Don’t forfeit your opportunities to influence others.
part 2: doxing and terminating are easy.

Saw a comment by an HR professional in which they condemned someone for posting a link to a story and then strongly disagreed with people commenting on the post, calling them “disgraceful and dishonorable.” They ended by saying:

“I hope the people you work with have access to some of the hateful comments some of you have shared here.”

My first thought was, wait.

Did an HR professional just promote doxing and termination?

This person’s entire career centers around employee development and training. They are a professed Christian and appear to have a lifelong passion for helping people find and reach their potential. Doxing and termination seemed counter to everything they work toward. They had an opportunity to influence and not only did they miss it and waste it, they intentionally threw it away.

It nagged at me. Like, “couldn’t sleep till after 4am” kinda nagged at me. I prayed about whether to reply and if so, what to say. Nothing seemed right. So, the next day, I went back to the post and replied, ditching all the possibilities I had considered and just straightforwardly asked:

What do you mean when you say “I hope the people you work with have access to some of the hateful comments some of you have shared here.”

I was genuinely hoping I was wrong and that if I wasn’t, that there might be an opening for dialogue.

Within an hour, they replied:

“The message above is very clear.”

For a fraction of a second, I thought about responding. I prayed. And this thought popped into my mind:

I’m not responsible for the outcome of the conversation.

My responsibilities are, at the very least, to:
1. respond to opportunities to have conversation and
2. ask the Holy Spirit to equip me for the conversation so I can respond instead of react
3. do my best to respond respectfully and humbly.

I genuinely believe part of my calling is to put stones in shoes, and leave the work up to the Holy Spirit to soften hearts and open minds. What that means to me is that, if after a conversation with me, someone is thinking more deeply about something than they were before, then I’ve been a good steward of that particular opportunity.

and I need to let it go so I can get some sleep. Because I need to be alert enough to recognized the next opportunity.

Don’t forfeit your opportunities to influence others.
part 1: Dismissing alternative viewpoints doesn't strengthen your argument or your credibility.

Over and over, I see facebook posts by seemingly kind people instructing friends who [they perceive] believe differently than they do to “unfriend” them.

This week, I saw a post from an HR consultant on LinkedIn, declaring they would not work with anyone who [they perceive] believe differently than they believe.

I have more than a few problems with this increasing cancel culture reaction to diversity. And by definition, I believe the word diversity is accurate.

I included [they perceive] because

perception isn’t always accurate,
the issues facing us today are incredibly complex and
most people aren’t myopic simpletons.

1. Perception is subjective.

Our perception (a way of understanding or interpreting something)

is skewed by our

perspective (a particular attitude toward or point of view)

Consider the possibility that we have more in common that it may appear at first glance.

What if

people who believe and act differently than we do, actually want and value the same things but differ only in their strategies for pursuing those shared goals?

What if

people who believe differently than we do are intelligent and informed about facts, but differ only in their interpretations and conclusions about those facts?

What if

the labels we use to describe people who believe differently than we do actually dehumanizes them and prevents us from seeing them as unique individuals, much less understanding or empathizing with them?

What if

our perception of the “other guy” is wrong? What would we find out about them as human beings if we didn’t unfriend them or refuse to work with them?

2. When an issue truly is “clear” or “simple” there isn’t extensive controversy over it.

Time and time again, I see people completely disregarding conflicting ideas as invalid or irrelevant in their efforts to justify and validate their own view. I’ve said this before:

Dismissing alternative viewpoints doesn’t strengthen your argument or your credibility.

It weakens the first and erodes the second.

If our reasoning can’t stand on it’s own merit and stand strong against questions or counter arguments, it needs some work. And if our reasoning needs work, we might consider listening to the alternative viewpoints as a first step. Allowing them to challenge our assumptions and help us come to a deeper understanding of what we believe so we can explain it. Respectfully.

It’s so. much. easier to call someone by a label instead of by their name, to cut off communication with them and instead surround ourselves with the comfort and familiarity of people who think like us, but we can’t hear different voices if we block ourselves off from their source.

3. Disagreement doesn’t mean people are uninformed, uneducated, racist or brainwashed.

Statements like the ones below assume that people who hold alternative views about the causes of, and solutions to, the problem of racism are only listening to a few well known celebrities “instead of” rather than “in addition to” their friends – and to the alternative views of a significantly larger number of not so famous people with diverse backgrounds, education and credentials:

  • “…if you are listening to them instead of the black people in your life on a daily basis…You’re doing it wrong.”
  • “If you’re a white person…quick to post a video of a famous black person agreeing with you, but won’t read a book from a black person with a PhD in their field disagreeing with you, then you aren’t trying to learn, you’re just weaponizing black voices to confirm your own bias.
  • “If you genuinely want to be part of this conversation, please stop only listening to black voices that prove your white opinion right.”

What if

there are so many of these alternative voices, coming from so many sources, growing louder every day that it’s impossible for us NOT to hear, much less ignore them?

What if

these thoughts and opinions are not just coming from black celebrities but from all walks of life, from multiple socio-ecconomic classes and some with PhDs of their own?

What if

people aren’t just watching youtube video clips and sharing pithy word images?

What if

people are actually reading books, studies and articles – written by authors from both sides, listening to podcasts, interviews and debates AND having authentic, vulnerable conversations with friends who not only don’t look like they do, but also friends who don’t think like they do?

 

Aunt Jemima’s real name was Nancy Green.
and she BUILT that brand.

Does Aunt Jem need a brand update? Yes.

UPDATE TO CLARIFY: By “brand update” do I actually mean change the name and remove the image? Yes.
If all you care about is making sure “I get it” then move on, nothing to see here.
However, if you think it’s possible that I’m NOT a myopic simpleton, then you may find the following to be of some interest.

Last Tuesday, twitter had…more than a few…tweets about Aunt Jemima being a symbol of racism.

On Wednesday, Quaker Oats announced they are “retiring” the brand.

Aunt Jem is CANCELLED.

accused of perpetuating a racist stereotype.

Even the experts agree.

Riché Richardson, associate professor of African American literature at Cornell University on TODAY Wednesday:

It is urgent to expunge our public spaces of a lot of these symbols that for some people are triggering and represent terror and abuse.

this image is triggering and represents terror?

Daina Ramey Berry, a professor of history at The University of Texas:

“Aunt Jemima kept Black woman in the space of domestic service associating them with serving food under a “plantation mentality.”

and “it would be misguided to lament the change by Quaker as a loss of representation for Black women.”

This particular “representation for Black women” was based on a real person, Nancy Green.

“Born a slave in Kentucky in 1834, Green lived in Mount Sterling throughout the Civil War and relocated to Chicago when the conflict ended. There, she became a cook for Judge Charles Walker, who recommended she represent R.T. Davis Milling Company’s pancake mix, according to Marilyn Kern-Foxworth’s book, “Blacks in Advertising, Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.” Her fame grew after appearing at Chicago’s World’s Fair in 1893 before she died in 1923.” according to Courier-Journal.com

According to African American Registry:

“Mrs. Green was one of the first black corporate models in the United States…she became the advertising world’s first living trademark.”

She “Green was a hit, friendly, a good storyteller, and a good cook…”

“Her exhibition booth drew so many people that special policemen were assigned to keep the crowds moving. The Davis Milling Company received over 50,000 orders, and Fair officials awarded Nancy Green a medal and certificate for her showmanship.

She was proclaimed “Pancake Queen.” She was signed to a lifetime contract and traveled on promotional tours all over the country. Flour sales were up all year and pancakes were no longer considered exclusively for breakfast.”

She started at 56 years old. A woman. A Black woman. In 1893.

Nancy Green was Aunt Jemima.
and she BUILT that brand.

And now it’s been cancelled.

and Nancy Green’s achievements are not to be admired or celebrated.

Because, as Berry said, it is “misguided to lament” her “loss of representation for Black women.”

Because, as Richardson said, she is the “kind of stereotype that is premised on this idea of Black inferiority and otherness.”

She is not a positive representation for Black women?
She represents Black inferiority?

I may take some heat for this, but…

I don’t understand how Nancy Green’s origin as a slave and her physical appearance eclipses her achievements and their historical significance as a Black woman from 1893 until her death in 1923.

As I was writing this post, I found myself thinking of a quote from the following video:

“…race and ethnicity are closely connected to culture and in my experience, most people are proud of their culture. Refusing to acknowledge race is being insensitive the vast cultural differences across the world.”

Kristin Kroepfl, Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of Quaker Foods North America, said in a statement to NBC News. “While work has been done over the years to update the brand in a manner intended to be appropriate and respectful, we realize those changes are not enough.”

I may take some heat for this, but…

Nancy Green’s legacy is part of American history. I hope Quaker’s rebrand of Aunt Jem finds its way to recognizing and honoring her.

Assuming the Twitterverse will allow it.