—– She reached up and clasped her hands around my friend’s voluminous curly crown and I felt time slow down, strike one. She then uttered the words, “I don’t do your kind of hair”, strike three. (yes, I skipped strike two)
You could hear a pin drop. I looked at my friend who proceeded to look at me, then us at the next black person within earshot to see what we all should do. It was a crowded room full of women eager to support a charitable cause within the city and work the runway while doing so; this was a great opportunity to network, or so I thought.
My friend stepped back with grace from this unwarranted, disrespectful comment coming from a middle aged white woman who professed to be a master cosmetologist wanting to “give back”. She proceeded to educate this woman from a higher place of awareness and #blackgirlmagic, with one simple statement, “well, you’re missing out”, and walked away. *drops mic*
This situation could have went so left soooo fast but more to the point, people of color (POC) are tired of encountering arrogant-ignorance when trying to network professionally with people who do not look like us. So let’s break down the Do’s and Don’ts when networking with POC together so that when you do find yourself in a room where diversity is housed you can live and let live accordingly.
1.Don’t ask if anything is “real”
Not the hair, not the lashes, not the nails, not the ass, not nothing. Mind your business! How would you like it if you were in a public setting trying to put your best foot forward and someone walked up to you and asked, “are those your real boobs?”. Not cute, not classy, and not the time or the place. Stop using professional networking events to educate yourself on POC and our culture. We are there to network just like you, not to educate the entire room on how to sew in a weave. Instead, just say it looks nice, whatever it may be and keep it moving. And, if you really want to know the inter-workings of POC, get more diverse friends.
2. Don’t touch our hair or even attempt to touch it
Keep your hands to yourself; a golden rule you were taught in pre-k. This guideline is still applicable when you see textured hair. Yes, we know it looks great. And yes, we know you probably have not had too many opportunities to feel the way Jesus’s hair felt (like sheep’s wool). It’s amazing! However, a business mixer or charity event is not the place to reach up and touch a POC’s hair. Can you imagine how uncomfortable that can make someone? The whole room is already watching your every move because you look “different” and then a stranger walks up and pets you. It is not your place to be the hair police and pretend like all of a sudden you care about textured hair because it is conveniently in your face. Please, just stop. Instead volunteer your time at a local hair salon that specializes in textured haircare and you can touch all the coils your heart desires.
3. Don’t stare
4. Don’t assume
Must I say it? I must. Assuming literally makes an ASS out of only you when it comes to networking with POC.
Don’t assume you know our position or role in a company.
Don’t assume you know our education level.
Don’t assume you know our upbringing.
Don’t assume you know our background.
Hell, don’t even assume we identify as a POC.
Assuming will have you out here missing out on deals, burning bridges before they are built, and ostracized from diversity, which is not at all a place you want to be in 2019 because the census is showing us that this country is growing to be even more multicultural.
So, you’ve made it this far, which means one of two things; either you are taking this all in and thinking of the ways you may have ever done a “don’t” or you are skimming until the end to write a negative comment because you don’t think this is relevant. And if it is that latter please understand that I am a woman of color writing my true experiences at real life networking eventsssssss (plural). These things are certainly happening and will continue to happen unless you know better and tell the next non POC. When you know better, you do better. SO, let us move on to the Do’s.
1. Do engage
If you see that there are POC at a networking event you’re attending, make a conscious effort to speak to them and get to know them. Be authentic with your engagement. This means coming up to us rapping Cardi B lyrics is a strong no from me, dawg. However, asking the very same questions you would ask those who look like you is totally acceptable. Trust me when I say we would love to engage and actually, that is why we came. Be the first to mix it up at your next mixer!
2. Do introduce
Once you have engaged, introduce. I am not instructing you to babysit every POC in the room, we are more than capable of introducing ourselves. What I am saying, however, is that if you know 80% of the people in that room, by time the evening is over (with your help) that POC should know or be known by 50% or more, that is networking.
3. Do follow up
Often times POC are already uncomfortable walking into a room where they are uncertain with how they will be received. Some POC even tend to shrink themselves to fit in. By time the networking event is over, we are exhausted from putting on aires that are non threatening to non POC, overly entertaining, and quite frankly not us at all just to be received professionally. The last thing on our minds after undergoing this type of torture is following up when the only thing we want to do is get far away. It is not that we didn’t enjoy the people, drinks, and small bites; it is the simple fact that in many professional places it is deemed unprofessional to be ourselves from certain hairstyles to our vernacular. Imagine having to alter yourself everyday to simply go to work. Hence why you should get the information and follow up with that POC you connected with.
The Real Tea
Trust me when I say, there is nothing like authentically experiencing diversity & inclusion and not just being an outsider looking in cause it’s trending. This takes time and it takes a series of conscious efforts /decisions on your part, not POC. The next time you’re out at a networking event, be sure in your intentions to be inclusive with your opportunities, speech, and actions. Thank you for reading until the end, and tell me what you think or feel free to share a story about your networking experiences. Conversations are the tools of change.
Miss There She Glows
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