Blacks in the United States have had tremendous obstacles placed before them throughout the country’s history. Even if you start your clock after the last slaves were free, a number of laws, rules, and permitted attitudes have not ensured the playing field is not yet level.
I was discussing this with a female friend who accidentally veered into something I had been observing the past few years, but never connected to the black community.
If you’re a user of LinkedIn or in a mid-to-large size corporation, you can’t get too far without noticing another “women in tech,” or “women’s leadership” conference.
Women do a fantastic job of supporting each other in career growth. It’s sometimes done with more of a chip on the shoulder than I personally think necessary. But the point is they do a great job of promoting their cause, supporting each other, and working with companies and professional communities to create events and opportunities to further the cause.
If the black community does this, as well, they’re definitely not doing as good a job promoting it as women. Yes, you can find more and more companies setting up diversity and inclusion departments or leadership, but you don’t see the constant support in LinkedIn posts and notifications, and industry newsletters don’t address it with anywhere near the concern or regularity as women’s events.
But worse, when you do hear about high profile successful black men and women, there’s inevitably at least an undercurrent of them “selling out” to whites or being an “Uncle Tom.”
This is a generalization, but you just don’t see the outward evidence and promotion of black promotion. You don’t see the professional community rallying around the cause, and you don’t see the professional black community encouraging and cheerleading each other the way you see women doing.
My observation of the black experience is that more time is spent lamenting the lack of opportunity or all the roadblocks than spreading optimism and thinking in terms of what’s possible.
The insurmountability of obstacles is directly proportional to the belief that you can overcome them. While women look forward and support one another, the black community doesn’t appear to have the same network of support.
It’s time we started mapping a path to success instead of lamenting the failures of the past.