This post is the first in a series of five perspectives forthcoming from the managing partners of Simpatico Studios addressing the issues of systemic racism and inherent bias in American culture. The series is inspired by Simpatico’s objective to start and sustain a conversation about these important issues—a charge we gave ourselves in a July 2020 joint statement.
All my life, it has been complicated for me to discuss race because I am mixed. My mother is black, and my father is white. I have lived in two cultures and for that reason I struggled with my identity, and understanding “what I am.” But the reality is that society already chose for me: Because my skin is dark, I am black. And it is time to acknowledge how that reality has affected me.
Some people like to believe the concepts of systemic racism and inherent bias are a product of media or political narrative, or a way to enable victim culture in a society that prizes work ethic above all else. I am here to personally attest to the fact that that is untrue. All I have to support that testimony is personal experience, and what I observe in the world around me. If you’re willing to listen, I hope you’ll find that’s enough to confirm that at times, even today, black Americans are still treated differently.
I have experienced being pulled over for no reason, more than once.
I have experienced being followed around in stores because I’m wearing a hoodie, more than once.
I have experienced surprised reactions when people see my job title on my business card, more than once.
Inherent bias and systemic racism have been so pervasive in my life that their existence has never been in question. Still, growing up in a predominantly white area, I consistently made excuses for or rationalized being treated differently. It was more comfortable to pretend like I didn’t know why these things were said or done to me because I did not want to think about racism being a potential cause. I did not want to be a victim—of anything, much less racism, conscious or unconscious.
I see now that my thinking was a kind of compartmentalization. Being different from the majority is painful. While I appreciate today that differences are beautiful, too, as a kid I just wanted what any kid wants: acceptance. I did not understand how some people accepted and loved me, while others wouldn’t give me the time of day, or worse, would actively try to cause emotional or physical pain.
What systemic racism has done (and continues to do) in American society is enable false assumptions about what it means to be human. The systems we have in place create a filter effect for looking at black people, a filter that aims to define us by the skewed outcomes that America’s flawed systems perpetuate. I understand that for those who don’t experience systemic racism firsthand, it is hard to accept that the exact same systems can give an implicit advantage to some while explicitly forcing others down, or that there is, in fact, anything wrong at all.
What makes it more challenging of course is that painful, alienating experiences are not unique to racism. But I would argue the pain of having someone look at you and not actually see you or your humanity in its fullest terms is unique. And if you’re having trouble seeing the difference, I’d suggest all it takes to come to accept that systemic racism is a unique problem is to actively listen to the experiences of those that have lived through it. Better yet, listen without the intent to react, and resist any temptation to discount the experiences they’re sharing. We agree that there are no caveats to being human; there is no difference in the inherent value of one human versus another—but we still have work to do before we can claim that all lives matter equally in America.
Here’s the good news. As a black man, I feel for the first time the nation’s eye is beginning to see us. People are hearing us. None of us should waste this opportunity. For the first time, I feel we may be able to begin to bring to an end the problems of systemic racism and inherent bias.
As people of all ages, races, and creeds stand up, despite a global pandemic, I think about race relations and feel hope. Let us not allow this momentum to fade away. Do what you can do, even if the only thing you can do is to listen. But most importantly, do not be silent. Let the world know you stand against racism and want to change the systems that perpetuate it. Whatever platform you have, use it. Create a dialogue. Because our voices matter. Our lives matter.
Black Lives Matter.
VP, Finance & Operations
“Some people like to believe the concepts of system racism and inherent bias are a product of media or political narrative, or a way to enable victim culture in a society that prizes work ethic above all else. I am here to personally attest to the fact that that is untrue.”
“…growing up in a predominantly white area, I consistently made excuses for or rationalized being treated differently. …as a kid I just wanted what any kid wants: acceptance.”
“As a black man, I feel for the first time the nation’s eye is beginning to see us. People are hearing us. None of us should waste this opportunity.”