49 random thoughts about racism from a white dude

In our national reckoning about race that has grown to be a global conversation, I’ve tried to listen way more than I talk and post these last few weeks. As a white male, I know I have privilege and unknowable blind spots to racism. I also know I have an important platform and voice to use, no matter how small and insignificant it might be.

I’m underway reading some foundational books, listening to podcasts, and watching documentaries to understand more context and history. I’ve taken a lot of quiet time for reflection and thinking.

I have also volunteered the last several weeks at a community garden in my city’s mostly black and low-income neighborhood to learn more about my personal blind spots, stop living a segregated life, and support those in the community that need it most.

Here are 49 random thoughts, reflections, ideas, and learnings from the last few weeks about the important conversation of racism.

  1. Racism is a spectrum. It’s not as definitive as racist or anti-racist. We all have blind spots and we’re all racist on some level.
  2. Don’t be afraid to own where you’ve been racist. I think the majority of people have the willingness to accept it if you can own it, communicate what you’ve learned, and take steps in the right direction. While it may feel like a slippery slope, it feels important to normalize owning up to past racism if there is corrective action that follows.
  3. There are so many book lists but we need to read and take action, not just post them on social media.
  4. It’s hard as an ally to be thrust into action immediately. I’m trying to learn and make sense at the same time.
  5. “Culture fit” is a flawed way to hire. It’s coded language for hiring the person you want to have a beer with and leads white males to hire more white males they want to have a beer with.
  6. I heard a black person say they are not optimistic about much change coming out of this moment. Who can blame them?
  7. We white people love to get excited about “Up and coming neighborhoods” with more affordable housing and trendy new restaurants. This is a racist term since it’s mostly low-income black people that are getting displaced in these up and coming neighborhoods.
  8. We need to learn ourselves. Don’t ask somebody who is drowning to teach you how to swim.
  9. Be comfortable with uncomfortable conversations about race.
  10. Listen more than you speak.
  11. Ask “what do you think?” to get additional perspectives.
  12. If you don’t know any black people, ask yourself why.
  13. Say hi to black people out and about. If there aren’t any around, ask yourself why. I had a great neighborhood conversation with a black man mowing his lawn while I was walking back from the store. He stopped his mower to say hi and we chatted for a bit. This small moment was super impactful.
  14. As a marketer, I control what is communicated to hundreds of thousands, sometimes millions, of people. This is powerful and can’t be overlooked.
  15. Change the story if you’re not telling the right story. But make sure there is depth under what you’re communicating.
  16. Showing is more powerful than telling.
  17. Diversity leads to better thinking, more profits, and happier employees.
  18. Understand what white privilege looks like.
  19. Know you have blind spots about racism. We all do. Use this time to learn so you have fewer and fewer of them.
  20. I believe food injustice is one of the most important root issues that must be addressed in lower-income so-called “bad” black neighborhoods.
  21. “Food desert” is a common term to mean those in low-income neighborhoods have poor access to healthy fresh foods. The better term is food apartheid since desert implies that it’s a naturally occurring phenomenon. It’s actually a racially occurring phenomenon.
  22. Look up Ron Finley’s TED Talk about how a garden has brought together South Central Los Angeles through beautifying the neighborhood, bringing together community, feeling the attachment to growing something, and fueling your body with healthy veggies.
  23. Not all black people think the same and agree. This sounds stupid to write but there is no single book of messages black people use to communicate with white people during this time.
  24. Because not all black people think the same, there will be conflicting messages in what is the best way to help.
  25. Staying busy using your hands as thinking time is better than sitting on your phone.
  26. Don’t be afraid to use your voice. Somebody is always going to be offended.
  27. Don’t take everything so personally.
  28. Not everybody is out to get you, white people.
  29. Prop others up around you.
  30. Follow black people on Instagram.
  31. Black people are really hundreds if not thousands of individual ethnicities and sub-cultures. Race is a made-up construct.
  32. It doesn’t matter which race is “best.” It’s not a competition.
  33. Black people are not after white people. Black people aren’t trying to get ahead of white people.
  34. White people have tried to be culturally black for centuries.
  35. Most of America’s popular culture is rooted in black bodies.
  36. Do 3 small things to make you happy every day. These three pockets of time will make the overwhelming world feel a little less overwhelming.
  37. It’s a deliberate choice if you’ve been living a segregated life. It can be changed
  38. Life is too short to tear other people down and continue to marginalize an entire race.
  39. Strategy is often more important than strength.
  40. Walking through Tacoma’s mostly black low-income neighborhood while volunteering I was struck how much people smile at each other, say hi, and strike up a conversation. Usually, white people pretend they don’t see the other person and keep going. So these are the thugs and this is the hood, huh?
  41. I’m willing to give Drew Brees and Starbucks more chances. They made stupid decisions/comments but listened, learned, and quickly took corrective action. CrossFit is a flawed and racist organization.
  42. Police have far too wide of a job scope. Nobody does well with too wide of a job scope and the immense power/control that comes with it. Just watch any of the documentaries about rich men that prey on younger vulnerable people.
  43. Treat drugs as a health issue, not a criminal issue.
  44. There are bad black people. But not all black people are bad. Very few of them are.
  45. It’s an issue that many white people did not know what Juneteenth was until this year when suddenly organizations, like the NFL, are giving them as paid company holidays.
  46. I’ve always had Jewish oppression as a crutch to say that “my life is hard.” The Holocaust was an unthinkable atrocity, but the majority of onlookers realized it was terrible and many nations intervened during WWII to quickly end it. Are there still people out to get the Jews? Yes, but I walk out my front door visually a white male and the privilege that comes with it.
  47. Be on your phone less. You need to maintain your mental health. You can’t think, reflect, and plan if you’re occupying all your pockets of free time-consuming stuff on your phone.
  48. Be mindful of the “diversity tax” black people are feeling now about the sudden influx of outreach.
  49. Executive presence is a BS construct in the business world and is optimized around the behaviors of white males.

I’m a recovering constant phone-to-face person. I write a weekly newsletter about how to put less in your brain so you can find the pockets of time to slow down and do your best thinking. Come say hi and subscribe today.



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