraction from taking real action

To understand this climate emergency

They must emerge and see that whether we’re talking tar sands in far lands

Or oil pipelines on indigenous sands

We can’t have a Dakota pipeline if it cuts off our lifelines

And for those who say it’s wrong to protest we say it’s the right time!

Because too many are silent which is being compliant

To continue to put people over profit?

It’s high time to stop it

We will stay on mission to cut these emissions

For every billion for fossil fuel expansion moving us closer to defeat

We’ll hit the streets with a billion voices and a billion feet

Until these companies confess that it’s best to divest

Every day we must put their commitments to the test

And we don’t care if we risk our careers or risk an arrest

Because if we don’t act now they’ll be nothing left

Because it’s not a loss to stop profiting from climate chaos

Put people and planet over profit and you’ll never have a financial loss

Because financial fossil fuel profits simply do not fit

A clean earth CEOs, don’t you want your grandkids to enjoy it?

Instead of having more and more fear let’s get more and more clear

Because we can take control and force companies to stop investing in coal

For our world’s peace of mind

We the undersigned are telling you that clean energy transformation leaves no one behind.

We’ve cried hundreds of tears

And our indigenous sisters and brothers have been saying this for hundreds of years

But today we stand arms locked with Standing Rock

And all these megabanks we’re demanding you stop

These banks that we’ve trusted with our life savings are destroying our lives

But we will make them ALL switch sides

Because a cleaner planet is the prize!

 

The 10 Antiracist Commandments (lyrics)

I been in this land for years, they see me as an animal

Time to end these racist lies, just read a manual

A step by step booklet for you to get

Time we learned how to be anti-racist

Dr. Kendi laid out the blueprint of how to do it

You wanna be an antiracist this is how you pursue it

Said it ain’t just good enough to say what you ain’t

You gotta do the work, box that hate out the paint

Start by checking yourself why you got those fears

Look at who’s been teaching you those racist ideas

White hate black, black hate white, black hate black

When it comes to being racist we should all step back

And check it all from how we police clothing and behavior

To how our system’s based off the need for a white savior

From power and body to class and biology

The racist roots of society is our biography

But it ain’t gotta be just because it’s how it was

We can’t keep the status quo just because

With our future on the line I believe that it’s time

To look in the mirror start to change our design

Rule nombre uno:

Gotta let people know

The racist views you hold

And how you plan to let em go

#2: here’s a good next move

Get a good reading list that challenges your views

#3: Never trust nobody

Who says they ain’t racist when actions speak loudly

#4: Know you heard this before

“Some of my best friends are black” don’t say that no more

#5: you don’t want racism to stay alive

Learn how it all started then make sure that it dies

#6: post-racial rhetoric, forget it

Think voting for Obama stopped racism, forget it

#7: this rule is so underrated

Understand why our neighborhoods are still segregated

’cause money and race don’t mix

Like Trump havin’ real ethics

Find yourself impeached real quick

#8: Never keep no hate in you

Exorcise it all costs maybe lose some friends too

#9 shoulda been number one to me

Know from day one we been a racist society

#10: a strong word called “alignment”

Get with like-minded people is your next assignment

Follow these rules your racism starts to shake up

If not, maybe hundred more years until we wake up!