Racism in Communities, who matters?

Decades ago, before the birth of social media, I used to make thirty-seven calls a day in order to get access to people, CEOs or C- Suite executive in corporate businesses. My livelihood depended on these calls, and my boss carefully and meticulously supervised each of these calls.

That was the era of cold calling and lead generation and Business intelligent people were hired to do the cold calling, and annoying gatekeepers, they used to make lots of money. I made money. I could dress nice and buy myself a Soya Latte from the fancy Starbucks where white guys use to have those long meetings and gossiping about us.

All my boss was waiting for is a closed lead. No lead, no money!!

We had a database purchased by the company I worked for — an expensive spreadsheet with people names, surnames and job titles. With persistence and a personable attitude, I could pass the gatekeepers and reach the person I wanted to sell our products to or at least set a meeting for the sales team to go and close the deals. 75% of my leads were qualified, and I made lots of C-Suite and white sales guys friends. As a temporary worker, I was on fire!! The #Blacklivesmatter movement revealed something in me and made me realise that they did not care about me; They accepted me as long as I close those deals.

I had a french accent which was attractive and distinctive. Although my English was not impeccable, I used to close leads for the sales team. I was always the best business intelligent person of the month, and they liked and validated me. My name was on the wall of fame each week.

People wondered how I could close leads so quickly; my answer was always: persistence and patience. I had a basic salary and an OTE (on earning target). The OTE helped me as a single mum to refurbish my kitchen and by my son cute clothes.

These expensive databases are no longer purchased, policymakers have stepped in to ban cold calling, and the GDPR laws were about to be born.

My Databases and all the connections that I had built up has become giant communities and closed expensive, high level, non-inclusive, non-diverse, and racist networks. Racist ideas are discussed and perpetuated daily, privately and utimately are leading to Racist policies. — You have to pay to be part of it, be invited or selected. You have to be a unique intellectual with a clear accent. You have to speak well and dress nice. You cannot be too laud. You must watch your diet. If you are a black woman, you must be soft and gentle, not come across a difficult or angry.

I see communities as databases in which many people want to have access. Belonging to some communities can help you increase your self-esteem and define your position in society- kind of who are your acquittances- It shows that you belong to the 1% of people that matters to the world. Your voice will matter, you will have a seat at the table even if nobody listens. Your ideas will be collected and stored. You will be a token if you are black, wearing a hijab or asian, a member of society with cool friends.

Millions of people want to belong to prestigious communities like TED, World Economic Forum, The Royal societies, MIT, Alumni Universities, Designer and Arts, National Trust, Women in Tech and Science, Gaming, Well-known Podcasters, Millionaires, Top writers and Religious communities. They want to belong, be seen and be heard. They want to be visible. Visibility can change lives.

With Facebook, it is now easy to create your community ( a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common).

You can do the same with Whatsapp and other group, only a selected people will be and can allowed. We have managed to create segregated communities again using technology.

I have been privileged to part of global communities for decades, join their workshops, travelled, donate and met thousands of people who I today admire and respect very much so.

However, I am horrified on how racism is prevalent in some the communities that we all love and cherish dearly.

I have suffered racism, bigotry, sexism, misogyny and discrimination in those communities and I feel compelled to write about this, hopefully, as we redesign our communities, we can reflect on this.

“When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have to speak up. You have to say something; you have to do something.” Congressman John Lewis.

We are not talking about racism in communities, and nobody is taking responsibility. We are quick to bring policies and safeguarding documents to band-aid the issues but failing to address the systematic problems.

People can freely eject, remove, insult, victimise, accuse, defame, dehumanise community members with no consequences. Most of these communities are managed and ran by white middle-class men and women collecting data and have no regard in the people in their communities and wellbeing.

I am not saying some bad apples should not be remove or disciplined if not adhering to the policy of the community, but sometimes these policies are not clear from the beginning and are opened to misinterpretation.

All these “community leaders” do is to collect data; it is all about the numbers or the type of people in the community. They have forgotten that many people are having real difficulties when it comes to being a member of a community, and merely belonging somewhere and to something.

Communities have multiple overlapping identities (e.g., religion, language, gender, ability, sexuality, race, ethnicity, occupation, etc.) therefore we must look into how to make them more just and inclusive at the start of their creation.

The coronavirus crisis offers a “great possibility” for community-led change, says MIT associate professor Sasha Costanza-Chock, whose new book Design Justice explores how design can help marginalised communities and promote equality. Covid19 have shown us that we are human beings and need each more than ever. “I am because you are”, this African concept called ubuntu is what we should consider in building communities and maintaining a sense of togetherness. One is nothing without the community, and the community is nothing without the one.

We must talk about racism in communities, allow people to speak up. The big question is, are we willing to listen and accept people whom are different from us? Do we accommodate and tolerate them? Can we create safe spaces where people from all walk of life can feel that they belong? What will this look like post #covid19 now that we will be likely to be restricted to travel and meet people like before. As the virtual communities grow, we must reflect on our values, behaviour, humanity and Kindness.

They must serve as safe spaces for people to feel that they can share, learn and belong. Empathy and compassion must be at their core.

As Congressman John Lewis said, it is up to us to make the world a better place for everyone. We have one house, one planet. There is no alternative. It is up to US.

Lady Mariéme Jamme

I’m the Founder of @i_amthecode, an Educator on Race and Diversity— I Invest in Girls/Millennials through #STEAMD Edu @YGLvoices @africagathering @i_amwellbeing

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