Blaming “White” People is Dangerous

So apparently Fast Company has a “7 Lessons that White People Can Learn…” article about the brouhaha over the naming of the startup called Bodega. Now I think there are some interesting questions about the naming of Bodega.  My primary question is why the hell any company can trademark words in common use.  Past that is the question of if the name really resonates with the target demographic.  Followed by whether or not this crap storm is a PR disaster or rather a marketing coup. What I don’t see here is the explicit lessons for “white” people…

Why my irritation of Fast Companies tact should be of note is that I’ve been very public about my stands on many social issues.  The argument about “white privilege” isn’t worth my energy at this point.  How do you look at the stats, and travel around this country and not feel that being a minority dings you for at least a percent of two in opportunity? The lopsided enforcement of “justice” based on demographics is stark.  And frankly I’ve been in the meetings where decisions are made and “those” people are relegated to childlike status. So I am not alt-right by any stretch of the imagination, but this is truly starting to piss me off.

We are told that we are in a day and age where we need to move beyond race and gender.  To do that we need to have some hard discussions about priorities and ask ourselves if how we have been doing business is an appropriate way of doing business.  As I’ve said many times, “Look at the community you work in and support.  Then look at your organization.  Do the two come within hand grenade distance of each other?  If not it’s probably wise to see how modifying priorities could help that.” But there’s a massive difference between saying that systems are ineffective, and workflows are not providing optimum outcomes and saying that everyone of a certain skin color is an idiot.

One of the reasons I do not “argue” with people (In addition to being bad at it) is that if you look at the results of argument you find that by and large it has the opposite effect of what is intended.  The best argument wins the confrontation, but… but… the people listening walk away more sure of their initial feelings than ever.  The reason being is that when you deal with humans EGO is king.  Whether you’re in a physical fight, a stressful day at work, or are arguing about social justice the lizard brain will come out. The more stressed you are, the more the lizard will take over. (This is why military and paramilitary folks do so much high stress training. It’s less to do with building muscle than it is to learn to quiet the lizard.) The lizard’s only priority is to protect itself.  And the ego is it’s core.  So when you argue with someone you imagine you’re having some high level debate on the intricacies or the variable definitions of words, when in reality the lizard on the other side is building walls and fortifications against the prospect of loss.  Argument entrenches beliefs…

This is one reason why I say what I’m doing and move on.  Make a point.  Walk away.  There’s no argument.  Believe whatever the hell you want to believe.  The thing is if you read that post, you’ll probably read another. Then another.  You’ll call me a moron and laugh at how stupid a “smart” person can be.  Then one day you’ll be sitting somewhere and notice something, and think, “Didn’t Eli say something about situations like this?” Then you’ll keep watching the events unfold and ponder, “Maybe he has a point.”  There’s no lizard in this process.  From the time you read my words, until the time you ponder a situation in front of you it’s all happening in the front brain.  The lizard is asleep because it doesn’t perceive a threat. Therefor the reader DECIDES to modify their worldview because THEY have come to a new conclusion. It takes a lot of time.  It takes a lot of thought to make sure what I’m saying follows a valid line of thinking.  At the end of the day though you have someone that has not been brow beat into submission waiting for the opportune moment to strike back, rather you have a true believer who will push the conversation outwards.

When media starts attacking “White” people it’s trying to brow beat them into submission. You have a generation of adults who have really only seen an African American as president.  Beyond that major political posts have been held by minorities and women. They look at the media landscape and see minority influence everywhere.  Then the “white” ones are told they are wrong by birth. They are told they need to apologize for actions they understand little about, and had no real hand in playing out.  I fear a segment of the population interprets silence as winning.  I think it’s more people feeling beaten on going silent. The argument may have been “won”, but the anger starts to fester.  Remember when Trump had no chance of winning?  What gets lost in the Electoral College debate is that he did get 62 MILLION votes. There are a lot of people that hear, but don’t speak…

Why Fast Company infuriates me is that it takes prejudice into the institutionalized main stream.  If Fast Company makes white bashing socially acceptable then it goes to TechCrunch, Venturebeat, Arstechnica and so on. Fast Company isn’t (wasn’t?) Breitbart.  You expect Breitbart to be on the fringe. You expect Vox too pander to the lowest common denominator to get views. At least in the past Fast Company was about building businesses. Don’t get me wrong it’s always been a bit fluffy and hype driven on the subject, but in general it’s like a written version of Tony Robbins for aspiring tech entrepreneurs.  After a bad day you read a few articles, and then you’re back to thinking you’ll be the next Zuckerberg. It’s been chicken soup for the geeky soul.  NOW they want to start to make blanket statements about races?

This will end conversations, not start them.  Business people that have no interest in drawing a bulls eye on themselves will put their heads down, and plow through shipping product.  When the question comes from HR whether they should approach Morgan State or Howard about outreach will the owner want to get anywhere near the third rail?  Doing what you’ve always done is a lame, but acceptable excuse for most folks. Why get into he middle of a crap storm, when you can just keep trucking along?

So as someone who’s own employee used to call the company the “little United Nations”.  As someone who has a following across the spectrum and has selfies taken with every skin tone.  As someone who has sat down for hours on end with white people, African American, and africans.  As someone who goes out of their way to try to make job offerings balanced. STOP BLAMING WHITE PEOPLE!!! Every article like this from Fast Company throws a year of my effort under the bus.  It’s proof to many folks that I’m a very smart idiot.  Instead of pondering a well thought out piece they can point to a Blame White People article, and say, “No one would dare write that about black people or women.  Eli obviously has his head in the ground.” In a few Twitter posts a major publisher can take a relaxed conversation that is gently guiding the audience in a more inclusive direction and drive a damn stake though it’s heart!

Just something to think about for writers and people who want to be content creators.  The push for views over ethics does more damage than I think many people realize.  When you say, “7 Lessons for Startup Founders…” or “7 Lessons for Startup Board Members…” or “7 Lessons for Naming Your Startup…” you can get a lesson across that does not attack a major chunk of the countries population. You keep folks in the front brain, and the lizard stays curled up with a good book. Whatever you may think… the moment you wake the lizard is the moment you lose…


    • … along those lines… if you can trademark “bodega” the a corner store that wants to call itself “Little Bodega” would get hit with a violation. Trademark’s are “to prevent confusion” so by trademarking “Bodega” it seems they could go after any other small store with “bodega” in the name…

  1. “What I don’t see here is the explicit lessons for “white” people…”

    me neither..

    “Make a point. Walk away. There’s no argument. Believe whatever the hell you want to believe”

    Now that’s an inspirational poster quote right there – love it!

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