AuthorSarah Morgan

#BlackBlogsMatter – Week 4: Opporcoonities

Black people began being caricatured during slavery. Slave masters characterized Black people as slow, lazy and  stupid. They made fun of them and dehumanized them further by comparing them to animals and depicting them with exaggerated, unattractive features.

The raccoon was one such animal. The comparison is believed to have began because, in the night, darker Black people could only be seen by their big eyes. This evolved into Black Face and Minstrel Show performances, which were well-attended and very lucrative well into the 1900s.

Raccoon was shortened to “coon” and  became one of the most insulting words you could use to describe a Black person. Being called a “coon” is just as bad and, in some ways worse, than being called the N-word.

Today, it has become less common for Whites and others to use this word as an insult hurled toward Black people. It is much more commonly a word that Blacks use to insult each other.

Although the word started out meaning something else, it has come to be an insult Black people use to describe Black people who knowingly allow themselves to be used in narrow, stereotypical ways for the entertainment or appeasement of White people. It is also used by Black people to describe Black people who show no sense of Black consciousness or interest in supporting efforts to achieve equality for Black people. “Opporcoonists” are people who knowingly accept and arguably seek to make a “coon” of themselves.

“Opporcoonities”, therefore, are the moments seized by opporcoonists to behave according to stereotype or to ignore obvious injustice to appease White people.

Substitute “White people” for any majority influence and the definition expands.

Anyone can be an opporcoonist. Anyone can seize an opporcoonity.

Black people. Women. People of color. Politicians. Organizational leaders. Even HR.

Especially HR.

The horror stories that we’re hearing surrounding #MeToo and #TimesUp shows HR has been seizing opporcoonities for quite some time. We’ve been playing ourselves and abandoning our principles for that coveted seat at the table. Our reason for existing it to protect the business by advocating for people thru fair pay and fair practices.

We’ve allowed that to be compromised by ignoring injustices to get and keep power.  We are letting ourselves be used in narrow, stereotypical ways. We show no sense of consciousness or desire to work real, lasting for improvements. We are catering to bad leaders who lack vision and decency and refuse to move the organization and its people forward.

It needs to stop.

Coon is an ugly, hateful word that should not be used to describe anyone ever. So is opporcoonist. So is opporcoonity. I’m not encouraging the use of these words or the continuation of these trends.

I want it all to stop.

I want HR professionals to constantly and continuously step up and advocate for what’s right in the organization’s they serve. If they are unwilling or unable do that, I want them to leave the HR profession altogether. If they are willing and able but the organization will not allow it, I want them to leave that organization.

I want all people to step up and advocate for fairness and inclusion and equity in our world. If people are unwilling or unable to do that, I want them to sit down and be quiet to allow those who are willing and able to bring about change. If people find other people and organizations are unwilling or unable to do that, I want them to stop supporting and engaging with those people and organizations.

I want love, light and goodness to prevail.

I want opporcoonity to die so true opportunity can live and thrive.

#BlackBlogsMatter – Week 3: The 7 Levels of Wokeness

As I said in Tao Te Woke – Part 1, there are levels to being Woke.  The more you proclaim how Woke you are, the more likely you are to not be very Woke at all. Woke is something you should be about, not speak about.

Still, Wokeness is not a competition. Even the most conscious among us will have lapses and make errors. Even the least conscious among us will see injustices and microaggressions that call them to speak up and get involved in some way. Just like a clock, even a broke Woke is right a couple times a day.

The goal is to always be striving to become more aware — then turn your awareness into action to help dismantle systems of oppression right where you are and in the larger society where you live. Otherwise, you’re doing it wrong.

The 7 Levels of Wokeness

  1.  Pillow Slobbers. People on  Level 1 are not Woke at all. They don’t see microagression. They don’t hear dog-whistles. They don’t believe in systemic oppression. They are blissfully ignorant of it all in a deep sleep.
  2. Snooze Hitters. People on Level 2 are beginning to get Woke. They are beginning to see discrimination and disparate impact. They start noticing microaggression and dog-whistles. The alarm is ringing but Level 2 is not ready to wake up yet.
  3. Head Bobblers. People on Level 3 are Woke — but they doze off pretty regularly. They don’t feel the immediate impact of the oppression going on in the world so they don’t feel these issues are a problem for them to get involved with solving. They fall asleep from boredom and disinterest because they are disconnected.
  4. Crusty Eyeballers. People on Level 4 are Woke — but sometimes they miss signs because their eyes are still covered. They see the issues and have begun to get involved. However, they still have some habits and views which display a lack of awareness, consciousness.
  5. Caffeine Deprived. People on Level 5 are very Woke and very irritable. Seeing all the oppression, discrimination, microaggressions, dog-whistles, lack of diversity, lack of inclusion, limited opportunities and resources, lacking and mis-representation, violence, hatred, danger, hurt and harm around them makes them grouchy. They see so much to be done that they don’t know where to start. They are vocal in speaking up and speaking out but uncertain of what action to take.
  6. Wide A’Woker. People on Level 6 are also very Woke but not as irritable. They see all the same things as Level 5 — but they have decided where to invest their efforts to have impact. They have committed to supporting specific causes and intersecting appropriately with others. They know when to speak out and when to center someone else’s voice. They are actively seeking balance in how they live and in the media they consume and in the words they use/post so they represent well and show up as a whole, healthy person wherever they are.
  7. Chronic Wokelessness. People on Level 7 are very Woke, at times very irritable and they never stop never stopping. They have insomnia. They never take time away from their efforts in their causes or in the intersectional causes they support. They walk the talk all day every day without rest.

While most would think Level 7 would be the ideal, it is actually Level 6 that we should aspire to reach and remain on.

Woke working and woke living is heavy and hard. Looking out in the world and seeing all that needs to be fixed can be overwhelming. It is essential to take time to rest and recharge. It is essential to keep balance both in what you consume and what you exude into the world. You cannot be your best self when you are working from a place of anger or frustration; you cannot be your best self when you are working from a place of anxiety or exhaustion.

There is no shame in not being on Level 6 yet. There is no shame in being on any of the levels. We all have to start somewhere. Just be honest about your level. Don’t misrepresent yourself as something that you’re not. Don’t pretend to be more Woke than you are to look good or cool to someone else.

Tao called Tao is not Tao. Woke called Woke is not Woke.

Be sincere and authentic in whatever you do.

#BlackBlogsMatter Week 3 – Tao Te Woke (part 1)

The Tao Te Ching is an ancient Chinese text estimated to have been written in 400 B.C. by  Lao Tzu.

Tao Te Ching roughly translates to mean “the way of integrity”. The author’s name translates to “old master,” which likely means the author’s or authors’ name(s) are truly unknown.

The Tao Te Ching was written to teach us how to live in the world with goodness and wisdom.  It attempts to teach us that if we spend more time just practicing awareness than we do in trying to label things, we could see better the proper actions that we should take. Through our awareness, we will ultimately learn the proper action is to pursue peace within ourselves and share the power of peace with the world.

The Tao Te Ching is one of the most quoted texts ever — and for good reason! Here are a few of my favorites:

  • When content to be simply yourself and don’t compare or compete, respect will find you.
  • The wise one is one who knows what one does not know
  • Give evil nothing to oppose and it will disappear by itself
  • Countless words count less
  • Presuming to know is a disease. Realize you are sick; then you can move toward health

When I think about the Tao Te Ching in the context of #BlackBlogsMatter and the social justice movements of today, I am reminded of the importance of being aware of the climate of the world around us. We are lacking in goodness, wisdom and peace.  The labels we have placed on things have served to divide us and limit us more than unite us. Proper action has become a relative term that depends on the politics of the situation.

What is the Tao Te Woke?

Woke is still the common phase used to point out discriminatory behavior by people and institutions and it is also used to encourage people to be mindful of lowkey discriminatory behavior.

If the Tao Te Ching was to teach us how to live in the world with goodness and wisdom , the Tao Te Woke is to teach us how to live in a world without oppression and supremacy.

Only thru awareness and correction will we eliminate discriminatory behavior. Only thru calling-out bad behavior over and over again followed by harsh punishments will perpetrators realize their actions are no longer acceptable. Only thru removing  low-key and high-key supremacists from positions of power will we achieve equity and equality.

These efforts are the essence of the Tao Te Woke.

I’ll admit that it has been almost 20 years since I’ve sat down and really read the Tao. In addition to the quotes I mentioned earlier in this post, the one that  has stuck with me is …

Tao called Tao is not Tao

Other translations of this same quote are …

  • The trodden Tao is not the enduring and unchanging Tao
  • The name that can be named is not the name
  • If you can talk about it, it ain’t it

Wokeness is becoming much the same.

It’s become a watered-down version of itself, almost to the point of needing another word.

NEWSFLASH: If you are walking around constantly declaring how Woke you are and how non-Woke everyone else is or how much more Woke they need to become, you’re doing it wrong.

Wokeness is not meant to be used as a weapon. Wokeness is not a competition.

Woke called woke is not woke.

The Tao Te Ching encourages us to focus on self-awareness before focusing on bringing awareness to others.

The Tao Te Woke encourages us to focus on the self-awareness of our blind spots  and our privileges.  Because we all have them.

The more we become aware and the more we learn to check our privilege, the more Woke we become. The more we check our privilege and use it to amplify the voices of the disadvantaged instead of for personal gain, the more Woke we become. The more we use our power to help others uncover and gain theirs, the more Woke we become.

We will all make mistakes along the way. We will think, say and do wrong things. We  will learn that we don’t know as much as we think we know. We will discover there’s room for more knowledge and wisdom. We will realize Wokeness is a call to action.

But we must never forget that we are all at different levels in this journey.

Yes, there are levels to Wokeness.

Come back tomorrow for Part 2 to learn what they are.

#BlackBlogsMatter Challenge – Week 2 – Stop Worrying What White People Think

I would guesstimate about 10% of White people are full out, active racists. They see anyone who isn’t White as inferior and actively works to oppress them at every opportunity.

I would guesstimate another 10% are appalled by the racism of the world and actively fighting against it. They speak out against discrimination and microaggression whenever and wherever they see it. They seek diversity and inclusiveness in every aspect of their lives. They recognize their privilege and use it to help others achieve equality.

And I would guesstimate the other 80% are generally oblivious to racism altogether. They aren’t full out racist and they aren’t fighting against racism, either. They know racism exists but they don’t see it in their circle of friends and family; and they definitely don’t see it in themselves. They agree it should be stopped but they aren’t doing anything about it.

If they wanted to, the 80% could go their whole lives never befriending a Black person or any other Person of Color. They would see nothing wrong with it if they did. They don’t notice when diversity is lacking in their environments or, if they see it, they assume there’s a logical, non-racist reason for it; they don’t do anything active to change it. They don’t see racism as a systemic issue; they believe all people have an equal opportunity to advance if they just work hard for it.

If they have Black or People of Color as friends, they rarely talk to them about racial issues. And when the topics come up, they keep their commentary as neutral as possible to avoid offending their friend or expressing any views which could be seen as controversial. However, they do ask about cultural and physical differences without consideration for how uncomfortable that might make their friend and without fully recognizing their friend doesn’t speak for their entire group.

When they say they don’t see color, they mean it. Black people are just darker White people, with all the same rights and opportunities. Our Blackness is irrelevant and invisible. They will not notice or celebrate our difference because they don’t see it.

80% of White people are so steeped in their Privilege that they don’t even see us.

Let that sink in.

So why do we care so much about what they think? Why do Black people waste so much of our time seeking their acceptance and approval? Why do we shy away from speaking our truth for fear of upsetting people who don’t even notice our existence or our struggle?

The simplest answer is Supremacy. We’re conditioned to believe White is better and that we haven’t truly accomplished anything until and unless they approve of it.

The next simplest answer is survival. Whites once controlled our access to everything so we had to have their approval to accomplish our goals and live our lives.

Contrary to what we see on the news, the times have changed and are still changing. It may look like we’ve regressed to the 1960s, but we really haven’t. White approval and acceptance and understanding and participation is no longer needed for us to advance as a people.

Black people can vote now. We have economic independence and power now. We drive what goes viral and what trends across the major social media platforms.

We are not our ancestors.

We are their wildest dreams. We don’t need anyone’s approval to show up and be as we are in this world. The only permission we need is our own.

That’s not to say we just ignore the systems put in place to hinder us. That would be foolish and dangerous. We should actively be working to dismantle systems of oppression and remove from authority and influence the people who support these systems. We should continue to work to succeed within the current oppressive systems to the best of our abilities in the meanwhile — and we should reach back and help others like us each time we level-up.

But we can do all these things without the 80%. We don’t need to convince them that our views are valid or that our experiences are real or that our concerns are legitimate in order to push our agenda forward.

We don’t need their support. We don’t need their approval. We don’t need them to like us. We don’t need them to speak on our behalf. We don’t need their apathy or enervation masking as advocacy or enthusiasm. We don’t need their fragility masking as friendliness. We don’t need their curiosity masking as commitment.

If they don’t see the issue, so what? If they don’t agree that it’s a problem, so what? If they don’t join in the fight, so what?

If they don’t want to listen, stop talking.

If they don’t want to understand, stop explaining.

If they don’t want try, stop striving.

Focus on working together and with the 10% who are committed to being allies and accomplices in the struggle. Leave the rest behind.

For our health. For our culture. For our future … Stop.

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