Zach sits down with former StubHub and Facebook alum Bärí A. Williams to chat about intersectional identities. Bärí also talks about her upcoming book “Diversity in the Workplace: Eye-Opening Interviews to Jumpstart Conversations about Identity, Privilege, and Bias” dropping March 31st. She shares what inspired her to write it and talks a bit about the challenge she faced in efficiently categorizing so many intersectional identities when it came to the 25 people she interviewed for the book.
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Zach: What’s up, y’all? This is Zach with Living Corporate, and, you know, you know what we do, right? It’s a Tuesday. Hopefully you’re bunkered in somewhere, not panicked–what’s the word? Oh, using an abundance of caution and, you know, keeping away from folks that don’t wash they hands. You already–okay, anyway, we’re not gonna talk about that. The point is you’re taking care of yourself. Maybe you’re listening to some smooth jazz and you realize, “Oh, snap, I need to listen to the Living Corporate podcast,” and here we are, so what’s up? You know that we are centereing black and brown voices at work, and we do that by having authentic conversations with folks across a wide array of industries, okay? I’m talking about energy to transportation to telecommunications. I’m talking about lawyers and doctors and professors and, shoot, hourly employees, activists, influencers. I mean, anybody really, as long as they’re willing and ready to really talk about the folks that are most impacted, most marginalized, in this world that we live in, and today is no different. We have Bärí Williams on the show. Bärí Williams, you know, she’s a lot of different things to a lot of different people. You know, for me to try to, you know, wrap that up in a quick little intro would be inappropriate, so we’re gonna get to know Bärí in this conversation and talk a little bit about what she has going on, and we hope you enjoy it. And with that being said, Bärí, what’s up?
Bärí: How are you doing?
Zach: I’m doing really good, I’m doing really good. I know we were talking off-mic about, you know, staying rona free.
Bärí: Man… that rona.
Zach: That rona. [both laugh] It’s not playing doe. They said Chuck got the rona?
Bärí: Yeah. Yeah.
Zach: Chuck got that rona… When Tom Hanks–
Bärí: Tom Hanks got the rona.
Zach: When Tom Hanks–when Tom Ladarius Hanks got the rona I said, “Okay, we need to slow down.”
Bärí: Fire yourself. [both laugh] Tom Ladarius. But also yes, because he’s from Oakland.
Zach: He’s from Oakland. And this is the thing, when he called [?] I said, “Oh, okay.”
Bärí: Oh, no. So here’s the thing. The funny part about that is Tom Hanks was in my uncle’s graduating class, in the same high school and all that. So that’s a real thing. Like, Tom Hanks knew about [?].
Zach: Man. Well, see, I knew–so, you know, the apple don’t fall far from the tree.
Bärí: That doesn’t explain Chet Hanks though.
Zach: We not gonna talk about Chet? [laughs]
Bärí: I don’t have anything for Chet.
Zach: Man. Boy, that blackness went away when he realized his parents was sick doe.
Bärí: Right. That patois was gone.
Zach: That patois was–I didn’t hear–no patois ting–[laughs]
Bärí: “Mom and Dad are sick, guys. Thanks for your prayers.”
Zach: Snap. He was tatted up doe. But yeah, [laughs]–
Bärí: He tried.
Zach: He did, he did. But yeah, okay, okay, okay. Look, there’s a variety of things we could talk about, right? Like, a lot of stuff is going on. This is not typically a current events podcast. I do want to talk a little bit about the book that you have.
Bärí: Yeah, yeah. Out March 31st. Diversity in the Workplace: Eye-Opening Interviews to Get Your Conversations Poppin’. I interviewed 25 different people, and what was super interesting about it was it was 25 people that I picked, and I got probably five or six interviews deep and I told the editor, “Hey, I know we want to segment these into five different categories, but all of these people are intersectional. So you can figure out where you want to put ’em. I’m not gonna make that determination.” Because who am I to say that somebody being LGBTQ and Christian outweighs, you know, maybe how they’re genderfluid or express themselves? I’m not gonna–
Zach: Yeah, you’re not gonna rank that.
Bärí: Yeah, or how when I talk to two black women in the spirits industry I’m not gonna rank whether they feel that they’re black first or a woman first. “So you put them where you want them, but here they are.”
Zach: You’re absolutely right. I mean, I think when you force–I think about, like, Feminista Jones. Like, she talks about this from time to time. It’s, like, this idea that you make black women choose between their femininity, their womanhood or their blackness, and, like, that’s violence, right? Like, you need to let people be all of who they are.
Bärí: I totally agree. I would say what’s hard for me with that though is that I can only speak for my experience, but I have always been black first, and the reason being is that all of the experiences in my life would not be different if I were still black and a man, and that’s, like, wow.
Zach: Let’s talk about that. Break down that down a little bit for me.
Bärí: Child, we can talk about it. My mama literally just texted me and said “I feel asleep reading your book. This is really good. I didn’t know people were out here living like this.” [both laugh] But yeah, I feel like–and I’ve been told this before, and it probably isn’t a secret to you. I can have a bit of a dominant personality. [laughs] And that is–but I feel like that is not abnormal for black women. Period.
Zach: It’s not. My mom is like that.
Bärí: Exactly, and my mom was like that, and my son’s mom is like that. Which means me. [both laugh] So… I mean, if you’re used to it you know how to deal with it, but the harder part, at least for me, is working within that framework in a corporate environment. What does that mean, to be a strong black woman in a white, predominantly male, sort of passive aggressive environment? And the answer is I still don’t know, ’cause they say they want one thing, and then when they get it they’re like, “Ooh… this is a little– This is more than I thought.”
Zach: Well, I think a lot of folks do say that they want certain things, but it’s like–you know, when you finally experience this, particularly when it comes to–you know, people say they want diversity, they want inclusion, and it’s like, “Yeah, but until you’re–“
Bärí: Until it makes you uncomfortable.
Zach: “You’re in a room and you’re doing a presentation and then three people who don’t look like you raise their hand asking you a bunch of questions that you weren’t prepared for. Then all of a sudden you ain’t really like that,” right?
Bärí: Yeah, that’s exactly it. And, like, I touch on that a lot in the book. So, in the book, it’s segmented into five different categories. So it’s Race, Gender, Age and Ability, Religion and Culture, and LGBTQ. And when I say that there were only–I interviewed 25 people. I actually interviewed more than 25 and let the editor decide what she thought–the editor was also a black woman, which was, like, fantastic. So, like, she got me, and that’s very rare, particularly in publishing. And she read it and she was like, “Yeah, these are really, really good, and this is hard to figure out where to put folks,” because you have people who are, you know, dealing with issues around culture and race, and then you have issues dealing with, you know, sexuality and race, and then you have people dealing with gender and religion, and so yeah, where do you put them? So out of the 25 people that we ended up selecting, in the end, only two sit cleanly in one bucket, and what was interesting about that is they were both Asian men.
Zach: Okay, yeah.
Bärí: Everyone else, you know, fit into multiple categories, and that’s one thing we talk about is, like, how do you navigate being in multiple categories and fitting into a predominantly straight white male able-bodied world?
Zach: And, you know, I think also, like, it pushes up against this narrative of, or just this binary mindset that we have about everything, right? You’re either this or you’re that or it’s this or it’s that, and it’s like, that’s just not the way the world works, and, like, people are really complex, but I think, like, part of, like, this decentering of whiteness, particularly white male straight able-bodiedness, is forcing people to realize that not only–like, these concepts are not new. It’s just that certain things are happening now where you can’t ignore those non-white male groups anymore.
Bärí: Yeah, and I think people are very, very uncomfortable with that, very, and so part of it is in the book there are takeaways from each chapter. There are key–it starts with definitions in terms of, like, what are some things you’re gonna see in here that people have said in their interviews that’s gonna be prevalent and super relevant? Like white saviors, okay? And I didn’t feel afraid to go there. Like, I know some people are gonna be like, “Ooh, white savior? So you’re insulting–” No, I’m not, but you also think you’re wearing a cape and you can save us all, and that’s now what we’re asking you to do, and also, like, you need to know that you’re doing this. It’s white saviors, it’s understanding the difference between, you know, being cis and–like, people just–just terms and things that people may not be familiar with and to get them comfortable with the idea of that terminology and then how to use it.
Zach: I think that’s really important too, right? So, you know, we talk about white fragility. There are different types of fragility too. Black men can exhibit a certain level of fragility. I think, like, people who are in any position of relative privilege–relative privilege, now. Relative privilege. Have a potential to exhibit fragility, and I think folks don’t necessarily like being educated when they’re wrong. So, like, having something, a resource… and, like, Google is free, y’all, so don’t… but anyway.
Bärí: Child, I tell people that all the time.
Zach: [laughs] Even if, like, getting corrected in public or by another human makes you uncomfortable, I mean, you could at least–I mean, you could engage with your own fragility in prviate. But anyway, the point is, having a book–
Bärí: I will tell you, my husband is a product manager for Google, and he works on the Android wearables team, so he doesn’t even actually work for the search engine, but when I ask him a question and he thinks it’s dumb, he’ll just send me the link–I’m trying to remember the acronym, but basically the acronym stands for “Let me Google that for you.”
Zach: Yeah, somebody sent that to me one time and–like, but this is the thing about that… and that’s cute, and that’s your husband and stuff, but let me tell you something. I remember one time I was at work and I asked somebody a legitimate question–
Bärí: If somebody did that to me at work though I would want to fight.
Zach: I said, “Wait a second. Let me tell you what it’s not gonna be. You gonna answer my question, okay?” Don’t play. Don’t play with me. [laughs]
Bärí: Like, there is a whole song out here in the Bay that was made that’s called “What You Ain’t Gon’ Do,” so… [Zach laughs]
Zach: That’s ’cause if I didn’t have to talk to you I wouldn’t, so don’t–
Bärí: Go YouTube that, and you might want to make that the outro music, ’cause–[laughs] ‘Cause yeah, it’s fine for Jamie to do that to me, but if somebody else did that to me I would probably roll up on your desk.
Zach: [laughs] “So explain this. Why did you send this?”
Bärí: Right? “So let’s talk, Bob. Let me tell you what you ain’t gon’ do.”
Zach: And what ain’t gon’ be. Okay, so no, that’s–let me ask you this. So, like, what was the inspiration to write the book?
Bärí: Many things. I think–and this is gonna be long-winded and, but I remember being five years old–and my mom is a retired teacher from the Oakland [Unified?] School District, and she and a couple of colleagues sat around our dining room table in our apartment and they created what ended up being the oratorical festival, which to our surprise was made into a documentary on HBO last month. And she didn’t know and I didn’t know, and she was like, “Oh, look at this!” And I was like, “Yeah! Also, why are you not in it?” But I let that go. I let that go. I’ma let that go and let God. [both laugh] And she actually–what’s funny about it is she was like, “I don’t care.” Like, if somebody’s talking about this and it still exists, like, that’s enough. Like, that was her goal. And so I remember sitting there looking at that, and I remember participating in the first year, and I won in the first grade for, like, my category, and I was like, “Did you rig this?” And she was like, “No,” but what it did was it gave me a voice, and she cultivated that throughout my entire life when I wasn’t, you know, doing debate time in high school and junior UN League. Like, all of that. So I always felt like I had something to say and, you know, everything doesn’t deserve a response. I mean, I’m still learning that at 40. [laughs] But she taught me, like, when something does deserve a response, make sure you have a very calculated thing to say about it, and so I started to do that, and then I decided to write, and it was writing articles and op-eds in New York Times and Fast Company and Fortune and Forbes, and it made me think, “There’s a [?] there, and there are things that people are not discussing in these tech companies that I see because I’m in them, and we can’t fix it if more people don’t know it’s a problem.” So that’s what led to it, but it was more than that. It was like, there are other people going through different struggles and different departments in other companies, in other industries, and what does that look like? And that’s why I ended up talking to, you know, two black women in the spirits industry. The spirits industry is dominated by older white men. And these are two, you know, 30-something-year-old black women with their own spirits, and they’re Christian, and so that was one of the things where I told the editor, “I don’t know where you want to put them. Do you want to put them in race or gender or religion?” But yeah, they’ve had people ask them in their church, like, “What are you doing? This is wrong” They’ve had people talk to them in the spirits industry, like, “Hey, girl, do you know what you’re doing?” You know, they get it on all levels, and then I was talking to [Rabya?]. She’s fantastic. She’s the woman who did the defense for [?] in… what is the name of the podcast? I’m blanking now. That’s terrible. Serial, and she talked about being, you know, a woman, being Muslim, wearing a hijab, and people–she knows she’s a good attorney, but people would want her to write the briefs and do the background work but not show up in court.
Zach: It’s interesting, ’cause that’s the kind of stuff–there’s a pattern of that, right? Of exploiting black labor or using black folks’ thought capital, wringing them dry for it, only for you to then take center strage and publicity and really interface, right? like, you see it–I’m sure that you’ve–’cause you’ve [?] in tech. Like, you’ve been with StubHub and Facebook. Like, you’ve been all over the place, right? Like, you’ve seen where, like, a lot of times black folks will come from, like, these HBCUs or, like, with these engineering degrees and then, like, work in the back in security. Security, y’all, is not–like, not tech security. Securing the building. Anyway. [?, both laugh]
Bärí: I will tell you the funniest thing to me when I got to Facebook was it was 2014–Facebook started in 2004, so it was 10 years afterward. I was the first black woman in legal. There weren’t black people in legal, so I was the first black person and the first black woman. There were no AKAs at all in the company, so I was the first AKA in the company. They had no Links in the company. I was the first Link in the company. Like, what are you doing? Like, if you want a highly qualified workforce, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated will get that done for you, The Links, Incorporated will get that done for you. And there were only, like, three Deltas in the entire company.
Zach: Shout-out to my sorority sisters. What’s up, y’all? You know, and my mom is also an AKA, but you’re really repping. Like, you really got on this podcast and, like, inserted that plug. I respect that. I like that a lot.
Bärí: You know, plug plug plug, but that’s the thing that I wanted people to understand too was, like, if you want a highly qualified workforce–and yes, they may not have direct, on-point experience, but we all have analogous experience from doing this non-profit work, and that’s the thing that people discount or don’t see. So, like, you want to hire Brad in accounting and he, like, did an internship for two months at his dad’s firm. Like, what do you value?
Zach: Right? Well, when you start holding them accountable–so when you hold them accountable to the standards that they give you, right? So if you say, well, “You know, you don’t really have X, Y and Z. Show me somebody else who does have X, Y and Z experience.”
Bärí: Yeah, show me what’s comparable.
Zach: Yeah, and they pull ’em up and it’s like, “Yo, this person was… he was, like, a DJ, or he worked at a GNC. Like, what are you talking about?” And so then things just crumble because it’s like, “This is not about this.” Like, you’re creating rules–
Bärí: Yeah. Like, that’s not really what you want, and that’s fine, but, like, let’s call a thing a thing.
Zach: I think, again, it just fits the meta narrative of white people, like, creating new rules for marginalized people.
Bärí: Well, it’s something that I actually told a long bost and said, like, every time I hit the benchmark, you move the goal posts. Are you aware of that? And he was like, “What are you saying?” And I said, “What I’m saying is what I said.”
Zach: I just said it, first of all.
Bärí: Yeah. Like, child, when I tell–and that’s the thing, like, my mom should’ve never told me I should advocate, because I literally said, I was like, “No. I hit this benchmark, and you told me if I did this it would be that. If I did X, it would be Y, but now you’re saying, “Hm, but in order to get to Y you really need to do–” And I was like, “Nah, bruh. You said this, and I have it in writing.” And I did that. So now what are we doing? And he was like, “Why are you so angry?”
Zach: What do you mean?
Bärí: I was like, “What do you mean? I’m not angry. I’m just telling you this is what you said and now you’re going back on it,” and he’s like, “But you’re angry,” and I said, “I’m not angry. I’m just holding you accountable, and maybe you’re not used to that, but that’s also not my job. Like, that, you should go home and talk to your mom or your wife about that.”
Zach: But you know what though? Like, just as a thought exercise, let’s just say I am angry. Okay.
Bärí: Then what?
Zach: Then what? I am angry, because you said you were gonna do something and you didn’t, or you said it was gonna be one way and it isn’t, or I have written documentation and you’re gaslighting me by acting like this isn’t real. So yeah, maybe I am angry. Does that make my point less valid?
Bärí: And it doesn’t. Like, these are stories that people go through in the book about how people gaslight them in the same way, whether it’s about them being a woman or about them being black or about them being LGBTQ. There is such a powerful story in there from a woman who’s Asian who talks about, like, how her family essentialy made her feel like she had to whitewash herself to be successful, and then when she got to college it was like, “I don’t know how to relate to Asian people now.” And then when she got in the workplace she’s like, “Now I have to relate to both, and how does that work?” I mean, that’s real. Like, you know, how you’re socialized is how you end up projecting yourself to the world.
Zach: That’s right, unknowingly or unknowingly, and that’s the scary part, right? Like, you end up doing this thing, like, where you’re raised. You’re just growing up. Like, you’re raised a certain way, and then you hit the real world and you realize like, “Dang, I have a lot of internalized depression and, like, I didn’t even know that.”
Bärí: Mm-hmm, and that is–that honestly is one of the–it’s funny, ’cause my son, he’s now 9-and-a-half, but when I had to finish this book towards the middle of October, I was so tired. When I tell you, child, on the last day before I had to hit the bit I was like, “Ugh.” I stopped to watch, like, a Real Housewives marathon, and he came to me. He was like, “What are you doing?” And I was like, “Excuse you?” And he said, “Mommy, what are you doing?” And I said, “I’m taking a break.” And he’s like, “Are you done yet?” And I said, “Do you understand what break means?” And he was like, “Well, you let me take a break, but you give me a time. Like, you’ve been watching this for, like, three hours. Have you hit Send?” And I was like, “No, I haven’t,” and he’s like, “Okay, so then you get one more hour and then you need to finish.” But to me, what I took that as was, like, he wasn’t being defiant, he was actually imposing the rules that I put on him, which I was like, “Oh, so my parenting isn’t totally failing.”
Zach: No, he has internalized that level of accountability and he is giving you that same energy back.
Bärí: Yeah, but the same energy I had to give him was, like–I listen to so many stories about, you know, marginalized communities, interviewing these folks, particularly black men and their experiences, and you don’t get to mess up, and I’ve told him that, and so he’s like, “Why are you sitting here watching a Real Housewives marathon for three hours? You haven’t pressed Send. Like, girl, get it done.” And I was like, “Okay, yeah. You’re right.” But it’s that same energy. Like, you have to be twice as good to get half as far, and that story was all of these people in the book, which was crazy, because it cuts across everything. It cuts across disability. It cuts across sexuality. It’s like you have to make up for who you are by doing more work.
Zach: You know, I think about a conversation we just had with Ruchika Tulshyan, and we were talking about how black men are often times left ot of the corporate D&I initiatives, right? So now, sometimes people think they’re being really radical when they talk about “the angry black man.” It’s like, okay, I get it. That is a thing, and that’s real, but, like, just the larger conversation about how black men are treated, and like you said, we don’t have opportunities to mess up, and the same thing could be said for black women of course, for sure. It’s just this idea of labor and, like, having to do more just to–
Bärí: And you’re not getting farther. It’s just–
Zach: Oh, my gosh. Thank you. It’s like, “I’m not doing more to get further or to get farther ahead. I’m doing more just to be equal. I’m doing more just to receive what I’ve earned,” right?
Bärí: I can tell you, my husband, he interviewed at a former employer of mine. My husband is 6’6″ and, like, 235 pounds on a good day.
Zach: Oh, he’s lean lean.
Bärí: Eh… I said on a good day. [laughs] But the way that he’s built though is, like, very Michael Phelps. So he’s broad. So he looks bigger than he is, and the feedback that they had is–and also, because of his size and because he is black, he has been socialized–and also he’s light as hell. Like, I’ve had people ask me multiple times, “Oh, so your husband’s biracial?” No, he isn’t, but people just assume that he is. And so based off of his profile, he’s very light-skinned, he’s 6’6″, he’s built like a swimmer, and people–so he has been socially conditioned to basically… I don’t want to say tamp down who he would be, but he’s more docile. Super reserved, which is why our dynamic works, because I’ll be, like, the person in your face, and he’ll–
Zach: Yeah, it’s tough to be big when–yeah, I’ve learned that in a variety of different ways, but yeah. I keep that–I would say I’m probably more like you, Bärí. I’m like, “Ayo,” but I’m like, 6’2″, like, 280, so I’m like, a big dude. [laughs]
Bärí: And you know that scares people.
Zach: And I’m not that–and I’m lighter-skinned, but I’m not, like, light-skinned, right? So it’s like, you know.
Bärí: And that is so scary for me with our son, because our son is–he is darker than I am, and I’m brown-skinned, and he’s already 5 feet and he’s 9.
Zach: Yeah, he’s gonna be a big boy.
Bärí: Yeah, he will be. And I believe he’ll be taller than his dad, and even if he isn’t, it’s like, if you are 6’6″ and you’re a brown-skinned boy and you’re in Oakland, I have to keep you safe. And so everything I do is about “How do we keep you safe?” And that sucks, ’cause, like, I wish you could just be free, but–
Zach: And it’s not… and not even to be a super downer, but I say this as someone who, shoot, maybe by the time of this podcast my daughter’s gonna be here, but, like, I think about having black kids in this world and, like, there’s the physical safety, but then there’s a certain level of, like, psychological safety that you really can’t protect them from, and, like, there’s certain things they’re gonna just have to–again, I’m not trying to be fatalist or, like, super down or whatever, but they just have to go. They’re just going to have to experience. And it’s, like, the feeling of being isolated or alone or otherized or not quite fitting in spaces. Like, that’s a thing, right? That’s a thing, and somebody that I really admire–like, there are a bunch of folks I really admire, but I think about, like, Bomani Jones, right? Like, he’s somebody I see, like, in these spaces, and he never, like–on his platforms, like, ever talks about being one of the onlys or whatever. And some people are just built like that. He’s just like, “I don’t really whatever.” He doesn’t come across, like, really vulnerable in that way, and I don’t know–and this is not about Bo specifically, but I think about, like, other black men in media or, like, in these really big profile spaces, and I wonder, like, to be successful in these hyper-white spaces, do you just have to have, like, a certain level of just, like armor, and just almost be really calloused?
Bärí: I think you do. That’s one of the things also that I learned from doing interviews in the book, and that’s not even unique to us. Like, the folks who are dealing with LGBTQ gender issues and gender expression, they had to deal with that in terms of, like, people questioning them and, like, what are you doing? Why are you doing that? Like, all of that stuff. And full discretion, like, I know Bo. Like, Bo and I are cool, and we’ve had that conversation, and part of it is like–to your point, it’s not intentional. He doesn’t mean to not say that. He just is like, “I am who I am, and you’re gonna take it or you’re not.” And honestly, I’ve talked to him and have said, like, I want that energy for my son. I don’t want him to feel like you have to have the burden of all black people ever on your back. Like, [?] does Bo, but he still reps us, and that’s what I want, and that’s what I want. Even, like, that I see with my husband. It’s funny because I look at him–we’re very, very different. He has had probably every advantage you can have in life. Like, he has gone to private school since he was born until he graduated. Like, he literally went to private pre-school, then he went to a private elementary school, private high school, he went to Harvard and then he went to Stanford, and I was like, “Bruh. You do not know, like, what it’s like to live in, like, a real dorm.” But he still came to–like, and he’s from here too. He’s from Oakland and came back and, like, tried to get in the valley and couldn’t beat down the door. [Zach: Hm.] Right. And this is what everybody says that they want, right? These credentials. [Zach: Yeah, you know, he’s checked every box.] And also, this is a light-skinned dude, right? So he’s less-threatening.
Zach: Right, and I’m sure he talks very proper. He enunciates his words well.
Bärí: Child, I call him MC Carlton.
Zach: So, like, literally his only knock is that he’s black, and light black at that. Diet. [laughs]
Bärí: Well, not even that. Also that was one of the things–so when I said my former… I had an employer who interviewed him. He got to the end of the round, and they decided that they didn’t want him. They cut him. Like, they were hiring between him and one other person. They cut him because they said, “Oh, he didn’t show enough passion. He wasn’t willing to bang on tables.” So when they gave me that–no, no, no, when they gave ME that feedback, I said, “Okay, so let’s stop and envision this. Do you want a 6’6″ 235-pound black man banging on tables? You’re gonna be comfortable with that?” [Zach: And they said what?] They were like, “Well, what are you implying?” And I said, “I said what I said.”
Zach: Yeah, don’t play with me. I’m not implying anything.
Bärí: I said what I said. I didn’t imply anything, I just said what I said. So if you saw that, you would feel safe? You would be cool?
Zach: I mean, real talk. Would you? Answer the question.
Bärí: They were like, “I mean, he just didn’t show passion,” and I was like, “That’s not what I asked. What I asked was that if you saw a 6’6″ bald black man banging a table to motivate engineers, you’re cool with that?” And nobody could answer it definitively, and I was like, “And that’s why you didn’t hire him, so thank you, and I’ma go catch the shuttle.” Like, I’m not gonna participate in this. This is bull.
Zach: Yeah, this is ridiculous. It’s super ridiculous.
Bärí: ‘Cause he’s super reserved, and he’s super reserved because he knows that he is a large black man and he can’t do that.
Zach: I remember I applied to–this is when I was first getting into consulting and it was between a few different firms, and one of the firms–and they were all, like, Big 4, right? So one of the firms I applied to, I went through the process and they said, “Oh, he was too passionate. He was too excited about the job. He smiled too much.” So I’m just laughing at you, laughing at this situation, because it’s like, okay, so you can’t win for losing, right? I literally was the one smiling talking about how excited I was, and they said, “Well, he looked like he knew what he was doing, but he just seemed a little too smiley, a little too excited. He was a little too passionate for us.”
Bärí: But if he had been extra excited y’all would have been like, “Oh, my god. The black guy scared me because he’s so big.” [Zach: Exactly. [laughs]] And what I hate about this is, like, having to teach my son these rules of the road, because it’s different in certain ways. He has my complex–actually he’s darker than my complexion and he has his daddy’s stature, and so you’re gonna be extra targeted because you are a super brown boy and you’re gonna be very tall, so you have to be on your P’s and Q’s at all times.
Zach: Yeah, you’re not wrong.
Bärí: And he’s so mad, because he does Kumon in addition to his regular schoolwork, and he’s like, “Ugh, Mommy, I’m tired all the time,” and I was like, “What do you think my life is? What do you think your daddy’s life is? What do you think brown people’s life is? Like, that’s what it is, and like, I hate to tell you that, but you have to do more and do it faster and do it better, and you’re gonna have to do it even faster and even better than your dad, because your dad gets some sort of benefit from having been, you know, a Harvard legacy, and he’s light-skinned. Like, when you’re light-skinned–light-skinnned [?] go farther, I’m sorry. It’s true.
Zach: We have yet to talk about colorism on the podcast, like, explicitly, but we need to talk about it because–
Bärí: Let’s talk about it. We can do it right now. [both laugh]
Zach: I want to respect your time ’cause we went over, but nah, it’s a global phenomenon, right? And I think, like, it goes beyond just, like, the African diaspora.
Bärí: That’s true. That’s so true for our Indian comrades. That is very true for our Latinx comrades. Like, that’s just the truth.
Zach: I was in the HEB. HEB, for the folks who are not in Houston, is a huge grocer. So I was in HEB and I was getting some different, like, sauces and stuff, and I was in, like, the cultural food aisle and walked right on by some lightening cream. You know what I mean? So it’s super common, and I think, like, even when you look at, like, these corporatized D&I groups, the Latinx folks are typically European–like, white-presenting, you know what I mean? Like, they’re not, like–you don’t see a lot of… again, it’s common, but because it’s so pervasive and–I don’t want to say subtle, ’cause it’s not subtle if you’re paying attention, but it’s just common, right? Like, the lighter-skinned people… it’s hard to be dark and in power, you know?
Bärí: Yeah, and that is for me just a personal thing that I want my son to embrace, and the reason being is, like, you know, everybody–my mom is light-skinned, and my dad was not, and they got divorced when I was three, so I don’t even remember–like, I have no memory of living with them together, and so it was really my mom and her family, and everybody in her family is light-skinned and I’m the only brown person, and I was like, “What’s going on here?” Yeah. But what’s interesting here is my husband is light-skinned and I’m brown. Our daughter is lighter than my husband and our son is darker than me, so it’s like… they don’t match at all. [laughs]
Zach: I love that y’all have, like, a whole kaleidoscope going though.
Bärí: We do, and we actually have shirts. I have a whole shirt. Like, I need to send you one. It’s real–it’s ghetto. [laughs] It’s a unicorn throwing money [?], and there are different shades of the unicorn, and I picked the different shades off the people in our family. So yeah, but I mean, like, get this money. Do this work. You can do it whatever shade you are. That’s my point. But for him, I want him to understand there’s gonna be different restrictions for you, because you’re likely to walk out of here one day when you’re sixteen and you’re gonna be 6’6″ and you’re gonna be super brown, and you’re really fine, and people need, you need, to be aware of the danger. And then opposite is like, “Your sister is light-skinned. She has very loose, curly hair, and so people are gonna treat her in a completely different manner and think she’s fine even though she may not be, and–” Not that I’m saying she’s not cute, she is, but I’m like, “You know, people–“
Zach: Yeah, there’s biases that come with being [?]. Yeah, there’s a certain aesthetic that she could fit into that then makes it easier.
Bärí: And she does, and I want to make sure that she doesn’t buy into that and, you know, that’s what we’re dealing with her, and that’s what I deal with in the book, like, how do you handle this? You have people in multiple categories. What are the proper terms? What are the issues that are around them? How do you deal with it? Like, even something as simple as the fact that I literally have never had braids or crochets or anything in my entire life, and I decided to get it last summer because I was tired of doing my hair and then my daughter’s hair. And my daughter has a looser curl than I do, but her hair is thick. Like, I’m not spending three hours on a Sunday doing this, so I took her to the salon so that they could do it, and then I started getting crochets, but now she’s like, “I want to go to the salon!” So now it’s like, okay, now we have to reset in terms of privilege, right? Because everybody doesn’t get to go to the salon. Like, my momma did my hair until I was 13, so holla at Grandma. [both laugh]
Zach: So let’s get back to this book, right? It’s coming out March 31st. Eye-opening interviews. The goal is to help jumpstart conversations about identity, privilege and bias, y’all. The book is called Diversity in the Workplace. Listen, y’all, make sure you check it out. Right now, maybe because of that rona we might be having these conversations on Zoom or Skype. I don’t–
Bärí: Now, I think you’re gonna be quarantined ’cause of that rona anyway, so you might as well read this while–
Zach: You definitely should. You know what, why don’t you challenge yourself?
Bärí: And there’s an audiobook version too if you don’t even want to read it. Somebody can just read it to you.
Zach: Come on, now. Like, challenge youreslf to read the group, and then that way when you go back to work–Lord say the same, the rona won’t be here forever, okay? So you eventually will have to go see people, right?
Bärí: I mean, the rona won’t. It will be replaced by something else.
Zach: Oh, goodness. You’re right though.
Bärí: I mean… it’s Trump, so…
Zach: Yeah, that’s true. [laughs]
Bärí: Something else might kill us in the meantime, I don’t know.
Zach: Who knows? I don’t know. They said they got all these locusts over in Africa. There’s, like, hundreds of billions of them over there. I don’t know.
Bärí: I saw that too, and I was like, “What disease are they carrying?”
Bärí: Okay, I’ma let that go.
Zach: Shutter the thought. [laughs] So look, y’all, this has been Living Corporate. We do this, right? We have conversations. We’re really excited and we’re thankful–you know, all jokes aside, please make sure you’re washing your hands, okay? We have information from the CDC in the show notes. You know, hopefully you’re washing your hands as you listen to this podcast. Like, wash your hands, okay? Soap is important also. Now–
Bärí: Very. Water is not–
Zach: Water is not soap. I want to–hold on. Sound Man, put that little record scratch in here. [record scratch] Water is not soap, okay? So you want to use some–you know, use the hard, industrial stuff. Use that Irish Spring if you need to. I personally use [?] because I am bougie, but you can use–
Bärí: I use Olay, but, you know, whatever.
Zach: Use something that is frankly a little abrasive, okay? Get that first, like, half-layer off your skin. Like, wash your hands, y’all. And then, you know, just take care of yourself, you know? Fist bumps and head nods only. You know, this would actually be a good opportunity for allyship and learning.
Bärí: Well, here’s the thing. So even with the fist bumps… so with the social distancing blah-blah-blah, it’s supposed to be six feet. If you bump into someone, no, you’re not within the six feet.
Zach: You know what, you’re right, no fist bumps. So this would be a good time actually for those–
Bärí: Head nod at people and wave.
Zach: So we all know how to do a head nod, but this may be the time for my less-melanated folks, my aspiring allies, to learn how to effectively head nod. Don’t throw your neck out of your body when you do it.
Bärí: Oh, I didn’t know that was a thing.
Zach: Just nodding too hard, right? Like, the head nod is supposed to be subtle, nuanced. Right? Like, maybe it’s a cultural thing. I feel like in the South, like, our head nod is different, and I definitely believe, between the various melanin levels, head nods can be various levels of aggression. That’s all. That’s all I mean. Maybe a little salute also, with two fingers at the head. Just “Hello, I see you over there.” But just be careful. Take care of yourselves, and we’ll get through this together. In the meantime, make sure y’all check out the links in the show notes as well for Diversity in the Workplace: Eye-Opening Interviews to Jumpstart Conversations about Identity, Privilege and Bias written by Bärí A. Williams. Until next time, y’all, this has been Zach. Peace.