I read an article which said that what some political pundits had given as a reason why people who might have originally voted for President Obama switched to vote for the candidate in the other party in 2016 was wrong. The study showed that the reason for the switch was wholly tied to racism. The actual line was “It finds that these voters tended to score highly on measures of racial hostility and xenophobia — and were not especially likely to be suffering economically.”


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The funny (not so funny) thing about the results is that the only people not surprised by the finding were minorities. Most of us have been saying and believing it since the day after the election. Unfortunately, most political pundits aren’t minorities, so they dismissed it out of hand by saying “if they voted for Obama they couldn’t have been racists.”

I hate to be the one having to break the news to some of you but your beliefs are inconsistent with the truth. Just like the beliefs of many males who are hesitant to embrace the #MeToo movement as being a real thing, many people of the majority are reluctant to see anything negative ever being related to race. The facts are out there; I’ve had my own set of circumstances that eventually someone who didn’t see it initially came around to my reality.

Almost 20 years ago I was dealing with a leadership trainer who decided to make me an example during a training session. We hadn’t been getting along in any of them, and I kept telling those in the C-Suite that he was targeting me and that it had to be my being the only black male in the room (there was a black woman but she never said a word in the one session we shared… she wasn’t the talkative sort).

It wasn’t until he decided to throw me out of one of the sessions that everything was solidified and my co-workers came to my defense at the end of the class that those at the top realized they’d been seeing things through the “couldn’t be” glasses I’d dealt with my entire life.

Almost 15 years ago it happened again, this time at a restaurant in Westchester County where I was going to have dinner with an associate of mine. I’d been telling her about some of the negative things that had happened to me during my time in the area and she kept saying I had to be imagining it. That is, until this particular evening.

The guy who met us at the front counter wouldn’t look at me. When he walked us to the table he set the menu down in front of her and tossed the menu I was supposed to use somewhere else on the table. The owner of the restaurant was walking around to all the table greeting guests and skipped the table we were at. Eventually she called him over and was talking to him, and he kept refusing to look at me until she deliberately pointed to me, at which time he looked at me, shook my hand, and beat feet faster than a tap dancer. At that moment she understood what I’d been going through and apologized for not seeing it earlier.

Who wants more proof? Here’s a story about a woman waiting for a job interview when the police broke her car windows and accosted her, thinking she was part of a supposedly criminal activity where they were looking for 4 black men. Here’s a story about a woman who called the police claiming sexual assault by a 9-year old who she said groped her in a store (security footage later revealed he didn’t touch her). Here’s a story about a woman who didn’t believe a black man lived in her condo and, at first, wouldn’t let him in, then followed him to his apartment, and once he was inside called the police to say she wasn’t comfortable with him being there. There’s lots of these stories every single day; yes, it can be that!

I’ve been asked why black people talk about race all the time. Because it’s almost always about race all the time! When I got my first website loaded on the internet in 2002, I had a lot of people recommend that I shouldn’t put my picture on it because no hospitals in America would hire a black consultant. I did it anyway to honor my dad and, unfortunately, it’s been true for the most part (even though they’ll all say it wasn’t because of that).

I’ve come at this from the point of view of a minority whose gone through a lifetime of people not believing me because it’s not close to their life experience, but it’s not just minorities. It’s women, poor people, non-religious people, gay people, disabled people… pretty much anyone who’s considered some kind of outcast. I’m certainly not saying everyone’s being truthful; I’m saying that if you hear it often enough there’s probably a lot of truth in what people are saying and what you’re hearing.

Stop dismissing people because you don’t understand them. Open your mind and consider that it can be that.
 

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