By: Amanda Regas
August 15, 2020
As a White woman who only recently started to learn with any earnestness about systemic racism, I find myself already comfortable pointing out a lack of diversity when I spot it. So, I was astonished when I listened to Mellody Hob
son's Ted Talk called Color Blind or Color Brave and heard Ms. Hobson had been warned by colleagues and friends not to speak on race, as she could become pegged as "a militant black woman," a move that could damage her career.
Militant? Friends, Mellody Hobson, is the president and co-CEO of Ariel Investments. She is also the former chairwoman of DreamWorks Animation. Hobson has proved her place in the business world, and her voice should be both respected and requested. This idea that she could become known as militant for talking about race says a lot about our society's fragility and solidifies why her Ted Talk is so relevant.
In her Talk, Ms. Hobson stated she almost listened to her critics. Then she remembered that the first step to solving any problem is not hiding from it, and the first step to any form of action is awareness. Standing firm in that logic, Ms. Hobson decided she would indeed deliver her TedTalk about race.
Through her talk, Ms. Hobson encourages us to become 'color brave' instead of 'color blind.' How? She asserts that this can be accomplished by observing our surroundings, and then becoming intentional about bringing people into our lives who don't think or act exactly like us. What's striking is that hers is such a simple action plan, this invitation to wake up and assess our surroundings. It is that simple to be brave.
Why would we even need to be asked to do this? First, I believe that being numb towards our contribution to systemic racism has become so normalized that we cannot see it. We, as White people, do not even notice when we fill all the rooms. We do not notice when everyone around us looks like us. When the topic of race arises, we bristle, though, and tell each other that it is "just is that way." We stand firm in our principled stance that we never chose or created this society. It is just how we live. Well, somebody did choose this, and we keep choosing it because it works pretty well for us. Ms. Hobson shows us that there is a way out, a path to a society influenced by so many valuable minds missing from the table.
How can we be color brave? We can start by doing what we can, exactly where we are. How? You see, in many areas, we, as White women, lead the P.T.A.s. Where are the people of color? Has anyone thought about how uncomfortable it might be to join without being invited? If the same circle continues to act as the school's community, maybe this can be the year that we reach out and encourage someone who does not look like everyone else to come on board. We can create the same social change whether we serve on the P.T.A., the church board, an executive board, or influence a local mom group.
Let's hope that one day soon, if we walk into a room to find only white people, we will observe that sight as strange, instead of walking in and being surprised by a room full of diversity.
This type of societal shift starting today can impact our children's lives. If we do our work well, a room full of diversity can become ordinary in their lifetime. And all of society will benefit from our intentional choice to pull in people who do not look like us.