More than a month has passed since George Floyd's death, and perhaps it's just me, but it seems like the energy behind supporting Black businesses and standing with Black people has waned a little. The company statements have been made and filed, the black squares have disappeared from Instagram, and the protests and those who support them seem to be out of the news cycle.
Particularly for those of us who continue to work in Corporate America, the environment can be especially difficult because after a few weeks of advocacy for change, it appears that everyone in the office has moved past "Black Lives Matter" and addressing inequality and discrimination in the workplace in favor of returning to "normal". Unfortunately, there is no returning to normal for us. So, what can we do to help keep the conversation going in a positive way to create the workplace transformation we desire to see?
Here are some ideas to help your organization keep that same energy:
Create conversations where they may not yet exist.
If you have staff or all-hands meetings, consider introducing diversity and inclusion topics into the agenda to facilitate open discussions. Many of our non-Black counterparts may be unaware of the privilege they possess in the workplace and the injustices that Black people face at work. They may not fully understand that racism is displayed not only overt action, but by covert behaviors and the microaggressions we experience. Pro Tip: Consider using interactive exercises to make concepts more concrete and relevant.
Leverage leadership connections.
Do you have a mentor, sponsor, or advocate who is also passionate about changing the racial landscape in your organization? How can you leverage their platform and/or influence to help engage other members of the leadership team? Share your perspective with your connections and get their feedback on methods to create impact and revise long-standing policies. When leaders show that this issue is not only important to them, but that they are willing to take the necessary steps to change, the employees throughout the company are much more likely to take it seriously.
Utilize employee resource groups (ERGs).
Typically these internal collectives are focused on diverse segments of the employee population that face discrimination, prejudice, or exclusion in some way, i.e. women, underrepresented minorities, and the LGBTQ community. Engaging these groups can be another avenue to penetrate the organization and bring additional attention to the issues facing Black employees. ERGs usually have executive or leadership sponsors/contacts who may be able to use their voices to keep these issues at the forefront to be addressed.
Advocate for a more diverse workforce.
Hear me out. Part of the reason why the response from many companies on Black Lives Matter was not as impactful or as long-lasting as we would have hoped is because the diversity of the employee population does not support the message. It's hard for people to believe you care about the equality of Black people and that you want to see them succeed when: 1) no one in a mid-level to senior-level management position is Black, 2) no one in the C-Suite is Black, and 3) none of the top-tier management roles have succession plans that include Black people. When you have no one to look up to in your company that looks like you, it truly feels like it's impossible for you to succeed.
Outside of leveraging connections and support groups you already have, this is an opportunity for you to bring this issue head-on to those making the hiring decisions. Whether it's a direct letter to your CEO and executive leadership team, a frank conversation with your human resources department on hiring practices, organizing 1:1 or intimate meetings with the VP or Director of your department and other Black employees, let your voice be heard clearly. A good friend of mine prepared a full PowerPoint presentation for his Vice President to share the rather sobering figures of the lack of Black employees in leadership in his department, which in turn sparked a deeper dive into hiring practices and job placement of Black employees once hired. While these conversations are uncomfortable, these can prove to be the catalyst required for change.
Believe me, I get it. Being Black in corporate workspaces, many times you feel undervalued and unseen, and even more so right now. But while racism is not our problem to fix, we can help drive the solutions. We cannot wait on others to do the work. We must be the change we want to see.
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I have a preference for tall men — really tall ones, at that. I ain’t got no lies to tell you. And I am definitely one of those kinds of people who don’t think that anyone (male or female) has to defend or justify what their preferences are (nor be bullied out of them). At the same time, though, some of my best friendships consist of shorter guys, some of the best sex of my life came from shorter guys, and some of my favorite and most inspiring folks in this world are shorter guys…so, in my opinion, they definitely deserve their props.
Not to mention the fact that the average height for men in this country is 5’9” (genetics play a huge role in that), and — get this — only 15 percent of American men are 6’ and over. And you know what that means, right? If you decide to not even give a shorter guy a chance, you are cutting out 85 percent of the male population.
I know that some of y’all couldn’t care less about anything that I just said — you have a type, you want what you want, and you’re sticking to it. Yet what if staying close-minded is costing you without you even realizing it? Because while having a preference (knowing what you naturally gravitate to) is more than fine, an unfounded prejudice (an unfavorable opinion or feeling formed beforehand or without knowledge, thought, or reason) is something that’s completely different. And the reality is the latter could be blocking you from your blessing.
To further solidify my point, I asked some men who fit into the height majority (some of y’all will catch that later) to share their thoughts on being under 6’ and how that can actually be a win in the realm of relationships. Some of their thoughts just might show you how you could be “coming up short” by not dating them.
(As always, middle names are used.)
1. Roman. 31. Married. 5’7”.
“I’ve never had a problem being short — or at least, what our culture says is short. Only athletes in my school were super tall, and I find women with heels on to be sexy because I’m a legs man. I guess I’m lucky because I don’t even remember hearing ‘short man jokes’ back in the day. As far as what makes short guys a good catch, overall, is I think that we have such a level of confidence and self-awareness that makes our brand of masculinity appealing…at least, that’s what my wife says. She’s 5’4” and has always preferred guys who are on the shorter side of things.”
2. Caide. 29. In a Serious Relationship. 5’5”.
“I ain’t got no lies for you. When I was growing up, I was pissed about being the size that I am now. It wasn’t so much because of women — I just didn’t like it. Once I got to college and met this 5’10” girl who I dated for about two semesters, my entire perspective changed. We both like fashion a lot and have hella natural style. Before long, we had a reputation for being trendsetters on campus, and people liked that she didn’t care that I was shorter and that I got over the fact that she was pretty much towering over me when she had on her heels. When two people like each other, no matter what, there’s something really appealing about that. My lady now is taller than me too. Ask me if either one of us cares.”
3. Jakari. 45. Married. 5’7”.
“I’ve never understood why a woman who is five feet thinks that she needs a man who is towering over her. If she even got with a guy who is 5’5”, he’s gonna be taller than her. Relax."
"Anyway, my wife is 5’6” and she’s gonna keep some heels on her feet. The two boyfriends before her were over 6 [feet], and treated her like sh-t. She said that a man who is tall in character beats a man with height any day. You see who she’s with…right?”
4. Nicco. Single. 5’3”.
“Some men have a so-called ‘Napoleon Complex,’ I won’t lie. But for the most part, if you ask any woman about the traits of shorter men, they are almost always gonna say that we’re funny, charismatic, and great communicators. Those are things that we had to work at so that our height wasn’t the main focal point. If you want one hell of a good time, a short man is almost gonna guarantee you that. I swear, y’all be missin’ out.”
5. Elias. Married. 5’6”.
“I’ve personally never really cared what people think. For what? Folks change like the weather. I personally think that’s what a lot of women found attractive about me. Why should I stress over something that I cannot change or want someone who doesn’t want me over something as shallow as my height? I once read that people who care about what others think tend to be paranoid, unstable and that they constantly blow things out of proportion. No woman is gonna feel safe around that kind of man. Embracing who you are and then maximizing its potential is gonna make you stand out — no matter how tall you are.”
6. Oryn. Single. 5’3”.
“You asked, so I’ll tell you why so many women trip. It’s because they think that ‘short’ automatically means ‘small.’ Please tell them that penis size has to do with genetics, not height, and there are a lot of tall men who won’t bless you like some of the shorter fellas well. That sh-t needs to be taught in science class because the way that ignorance gets spread is wild, boy.”
(Shellie here: He’s right. Some of the tallest guys that I’ve been with had some of the smallest packages. Please let the hand and shoe-size myth go.)
7. Enzo. 25. In a Serious Relationship. 5’8”.
“Back when I was trying to get my now-girlfriend to go out with me, I asked her who her favorite celebrity was. She said, Usher. In my mind, I thought, ‘Perfect!’ because I already knew what his height was. I said, ‘I thought you said that you’re not into short men,’ and when she said, ‘I’m not,’ I said, ‘Google the brotha.’ You should do it too because that man is 5’8” — just like me. I took her to his show in Vegas, and we’ve been going strong ever since. It’s kind of wild how that totally changed her perspective — just realizing that he’s not as big as she made him up in her mind to be. Pretty sure that there’s a deep life lesson in that.”
8. Langdon. Married. 5’5”.
“Back when I was dating my wife, she said that she was concerned about what people would think when they saw us out. She wondered if they would assume that she was settling because she’s close to 5’10”. All we get are compliments because we’re often told that our style and energy are attractive. She also said that I’m what made her finally consent to the fact that we all really are the same height lying down. I’ll let y’all read between the lines with that one.”
9. Carter. 40. Engaged. 5’7”.
“I’m not playin’ these games. While women are out here turning their nose up at ‘regular’ short guys, their favorite celebrities are short too. I work in entertainment, and even the ones who claim they are 6’ are usually lyin’. Pay attention to how women measure up to men the next time you watch a movie or television show. Watch how many guys are eye to eye with the ladies. Y’all don’t care about height as much as you think you do…so long as men have other things to bring to the table.”
(Shellie here: I got to give this “height hack” to him because I once read that the average height for leading men is around 5’9” while the average leading lady clocks in at about 5’5”. Do with that what you will, chile.)
10. Braylon. 32. Single. 5’8”.
“Hypocritical jargon and double standards withstanding — women having preferences don’t bother me. I just tend to ask women who claim that you have to be a certain height to ‘ride their ride’ to explain where they are coming from because a lot of them only repeat what someone else has said as far as the whole height thing goes. As far as what they’re missing, I think it should be approached from a different angle — if you’re so caught up in a man having to be a certain size to even get a date with you, aren’t you setting yourself up to miss out on some really great people?
"Wanting a tall person for no reason than ‘just because’ is limiting. As for me and my dating life, I’m doing just fine. You’d be amazed how many more dates you can get when you’re open to different types of people.”
11. Jaxen. 34. Single. 5’4”.
“I’ll put it to you this way: There are certain sex positions that can be enjoyed so much more because two people are standing eye to eye. Hell, even a hug and kiss can feel more intimate when your bodies are lined up with each other. I don’t have to sell anyone on it — too many women have told me directly. Short guys are up to the challenge of making women fans of their size. Trust me.”
12. Roosevelt. Married. 5’8”.
“Remember when you told me about that woman who said that she didn’t need a tall man because she had a father to look up to? My wife told me something similar. She said that she thinks that a lot of women think that a tall man is a sign of protection, especially if they didn’t have a father while growing up. But because her dad is 5’7”, a military man and a marksman — she has never seen masculinity through height. I think the main thing that women miss out on when they refuse to even consider a shorter man is that a good man has nothing to do with if you can physically look up at him…it’s if you can respect how tall his character is. If that isn’t something that you care about, you’re not as ready for a relationship as you think you are.”
(Shellie here: WELP.)
There you have it: 12 men who aren’t 6’, who are out here living their best life — because they know that height isn’t everything. Never has been. Never will be.
May we all take the hint.
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