We all know Issa Rae has been the queen of Black girl magic, making "awkward" sexy and bankable in Hollywood and changing the narrative of what Black women look, sound, and act like in mainstream media. (We'll never forget that infamous red-carpet moment when "rooting for everybody Black" became the wave.) So it's no surprise that she lent her voice to a much-needed International Women's Day conversation about Black women in the workplace on one of the most pivotal social media platforms for professionals and entrepreneurs: LinkedIn.
It's also no surprise that Black women face added pressures and challenges in corporate America that have only worsened with COVID-19. New LinkedIn research has found that 1 in 4 Black women (26 percent) feel they may face retaliation for speaking up about racial justice issues or topics around diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace, and 37 percent feel their workplace "talks a lot about creating a more diverse workplace, but doesn't make any material changes to policies or culture to make it happen."
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Issa joined an in-depth conversation with Betty Liu, executive vice chairman of the New York Stock Exchange, and LinkedIn news editor-at-large Caroline Fairchild as part of the platform's Conversations for Change series, and y'all know she dropped some keep-it-real jewels that are super-relevant today more than ever.
Check out what Issa had to say about how white allies should really go about putting action behind words, being the only Black woman in the room, and handling issues of race and inclusivity with her own team:
On leading conversations with her team about racial injustice:
"I had team members that came up to me and wanted us as a company to do something, and they inspired me like, yes we are in the spotlight, we should be facilitating conversations and facilitating action. For me it came down to that. We had had so many conversations, and so many conversations were happening just even within the media, and the frustration and despair that I felt was like, is anything going to change this time? And so to know that we were in a position to at least direct and guide people to organizations that were making that change, to actively go out there and make our voices heard just really united us as a company.
"And you know, not everybody in our company is Black, so to educate some people and to again facilitate these conversations so that no one was judged for their ignorance was really important to us. So, that really united us in a way that I'll carry with me for a long time, and will continue to be active about those conversations and the intentions behind some of our projects and initiatives."
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Issa on finding community as the only Black professional in the room:
"You can't always wait to be approached. Because that was my issue, of just like, 'Well nobody even tried so why should I try?' And now I've made assumptions about you, based off of what you haven't done. So, I think what I've learned is I have to at least extend myself in a way before I make a judgement. And then, if I extend myself and then recognize that there's no one there to receive me, then I can find a community.
"But for me, it comes down to finding a community of people who understand and relate, and I understand that that can be hard within your work environment, but extending outside of your work environment and finding other people and establishing a community there to bounce thoughts and ideas and solutions off of is so, so important."
On talking to white colleagues about the real meaning of allyship:
"A lot of my white colleagues have come up to me just to discuss what they could do, and, you know, I'm always open - some of us can get frustrated, any minority, when you're just like I feel like I have to learn so much about your culture and you, and I don't necessarily ask you questions, I do the research. And so for me it's like, I hope you do the research before you come to me, because I'm exhausted. I don't want to spend time like going down the line of everything that's wrong, I think you have to do the reading and the research on your own. I'm gonna be an open vessel, I'm gonna be patient, but just know that up front. And so to receive those texts constantly about, 'What can I do? How can I help?' I'm like, 'I hope you research this first.'
"There are so many, so many conversations where you can just find out, but for the most part, I have just been like this is where you can take action, this is where you can donate money, and kind of giving a 'frequently asked questions' checklist to colleagues. I've even found that forums, even with LinkedIn, I'm sure you guys are very much aware of how much of a forum that became post- these protests, and people just want a place to express themselves and to learn, and the more accessible that is, the more progress you'll have."
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Issa on the importance of the word 'Black':
"It just reaffirmed what I knew and what I felt personally. Just that we didn't have this representation and we didn't have these stories being told about us, and there's a constant encouragement to kind of erase Blackness in an effort to integrate and fit in, and I think what we felt was just like, 'No, I want to be Black and fit in.'
"I want to acknowledge my Blackness while still being able to be acknowledged in society. So that only affirmed like, I want to continue to create these stories where I'm intentionally highlighting the Black experience, or one of many Black experiences, and that continues to be my priority."
For the full talk with Issa Rae and more on LinkedIn's Conversations for Change, visit their website.
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