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Let’s get real: holidays are a ripe time for disagreements, office drama, and hurt feelings because we oftentimes are socializing with people with whom we don’t normally socialize.  This can be co-workers at holiday parties, neighbors at school events, or out-of-state relatives who are visiting.  Here are five Neversays for the holidays.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, etc.

Why?  Wishing someone a Merry Christmas, for instance,  suggests that there is only one holiday, or rather, one “right” holiday.  It ignores religious and cultural diversity.  It also opens the door for improper assumptions about people (for instance, two of my sons’ schools asked me to lead the Kwanzaa celebration although we didn’t celebrate Kwanzaa).

Exception: If you are 100% sure that a person celebrates a particular holiday, then it is acceptable to reference it and wish them well.

Say instead: Happy Holidays.  Have a great vacation.  Enjoy your time.

People Need to Put Christ back in Christmas

Why?  Again, this assumes the holiday season – and even Christmas itself – should be religiously focused.  It elevates one religion over others.  And there are many people who celebrate the Christmas holiday who are not church-goers or religiously oriented.

Say instead:  Nothing.  Just don’t say this.

At an Office Christmas Party

You look hot!  You need to dress more like this at work!

Why:  These comments put the focus on personal appearance in a sexualized way.  It can be received as a romantic overture, which poses problems for the speaker and the company.  It can also be viewed as marginalizing the talents and intellect of the receiver – as the focus becomes on attractiveness as opposed to merits.

Say instead:  So good to see you!  It’s great to spend some time with you outside of work.

I am so drunk!  I am so high!  I am buzzing!

Why:  The workplace is the workplace – even when it shifts for a night to a hotel ballroom, bar or other venue for a holiday party.  Saying you are “drunk” or “high” at work is never appropriate.  Professionalism requires decorum, and that is lost when under the influence.  Additionally, you increase the risk of inappropriate behavior beyond the mere statement itself.

Say instead:  I am having so much fun!  This is a great party!

To Someone Who is Grieving or looks down

 Smile, it’s the holidays!

Why: Holidays are not happy for everyone.  For some, who are grieving the loss of a loved one or the absence of family they can be a time that is difficult.  For others, the holidays can be a reminder of what they don’t have – either financially, romantically or with family.  Suggesting these people just “smile” and get over it is insensitive and diminishes their feelings and situations.


Say instead:  Are you okay?  I know this time of year can be hard sometimes.  I am here for you.

How can I help?

During the holidays, you should communicate as you do all days: be empathetic, be considerate, be respectful, and be aware of your purpose, audience and environment.

I Have #MeToo Many Questions

I believe Christine Blasey-Ford.  I believe Deborah Ramirez.  I believe the dozens of women that were assaulted by Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, Bill Cosby and Donald Trump.  I know that sexual harassment and assault are horrific, underreported and far more pervasive than most of us know.

I also have questions.

I wonder if I have ever made a female classmate or coworker feel uncomfortable by my comments or actions in the past?

I question if any of my female reports at work have felt cajoled or compelled to attend a client event due to power inequities?  Did they feel pressured to attend or stay because I was there?  Did they enjoy the event or just put on a happy face for my benefit?

I ask whether I have different expectations between men and women at work as far as assignments, demeanor and roles?

I wonder if when I asked my female mentee to drinks quarterly she felt uncomfortable?

I wonder now if I am depriving women of opportunities because I am less likely to invite them to lunch, drinks or dinner than my male colleagues for fear that it might be taken the wrong way?

I wonder if I am distancing myself from female coworkers in a way that is not best for my company, our productivity or for our mutual success?

I question whether my working relationships with women – including lunches and drinks – caused others to doubt their talent or the validity of their success?

I question whether I am wrong for believing that some women accusing men of sexual harassment or assault are not being truthful and rather are doing so for retribution or financial gain?

I worry that too many women who have faced such harassment and assault will continue to remain silent.

I also worry that my career could be permanently altered or destroyed by a woman accusing me of harassment or assault – even if it were not true.

I question whether I have been properly receptive and supportive of female friends and family members who have been victims – or whether something in my words or actions caused them to not share their experiences with me?

I worry about my sons and the risk that they could one day be accused.  I worry about the damage to them if those accusations are false.  I also pray that they never do anything that could make such accusations be true.

I question how many times I have made a comment, or stood silent in the face of statements or actions that made a woman feel uncomfortable?

And I worry that in too many instances – there were comments or actions that did not even register for me as being inappropriate, uncomfortable or offensive..

I have all of these questions.  Too many questions.  And not enough answers.

Guest Blogger on:





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These Ears Are Deaf To Any Apologies For Any White Person Using the N-Word

My career as a Diversity & Inclusion Strategist, Speaker, Educator and Writer has taught me a few things:

  1. Typically, I have the ability to see and appreciate both sides of an issue; and then to help others understand opposing views.
  2. I’m naturally empathetic; and am earnest in my desire to create empathy for people in others.
  3. I believe in human error and the power of forgiveness

BUT, notwithstanding this experience I have come to the conclusion that an apology when a non-White person uses the word, “Nigger” is simply not sufficient, satisfactory, or acceptable.  It is, in fact, offensive.

My ears are deaf to any “apologies” for a non-Black person using the N-Word.

A fundamental premise in my book, Neversays: 25 Things You Should Never Say To Keep Your Job and Friends, is that most people in the world are good people; yet we are also highly uninformed people (at least about people who are different from us).  Most of us typically grow up around, go to church with, play sports with, and go to school with people whom are very similar to us.  So when we go to into the world where there are people of different races, cultures, sexual identities, religions, socio-economics and political belief systems, it is unsurprising that all of us at one time or another have been uncomfortable, said inappropriate things (or become mute), and had conflicts.

I wasn’t raised around people who were openly gay, I didn’t have any Jewish friends growing up; and so I’ve had to learn about my fellow citizens of the world in order to function respectfully (and effectively).  Along my journey towards better understanding, I have made mistakes and have offended some people — I’m sure more people than I am even aware of. That doesn’t make me a bad person.  It makes me human.  It also makes me a person who needs to continually be learning about those around me, so I can do better and strive to always interact respectfully with them.  My intention is for my words to create connections and not conflict; to make all whom interact with me feel seen and respected; not judged and insulted.

So intent should be considered in all interactions – including in those when someone insults another.  People offend other people all of the time; but most people don’t purposefully offend others (if for nothing else, most people do not want the repercussions of a tense/hostile work environment, meetings with HR, poor performance reviews or the bad reputation that often come with offending a co-worker).  Trust me when I tell you that the woman who asked to touch your hair; the man who asked you as a Puerto Rican where he and his family should visit in Mexico; and the guy from IT who asked when you “decided” to be gay were not intentionally trying to offend you.  In most cases, what they said was ignorant, but not malicious.  In the best case scenario, you will take the time to calmly educate the offender and they will openly receive the message, learn, and do better.

That said, a White person using the N-word is a wholly different circumstance.  If there is one thing that every White person knows about Black people and Black culture; it is the history, ugliness, level of insult, hatred and power behind that word.  It is a word that was specifically used by White people to demean and control Black people that they had enslaved; it is a word that was used to immediately inform a Black person that they were unequal to a White person— that they were effectively on the level of livestock.  The word was created specifically for that purpose.  The word’s history and ugliness has been well-documented (some would say over-documented) in movies, television shows, documentaries and books.  Children learn about its hateful and dividing history starting in 2nd grade history classes and will continue to learn about it every year until they graduate from college.  Therefore, when it is used, it is used with the clear intention of degrading and insulting a Black person.

It is more than a word.  It is more than name-calling.  It is an assault.  It is the bleeding wound of America’s history. It is a word, when uttered compels images of enslaved ancestors being whipped, picking cotton under the scorching sun, of dead Black bodies hanging from trees, ancestors being sold on auction blocks along with livestock.  It is a word that says “you are nothing.” As the Swastika is for Jewish people; it represents the ugliest most painful time in history.  It is hate.

Hateful attacks must be treated as such by society, but its institutions and by the perpetrators.  Institutions need to stop treating the use of the word the same way one would a person calling another “fat” or “stupid”, and start treating it as the assault that it is.  The use of the word Nigger, the writing of Swastikas, the depiction of a noose are akin to an employee striking another employee and should be treated as such.  To do any differently is do deny our country’s history to literally sanction a hostile work environment for any minority, and to guarantee the alienation and very likely the resignation of the victim.

Like the institution, the offender should also recognize the severity of their actions and recognize that the apology is just the beginning of a process.  They must demonstrate their desire to change and prepare themselves to work respectfully in a diverse environment.  Calling a Black person a Nigger doesn’t stem from implicit bias; it stems from prejudice and anger.  For an offender to be allowed to continue to work in a place with Black people, he must attend therapy (as racism is a sickness) and cultural sensitivity training; just as he would have to attend anger management if he had hit another person.

The use of that word — and the pain inflicted by its use —  is not, and can never be unintentional.  Therefore, a mere “I’m sorry” will never and should never be sufficient.

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Beyonce & Being Unapologetically Black

Regardless of our opinion about it; some stuff is simply undeniable:

  •  The best macaroni and cheese is cooked in the oven and not on the stove.
  •  The Kardashians have more power than most politicians.
  • And Beyonce is currently the greatest living entertainer.

Proof of Beyonce’s utter domination is in the numbers:

  • She is the female artist who has spent the most weeks at No. 1 this decade (37 weeks);
  • She is the female artist with the most Top 5 hits of the decade;
  • She is the highest paid black actress in the history of cinema;
  • She is only artist in history to have all her studio albums win the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary R&B Album;
  • And she is the female artist with the most Grammy awards won on a single night with six.

The list of her accomplishments is endless. As if it weren’t enough, Beyonce is also a multi-millionaire and married to one of the most powerful and recognized men in the industry. She wears next to nothing on stage, sings about her “assets”, and went through a cheating scandal publicly. She is a mother of three kids; and runs a clothing line business. Unequivocally, Beyonce is an amazing, accomplished and exceptional woman.

Yet, she’s just recently gained the confidence to be publicly and unapologetically Black. But despite her fame and power, she was recently warned by her mother, Tina Knowles, that her Coachella performance “may be confusing to her White audience.” In other words, “Baby, that’s a bit too much of a dramatic ‘code-switch’ in it. You don’t want to alienate your White fans. You may want to tone down on the Blackness.”

Now isn’t that something?

In America, it’s less precarious to a woman’s career for her to grind on a chair in a sequined bodysuit on national television than it is to publically embrace her Blackness. In America, a Black woman can be comfortable writing an entire album about her husband’s affair, but must deliberate if it’s prudent to sing the National Negro Anthem at a concert.

Now isn’t that something?

But it is indeed real. Being unapologetically Black is one of the boldest decisions a Black person can make in his or her lifetime. There is a “hiding in the closet” of our Blackness. If we are honest, being proudly Black has been associated with being rebellious, angry, unmanageable, difficult, and ironically, racist. Black pride can seriously equal Black professional suicide.

The working Black person decides and negotiates at different points in her life how proudly and publically Black she can be. Sure, everyone in the office, gym, book club, etc. knows that she is Black—of course (despite what some try to say, we all see color). But she does nothing to bring attention to it. While colleagues will gab endlessly about life outside of the office, many Black people will omit details that would highlight their difference—their Blackness.

My real job is as a diversity and inclusion specialist / trainer. I have travelled the world speaking about difference and the need to appreciate our individuality and identities. Ironically, most of my career, I did this as a woman who was culturally neutral. I was the woman whom everyone wanted to hire because there was nothing threatening about me: I’m lighter-skinned, can look like various races, could speak about a multitude of topics fluently, had perfect grammar, and never showed any political or cultural affiliations or opinions. I was the get along, blend-in, cheerleader, brought on-board to make everyone — especially the executives – feel good about diversity, difference, and themselves.

And then one day, like Beyonce, I stepped out of the closet. I am unapologetically Black—Black and proud. And what’s interesting, is now I am far better at my job. How can I teach about embracing difference and appreciating diversity when I hadn’t appreciated my own difference and instead attempted to blend? I wasn’t being real and I also wasn’t presenting to my clients a real example of what real inclusivity is. Inclusivity is NOT hiring people who are “technically” diverse while expecting them to lose any cultural differences and to blend with the majority; it is providing an environment where openly culturally different people feel comfortable being exactly and completely who they are. Undoubtedly organizations will get the most from, people who work in a safe and trustful environment where they can be their complete, authentic selves.

It’s odd that there is even a need for the term unapologetically Black. For what did we think we needed to apologize? Why is it even a thing, a statement? It’s those constructs that need to be changed. I recognize that my love for Black people credulously and erroneously makes some feel threatened; makes some feel as if I must hate them if I love me. That’s absolutely wrong. Looking at and speaking about my own identity (the bias it brings, the fear I had embracing it, the way it affects the way I see and view the world, and so on) now seems to free my seminar participants to share themselves more with me and with each other.  We are able to do true bonding because we are dealing with our whole selves.

I realize that because I’m now unapologetically Black—unapologetically me–some may decide that I’m not right for the job. But, guess what, “if loving me is wrong, I don’t want to be right.”


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If We Remain Comfortably Blind; Our Future Is Certain To Be Dark

I keep thinking about him.  I keep looking at his picture: a father, wearing a white t-shirt with an unbuttoned, plaid shirt holding his two sons – one on each leg sitting in front of a typical Sears or J.C. Penney’s backdrop.  Both boys grasp onto their father’s fingers.  All 3 are smiling, but his is the biggest.  A daddy and his boys.  The picture speaks to hope.

But that father is dead now.  He was shot 20 times in his own backyard by police officers, who claim that they thought he had a gun.  It was a cell phone.  I keep thinking about Stephon; and I keep looking at his picture; but I haven’t been able to write about him or his murder.  Frankly, I don’t know what to say.  What can I say that I haven’t already said?  What can I say that I didn’t say when I wrote about Trayvon Martin, Alton Sterling, Freddy Gray, and Philando Castile?

Frankly, I’m weary . . . exhausted in fact.  Another Black man has been killed at the hands of police officers; more marches, more comments from unsympathetic people blaming the victim, more bullshit statements from the police, more officers on paid leave, and my guess is, more broken hearts when we don’t get justice, when Stephon and Stephon’s family don’t get justice.

It pains me to say it; but most likely, justice will not be served because not a damn thing has changed in our country.  We keep dealing with the symptoms, while ignoring the disease.  We are a racist country, filled with people who have biases.  All of us do – even the most well-meaning.  This fact scares people.  But to get better, we all must admit some ugly truths.  It’s uncomfortable.  I understand that.

But if we don’t get honest and real about the race issues in this country and about the biases we hold – then we are doomed for more Black men and women to be killed by police.  We are doomed that these killings will continue to go unpunished.  Consider that Police officers are trained to kill if they are in fear of their lives.  Studies have shown that most people have unconscious bias against Black people and view them as scarier and more threatening than Whites.  Is it any wonder then, that Blacks are shot by police at a disproportionate rate?  Similarly, more Black people will be arrested for drug use, although white people have a higher percentage of drug use; and Black people will get stiffer sentences for the same crime as White offenders.  This has to stop.

But like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, the first step to recovery is admitting that you have a problem.  We – and I mean ALL of us – need to own our biases and the fact that our country and our culture incubate them.  We need to accept that we have been raised to view some races as less worthy, as scary and menacing.  And we then need to start putting measures in place from birth to: a) meaningfully prevent these biases from arising in the first place; and (more significantly) b) to consciously counteract them in our actions.  Acceptance and conscious action – by everyone – is the only way to move away from our racist status quo. We, Americans, cannot allow the melting pot myth, or the fantasy of how we’d like to be, or the concern for hurt feelings to hinder us from being honest about who we are, flaws and all, and getting to who we want to be.  Our willingness to be honest is a matter of life and death.




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Yes, You Benefit from Privilege. So Do I. Let’s Talk About it.

The valet wore a tan “Members Only” jacket, Black pants, and a large smile as he handed my husband the keys to his Jeep Cherokee, while my sons hopped into the back seat and I hurled myself into the front.  We were feeling that “functional-family glow”: everyone was getting along and we had enjoyed a dinner with flowing conversation (these times had become rarer since both boys became teenagers).  A Drake song was playing which provided further proof that this was indeed a special night:  a musician whom everyone liked.

Heads boppin’, we pulled out of the restaurant’s parking lot to the stop sign that was fewer than 100 feet away, then pulled away.  Suddenly the truck was lit with frightening blue and red strobe lights that almost seemed to match the rhythm of Drake’s song.  But it wasn’t a party; it was the police…party over.

I felt my husband, who has a reputation of never becoming flustered, become tense.  He gripped the steering wheel tightly, looked up at the rear-view mirror at our boys, and commanded, “Zach and Evan, I want you to watch and remember everything I do with this officer.”  They, unaccustomed to their laid-back father speaking so firmly, adopted his energy, didn’t reply, and sat unmoving in the back.

The officer explained to my husband, who was playing the role of “compliant, non-threatening, Black man,” that he had come to a rolling stop at the stop sign, instead of stopping fully.  He then took my husband’s license and car insurance and walked back to his car.

It was difficult to see my husband so visibly stressed; and I was sad that the glow of the night went immediately dark, so I cheerily said, “Baby, you won’t get a ticket.  Don’t worry.  I’ve been stopped and I haven’t gotten a ticket in at least 10 years.”

With no inflection, and a  slight hint of annoyance, my husband responded, “Oh, I am getting a ticket, Randi, trust me.”

And he did.

We drove in silence for a few minutes, when my husband turned the radio down, quickly glanced at me and revealed, “you are a woman—an attractive woman at that—your experience with the police has been and will be different from mine and from the boys.”  I could tell that he was frustrated with the police officer — and more so — with me.  He was annoyed that I was blind to his experience—that for a moment I couldn’t see or understand his pain, fear and stress.

I was viewing his experience from my place of privilege.  My experience as a female driver has been easier than my husband’s experience as a male driver.  This assertion does not mean that I haven’t taken driving seriously; that I’m not a good driver; that I don’t get stressed when I see or am stopped by a police officer.  It just means that my experience has been easier (not just different) than my husband’s for reasons outside of our control.

I accept that in life, some things have been easier for me than for others because I’ve had certain blessings (privileges).  Going to college was easier for me than for many of my friends because I was born to parents who had been to college and provided me with constant guidance, information and support along the way.  They could pay for my tuition and books, while I had friends who had to sit out every other semester due to financial strain.  Did I also study hard in high school and college, perform well on the SAT, participate in extra-curricular activities?  Yes. I did my part, but my journey has been easier than some. Admittedly, I sometimes feel guilty, or unexplainably embarrassed, but I must own my story and respect others’ stories.

Similarly, have I struggled as a Black person in America.  Absolutely, I have been called Nigger more than once, told I was dumb, left out of activities, followed around stores like I’m a criminal and so on.  But, I have listened to my darker-skinned Sistas.  I have respected their stories; I sat at rapt attention at the documentary “Dark Girls.”  I have received benefits and privileges in this country because I have lighter skin.  This is an ugly truth; but it is the truth.

Truth — accepting yours, and allowing others to live theirs — is powerfully affirming, healing and bonding.  It says to those in your life, “I see you fully.  Even though your truth may make me uncomfortable, accepting it allows us to have a more authentic relationship.”  Someone else’s truth doesn’t diminish your story.

But repeatedly, I am confronted about the term privilege, especially White Privilege.  I can imagine that a White person who has struggled, worked hard, perhaps come from poverty or abuse, feels as if his story is diminished when someone dare use the term “privilege.”  It doesn’t.  Their truth is still real and valid; but privilege is a part of their truth as a White person in America; just as being a woman is part of mine. A White person is 78% more likely to be accepted to the same university as an equally qualified Black person; Black men make 72 cents for every dollar a White man makes; a Black college student has the same chances of getting a job, as a White high school dropout; Blacks are less than 13% of our population and make up only 14% of regular drug users, but are 37% of those arrested for drug offenses.  Even if a White person is poor, grew up without parents, and abused; he has a smaller chance of being followed in a store or stopped by the police than an educated Black man.  White privilege is undeniable.


When someone denies White privilege, they are also denying Black pain and history; and healing can’t begin until someone’s pain is acknowledged.  Acknowledging someone else’s pain and struggle doesn’t diminish one’s own.  To the contrary, it opens the door for genuine conversations, healing, bonding, and respect.  An illness can’t be treated until we accept that we are sick.

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H&M & the Animalization of Black People: Why Monkeys is a Neversay

My elderly neighbor’s daughter, a thin woman with long, blond hair and a killer wardrobe, used to bring her kids over to play with my kids. They were typical kids in that they had boundless energy: they would climb, jump, run and wrestle until they (or we) became exhausted and ended the playdate. The other mother would gather up her kids and their things and often cheerfully say something about getting “the little monkeys together again soon.”

I don’t think that she was trying to be offensive, or had any idea that what she said could be perceived as offensive. Following the recent coverage of the H & M ad that showed a Black child wearing a sweatshirt that said “Coolest Monkey in the Jungle” I have similarly read several comments suggesting that many do not understand why Black people would be offended by the sweatshirt.

I can imagine that many are confused: “why would anyone be upset about calling a kid an animal?” On surface, it seems like an innocent, even endearing, thing to do. Pet names come from a place of fondness.

Communication, however, isn’t just what happens on the surface; communication usually happens on multiple levels. There is what the person said, what they intended to say; and what message the listener received (which can be different based on the listener’s mood, background, culture, race, age, and so on). Two people can hear the same thing and receive it differently (and no one response is less valid than the other). So while a White person may not be offended at being called a monkey; a Black person very well could be.

To justify slavery, Black people were dehumanized and animalized. They were characterized as subhuman and inferior, so that they could be sold along with the other livestock. Black people have been characterized as not as intelligent, advanced or evolved as other races – closer to cavemen and apes on the evolutionary scale.

The animalization of Black Americans did not end when slavery ended. Dr. Martin Luther King was called a “filthy, abnormal animal” in his FBI files, President Barack Obama, his wife and children repeatedly have been pictured as chimpanzees; Serena Williams has been compared to horses and monkeys; Black soccer stars have had bananas thrown on the soccer field; Patrick Ewing was compared to “the missing link” and there are yearly reports of white players and fans mocking Black players at high school basketball and football games.

So when Black people become upset about a Black child in a sweatshirt that says “Coolest Monkey in the jungle” (standing next to a White child wearing a sweatshirt that says “Animal Tamer”) they aren’t ‘being too sensitive’ or ‘looking for trouble’ or ‘making everything about race’ they are reacting to an insult that is weighted by over 300 years of history.

Neversays: 25 Phrases You Should Never Ever Say to Keep Your Job and Friends by Randi Bryant is available for purchase on and other major retailers.

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The Accused Does Not Get to Be the Judge

I’ve stayed in more hotels than a popular hooker; and I’ve heard more confessions than an elderly priest.  As a diversity trainer, I used to travel around the country to various companies and conduct seminars on issues surrounding diversity and inclusion.  As a result, I frequently found myself in budget hotels in the middle of nowhere at night, eating “salads” consisting of only iceberg lettuce and shredded carrots, and listening to issues involving racism, sexism, ageism, gender identity, sexual orientation issues and more during the day.

The one thing I’ve learned about myself is that people seemingly feel comfortable telling me things that they are ashamed of or asking me questions that they would never ask anyone else. When I was on a company’s site, I would become the nameless, raceless, genderless bartender, people felt comfortable showing their darkest parts.


Consequently, I’ve heard raw bigotry, extreme pain, and genuine confusion; yet only one sentiment has ever upset me: arrogant dismissal.

That isn’t racist.  That’s not offensive. It was just a joke. She is too sensitive. There is nothing more offensive to me – and more importantly, destructive to the process of creating bonds of mutual understanding, healing and community progress – than when someone dismisses someone else’s experience and feelings and declares themselves the ultimate and determinative judge of their own behavior.

I have spent the same amount of time consoling those who are hurt, angry, offended, or indignant that they have been accused of being offensive or hurtful in the workplace as I have consoling those that they have offended.  Being accused of being biased, prejudice, xenophobic or homophobic goes against the moral fiber of who most of us have been raised to think America represents.   We have been told since we were in elementary school that America is the melting pot, the home of the free, one nation under God.  We watch heartwarming videos of kids of different races playing together and of people of different religions praying together during a tragedy.

On the other hand, racists are portrayed as ignorant, dirty, disgusting characters, who usually wear White robes and burn crosses at night; sexists are very wealthy, arrogant men, who openly harass the office staff; and homophobes as bible-thumping folks who think they can “pray” the LGBTQ out of people.  Understandably, no one wants to associate themselves with those people, so when someone accuses us of being any of those things; most people don’t deny what they said or did but rather will focus on proving that their words or actions were not wrong, and justifying their behavior and character.

The conversations often go something like this:

HR Director: Sarah, Jack feels insulted because you frequently call him “gramps”, have asked him repeatedly when he’s going to retire, and have cut him off at meetings by saying, “Jack doesn’t understand this generation” when he was giving his input about new ideas.

Sarah: That’s ridiculous!  Is he saying that I don’t like old people?

HR Director:  I don’t think he is saying you don’t like old people. He just said that he is offended by your remarks and I want you two to feel comfortable working here and working together.

Sarah: I am comfortable working with Jack!  I love old people!  My grandmother is one of my best friends!  Seriously, I call her almost every other day!  My dog walker is a retired school teacher.  I trust her with my two dogs!  I can’t believe that Jack would accuse me of being ageist!  Perhaps Jack is just too sensitive because he’s the oldest guy around here. Maybe he’s insecure.

HR Director: Let’s bring the conversation back to exactly what things you said that offended Jack.  For instance, have you said that “he wouldn’t understand certain things because he doesn’t know this generation?”

Sarah: Yes, but I didn’t mean any harm by saying that.  Geez, it’s true.  Jack is 69.  He doesn’t know about how tweens will respond to our Twitter campaign.  What I said is not offensive!

HR Director: Jack found it offensive.

Sarah:  I am so hurt.  I really thought Jack liked me. I can’t believe he is attacking me this way.

Sarah is so focused on not being considered a bad person or being labeled ageist that she can’t hear or accept that she may have said something that was offensive to someone else.  She isn’t open to even considering how her words or actions were received by Jack. This common reaction is a pathogen to understanding and growth and causes ill-will, gossip, work issues to spread like an aggressive disease.

None of us gets to decide if we have offended someone. None of us can decide what is offensive to another person. Typically what is offensive is rooted in one’s gender, race, religion, culture, life experiences.  And since none of us can be knowledgeable about all of these things for each person, if someone claims that you offended them; it’s best to learn how and why, so you won’t do it again.  Shouldn’t that be each person’s goal—not to be right—be to do right and strive not to hurt others?





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People Tripped Over Ellen’s Joke About Bolt

I laughed at Ellen’s tweet with Usain Bolt. I found it funny.It seems that even Usain Bolt found it funny, as he retweeted it. Does that necessarily mean that the tweet wasn’t racist? No, it just means Usain Bolt and I didn’t find it to be.

See, this is the thing: there is not a Dictionary of All Things Racist. There also isn’t an authority on all things racist. There are obvious vile phrases, but most remarks that cause offense are subjective in nature, in that what upsets some will not upset others (because surprise: not all women are alike, not all Black people are alike, not all homosexuals are alike, and so on). So, instead of having these irrational, hateful social media brawls, I just think we need to establish a few things:

Again, accept that most things are subjective. That means that there is no wrong and no right. What some deem racist, sexist, ageist, ableist, etc. will vary from person to person dependent on that person’s life experiences. When some saw Ellen’s tweet, they immediately saw or referenced this

ellen slave pic2

When you consider that someone may be working from that reference point, you can understand why they may be offended by Ellen’s joke. They aren’t wrong for being offended by it; just as you are not wrong for not being offended. People have different experiences, different levels of tolerance, are open to different types of humor.
But, if the joke offended many within an identity group, it is at a minimum, racially insensitive. You have to respect another’s pain: sympathize even if you can’t empathize. Additionally, you should avoid using any insensitive language at work (if you are interested in keeping your job).
Saying that you said something insensitive or racist does not always make you a racist (or sexist, or bigot, or homophobic, etc.). A lot of healing conversations fail to happen because people are afraid of being permanently labeled or our characters being smeared, so they immediately shut down and begin defending themselves. We need to allow room for people to make mistakes, to grow, to learn, we make room for healing. A rapper can make a song that has sexist lyrics and own a company with an extremely pro-female benefit package and be a wonderfully supportive husband. If we tag him a sexist–the conversation ends. If we explain how his lyrics are sexist, we start a conversation and begin change.
We must remember that Ellen is a comedian. Entertainers live on the edge of appropriateness. Music, jokes, art, etc. should be somewhat provocative.
We also must consider intention. Do I think Ellen is racist? No. Do I think that she had the slightest idea that this tweet would offend some-absolutely not. What I would love to see happen is a conversation. Her mistake should be used as an opportunity to learn. To show true caring, she should try to understand how and why the meme was offensive. When you offend someone, don’t put so much energy in defending who you are; but spend time in learning who the offended is and why they are hurt. Through that process, the offended person feels heard, seen and respected; and you grow. That’s how global healing happens–one incident at a time.

Open post

Lochte’s Apology Was One Big Neversay

Sometimes we mess up.  We are human.  We do things that we shouldn’t do.  We only make things worse when we follow up on our poor choices with a deficient apology.  Ryan Locthe’s Twitter apology following his robbery controversy at the 2016 Olympics in Brazil was one giant Neversay.

Let’s first address Locthe’s chosen mode of communication (which technically would be more of a Neverdo than a Neversay).  Your purpose for a communication coupled with the intended audience should determine your mode of communication.


Whenever you deliver bad news or give an apology, it should be done in person. It shows that you are “showing up” to fully accept responsibility. Ryan’s first mistake was sending his “apology” via twitter, which is viewed as a light, casual, social medium.

Lochte’s mode of communication was poor and the substance of his communication was even worse. The chart below provides a rough translation of Lochte’s communication:


For not being more careful and candid ·      I’m not going to admit to lying
For my role ·      Suggest that he simply played a part.

·      That there are other guilty parties


It’s traumatic to be out late with your friends in a  foreign country ·      Makes him the victim instead of the perpetrator
…have a stranger point a gun at you and demand money to let you leave ·      I am a victim

·      You should actually feel sorry for me

·      I had no other option

There has already been too many valuable resources dedicated to what happened last weekend, so I hope we spend our time celebrating the great stories and performances… ·      This isn’t a big deal

·      Get over it

·      I don’t want to talk about it anymore


Since the incident in Brazil and the subsequent apology, Lochte has lost all of his endorsements and loads of fans. I wonder if things would have played out differently had he delivered a sincere, heartfelt and direct apology.

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