CategoryPop Culture Stuff

Day 19 – Ratchet Reality TV

Welcome to the #BlackBlogsMatter challenge! Throughout the 28 days of February, my posts will not (necessarily) be about HR, Leadership or Management topics.

Ratchet reality TV shows follow real people through orchestrated interactions where they behave rudely and aggressively toward each other. Most of the stars of ratchet reality TV shows are Black women.

Many argue that these shows perpetuate negative stereotypes that are damaging to how Black women are viewed worldwide. Others argue that it is just entertainment and those who don’t like it should turn the channel.

I’m somewhere in the middle.

I absolutely see how these shows contribute to the negative stereotypes of Black women. The women on these shows are often hyper-sexualized. They are materialistic and heavily appearance conscious. They are aggressive. They often appear angry and uneducated, even though many are successful professionals and entrepreneurs. Their representation of Black womanhood narrows us and sets us back more than propels us forward.

The women I know do not behave like these women. We have strong, supportive friendships. We have loving, healthy relationships, marriages and families. We work hard and we have fun with minimal drama. And we want to see that represented on TV. Unfortunately, the shows depicting Black women in this way never seem to last long. Networks aren’t satisfied if we don’t fit the ratchet mold. That sucks.

 On the other hand, I’ve been consuming reality TV shows since I was in middle school. It entertains me and makes for good conversation as well as light fodder. While I don’t see myself fully represented in the women on these shows, I absolutely can relate to some of the challenges and situations they face. That’s enough for me.

In the early days, there weren’t many if any Black people in reality TV casts. The stars of those shows did many of the same things we still see today on both mainstream and “ratchet” shows … Yet in the cases of the mainstream shows, this is written off as fun, age-appropriate and formulaic reality show behavior. The casts of those shows go on to be multi-million dollar moguls — or they fade into obscurity and lead normal lives.

No one accuses those people of setting back their race. No one presumes their whole race will act or behave just like them. No one perpetuates greater violence or discrimination against them. No one creates urban dictionary words likening them to yet another garden tool because of it.

This points to a bigger issue for me … and that issue is the unwillingness to allow Black people the same ranges of humanity as their White counterparts.

We are not all one thing or one way. Not one person among us represents or speaks for all of us. We have good, bad, positive and negative just like everyone else.

We get to go on television, create controversy, get paid for it and use that platform to make even more money or go off to have a normal life when it is over. Just. Like. Every. Body. Else.

Stop judging us for participating in the same activities as everyone else. Stop limiting us as individuals based on the behaviors of others. Stop assuming we cannot make mistakes, rebound, grow, evolves and improve like others. Stop forcing us to grow up faster, think with greater maturity sooner and carry ourselves with regal grace the moment we emerge from the womb — while still brainwashing us to think we are lesser and never giving us the credit or opportunity we deserve for our efforts and accomplishments.

 Reality TV isn’t real. Prejudice and systemic racism are very real.

Know the difference.

Tune in tomorrow for Day 20 – Reverse Racism Isn’t Real

2017: Year of the Savage

Maxine Waters has brought me out of my indefinite blogging hiatus.

The urban dictionary defines a “savage” as one badass muthafugger who does or says things no one else has the balls to do or say; a person or event that is brutal, yet awesome.

Maxine Waters is a savage.

Her pure, unadulterated savagery in recent days is an absolute call to action — and I could not ignore it.

For those who may not know, Maxine Waters is a Congresswoman from California. She has been in the news a lot recently because of her opposition to our new POTUS. Her most recent epic moment was this press conference … if you can even call it that. It was only about 15 seconds long. Watch.

There are many who have criticized Congresswoman Waters for her handling of this and other moments of outspokenness in recent weeks. She’s been called a bully and rude and disrespectful and a bunch of other things that I won’t dignify repeating.

I am not one of those people. I am 100% here for Maxine Waters’s savagery. All of it.

In a time when we’re criticizing people for being too politically correct, the “savage” should be a welcome breath of fresh air.

The savage is the antithesis of political correctness. The savage is unapologetically honest. The savage says what needs to be said. The savage is brief and witty. The savage calls out hypocrisy. The savage provokes thought. The savage keeps those around her/him on their toes. The savage wastes no time and plays no games.

Being a savage isn’t about being a bully. True badasses are rarely bullies.

Being a savage isn’t about being rude. The truth is never rude. The truth is always clean and classy.

Being a savage isn’t about being disrespectful. It is about being decisively bold in thought and action.

So because of Maxine Waters and her call to action, I am declaring 2017: The Year of the Savage.

I’m back because of it. And I’m fully equipped and ready for it. Let’s go.

HR in Formation

I’ve never been a big Beyonce fan. I’ve written about it on this blog before … But her talent and influence are undeniable.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last 2 weeks, you know Beyonce released a controversial new song and video on February 6th. Then she performed the same new controversial song during the Super Bowl on February 7th while wearing equally controversial costumes.

The title of the song is Formation.

The lyrics of the song are no less racy than most of Beyonce’s recent work. She’s not singing for kids anymore. She’s singing sho-nuff grown folk lyrics … and even I’m not grown enough to sing some of those words in front of my momma.  If anyone’s been really paying attention to her words, this song shouldn’t be too surprising.

The visual imagery in the video and during her Super Bowl performance are a big departure for her. The visuals are in-your-face pro-Black. She’s calling out police brutality and injustice. She’s celebrating her culture and history. She’s boldly declaring where she stands on the #BlackLivesMatter support spectrum.

Or is she?

Almost immediately, there were people who said the visual imagery wasn’t enough. That when you combine the lyrics with the imagery, it was just more of the same … And I agreed with them. The mismatch of the images and the words left me confused about her real intent. I needed to figure it out. I needed to know if the biggest superstar in the world was using her platform to make a bold socio-political statement… or nah.

I still don’t know the answer. And in typical fashion, Beyonce isn’t outright saying. I’ve given up trying to figure it out.

What I learned through my brief obsession with this topic is that Beyonce has been publicly and privately supporting many of the causes focused on helping disenfranchised people of color for many years. I also learned that the writer of this new controversial song is very young and unknown, which is impressive and telling considering Beyonce could work with anyone she wanted.

So what else does she need to say? She’s making her position clear through her actions and her financial support … I’d really love for her to come right out and say these things. However, with so much backlash over the video and performance, I can only imagine what would happen if she did. I can understand why she would keep her statements brief in order to maintain the money that allows her to do all these other things.

In my typical fashion, I started thinking about the practical management lessons in this situation.

The lesson is simple … As leaders, it is time to get in Formation.

It is time to use our influence to send clear messages about the things that are important. It is time to use our resources to support the things that are important. It is time to actively create opportunities for people who wouldn’t otherwise get them without our help.

I’m not talking about throwing all caution to the wind to promote purely personal agendas … I’m talking about holding our organizations accountable for and moving them toward walking the talk on the issues they say they care about.

  • Get in Formation on fair, competitive compensation … Make the updates and changes necessary on your pay plans to position your organization to attract, retain and demonstrate the value placed on talent.
  • Get in Formation on comprehensive, affordable benefits … Find an ACA compliant plan that provides complete coverage and doesn’t put you employees at risk of hardship.
  • Get in Formation on a path to promotion with commitment to development …  Seek to help your employees to learn and improve so they can move up in the organization and broaden their influence.
  • Get in Formation on diversity and inclusion … Hire deliberately to make your organization a reflection of the world at large so you are in the best position possible to compete nationally and globally.

No more speaking about it. It’s time for our words to stop and actions to speak.

It’s time to get in Formation. And slay … Slay like Beyonce, right where you are.

“No Thank You Please” — And The Importance of Directives

Just after the start of the new year, I came across this story in my Facebook timeline about a school in North Carolina where teachers were discouraged from using “please” and “thank you” in communication with students.

Coined as No-NonSense Nurturing, the idea behind the initiative is the teachers shouldn’t say “Please” or “Thank you” for students doing things where participation isn’t truly optional.

Manners is something to be taught at home, not school. Manners are a sign of respect, deference and sincerity. Asking a child to “please sit down” or saying “thank you for not calling out during class” is a misuse of manners. It leads to children not understanding authority and structure.

I was fascinated by the premise and agreed with sentiment … I immediately wondered how and if this could work at work.

  • How often do we say “please” when the other party really has no other option but to comply?
  • How often do we say “thank you” to someone for doing something that is routine or required?

This isn’t real or good manners.

It is passive-aggressive. It is inauthentic — and people see right through it! It creates resentment and division more than it fosters collaboration and teamwork.

More than any other time in our history, we are seeking authentic and honest connection at work.

How can we get there if our communication is laced with insincerity, noncooperation and manipulation???  Because that’s what these unnecessary “pleases” and “thank yous” are … Manners wrapped in rudeness.

After mulling around these thoughts, I started a little experiment … I stopped saying “please” or “thank you” when compliance isn’t optional or when I’m not sincerely grateful.

A little over a month into the experiment, I am really enjoying it!

With every clear, succinct directive, I feel better and better because I know my communications are more clear and candid without the fluff. It’s great!

On the recipient’s end, it has been pretty uneventful. No one has declared me as rude or bossy or lacking manners. No one has pushed back, either … It seems hardly anyone has noticed.

Which now has me wondering … Do manners even matter at work?

Tell me what you think. Please. And thank you.

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