One of the places that I have the privilege of writing is Outreach Magazine. Here’s my column. And here is my most recent article.
Recently I watched the movie A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, the recent biopic on the life of Fred Rogers. I went with a dear friend who had never seen an episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood when she was growing up.
Throughout the film, she would reach across the snack box and tap my arm, “Did he really do that? Did he really say those things?” she would ask.
I smiled and nodded as I popped another french fry into my mouth. I grinned from ear to ear as I recalled childhood memories. I was struck with emotion while singing the songs and mimicking the friendly puppet characters in the Neighborhood of Make-Believe. At times, I was moved to tears.
I did not know it when I was a child, but Fred Rogers was a Protestant minister who used the medium of television to share the gospel’s message of love for one’s neighbor. Following the model of Jesus, he paid special attention to “the least of these,” specifically children. His pulpit oozed love, truth and kindness, and that is why his influence continues to resonate more than a decade after his death.
I have been on an intensive travel schedule this year. Part of my work includes speaking and educating about racial issues. When speaking to and connecting with predominately white audiences, I find that the same issues arise which can hinder understanding and forward movement.
Therefore, in honor of Black History Month and in no particular order, I have drafted these ten commandments for white advocates:
THOU SHALL NOT USE THE NAME OR INVOKE THE TEACHINGS OF MLK AGAINST A PERSON OF COLOR (POC).
The real Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. cannot be summarized into one speech or our modern holiday celebrations. He was a deeply spiritual, intellectual, and complicated man of justice. He cared about America; he loved black people, and he was also a global citizen. Because there were a lot of people who did not like or understand his calling, he was murdered like many of the faithful prophets who went on before him. Don’t be content with the sound bite versions of what we think we know of Dr. King. Take another look. Study his life, writings, speeches, and sermons to get a better understanding of the man, while also understanding that POC have a lived experience and history that embodies the pain and suffering of his words.
2. THOU SHALL NOT SPEAK ON BEHALF OF POC WITHOUT GIVING PROPER CREDIT OR REFERENCE TO THE PERSON(S) OF COLOR THAT YOU HAVE LEARNED FROM TO GAIN A BETTER UNDERSTANDING.
When I ask white people about what they are learning from POC, I often find that they are comfortable learning from those who share their same opinions (if they are taking this posture of learning at all). People of color are not a monolithic group. We must have some cross-cultural understanding if we want to become professionally successful.
Asian and Latinx Americans can come from various countries and can speak different languages, indigenous people are from different tribes, and like them, African American experiences and opinions can vary greatly depending on where they grew up, their levels of education, work or entertainment communities, or socioeconomic class. We all have so much more to learn.
3. THOU SHALL BE QUICK TO HEAR, SLOW TO SPEAK, AND SLOW TO BECOME ANGRY.
This is straight up good Bible teaching. Reference: James 1:19. Enough said.
4. THOU SHALL PAY POC AN EQUITABLE WAGE TO EDUCATE YOU ON RACIAL, ETHNIC, AND CULTURAL ISSUES.
First, consider what you would pay a white male who has the same level of expertise as your invited speaker, consultant, coach, or educator (very few will have the same level of expertise), and then add a 10% hardship fee or reparations tax.
5. THOU SHALL INTENTIONALLY SEEK AT LEAST ONE AREA IN YOUR LIFE WHERE YOU ARE CHOOSING TO SUBMIT TO THE LEADERSHIP OF A PERSON OF COLOR.
Again, this action is rare. It can go a very long way towards bringing about unity and understanding, healing, and education. Quite frankly, taking this action with a pure heart will make the learner an overall better human being. This is the stuff that shapes our character.
6. THOU SHALL NOT USE PEOPLE OF COLOR OR THEIR CHILDREN AS PERSONAL PROJECTS TO EASE A GUILTY CONSCIENCE, OR MAKE YOU FEEL BETTER ABOUT YOURSELF.
Charity work does not automatically equal justice work. Charity addresses symptoms. Justice confronts systems. Compassion and empathy are the calls of the first; while a deeper, uncompromising and sacrificial love is the posture of the second. As an act of justice, consistently support the work, churches, nonprofits, and organizations that are led by people of color.
7. THOU SHALL EDUCATE ONESELF BY READING WELL AND BROADLY.
Review the second commandment, and support books that are written by people of color.
8. THOU SHALL NOT INVOKE EXPERT STATUS IN RACIAL RELATIONS BECAUSE OF ONE’S INTERRACIAL MARRIAGE, ADOPTED MINORITY CHILD, BLACK FRIEND FROM COLLEGE, OR BLACK BFF THAT SITS NEXT TO YOUR CUBICLE AT WORK.
Be an ally, not an expert. Seeking expert status centers conversations around whiteness, and therefore, perpetuates the power dynamics that feed racial sin in America. When asked, humbly share your personal experience and what you are learning, then always be ready to recommend or introduce a POC into the conversation or space. Ask questions and listen more than you make statements.
9. THOU SHALL INSIST THAT 20% OF THE HIRING CANDIDATE POOL INCLUDES QUALIFIED PEOPLE OF COLOR AND INSIST THAT THE FINAL SELECTIONS INCLUDE A PERSON OF COLOR.
Resumes and networks (rarely in that order) get people to the interview table. By the time candidates are interviewed, nearly everyone is qualified. The interview is set-up for the simple purpose of confirming the candidate’s credentials, but mostly it determines whether people in the industry want to work with the candidate. Therefore, if the leaders in your workspace are consistently deciding that they do not want to work with a diverse team, then you should consistently ask the question, “Why not?” Call people to account for their bad behavior.
10. THOU SHALL REQUIRE CULTURAL COMPETENCY AS A PROFESSIONAL AND PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT REQUIREMENT.
Be better, then do better.
What have you learned on this journey towards cultural competence and understanding?
Hi I’m Natasha Sistrunk Robinson. I’m a leader, student, writer, speaker, mentor, and coach. I love to eat, go places, and spend time with family and friends. I also love reading, dancing, and just having an overall good time. I like sunshine and warm weather, being inside verses outside.
This blog is where I write.
Well, I’m back! I never left actually, but I have not been consistent to this blogging life.
I published my first blog here on June 29, 2010, and it was my reflection on the death of Michael Jackson. Since then, I have written approximately 900 blog posts and articles mostly focusing on faith, leadership, mentoring, and race issues. When I started blogging, I didn’t really know what a blog was, who was reading them, or why. I blogged for one simple reason: I wanted to discipline myself to write more regularly, and challenge myself to become and better writer.
These days, I’m not writing as consistently. Since the start of A Sista’s Journey blog, I have completed one degree, started another, published one Bible study, and two books. I also work which includes sending emails, letters, proposals, reports, and grants. So, I am writing regularly. I’m just not writing in the way that I would like. I’m not writing consistently to challenge myself, to connect with people, or to explore my creativity.
Although people are switching their ways of engagement and communication to include social media and podcasting (I also have one of those), I still value the treasured ways of old. I want to use my words to connect with people. Let’s do that.
Additionally, I’m older. I don’t think about the same things that I did nearly a decade ago, certainly not in the same ways. I’ve gotten more clarity about my life’s purpose, work, and calling. I’m 41, which means that my body looks and responds differently than it did at 31. Black may not crack, but it still gets acne.
While my faith is very important to me, I also think deeply and care about other things. I love fashion, and music, and one of my favorite weekend hobbies is watching movies and great shows that make me laugh or invites us to connect with humanity. I want to share some of that with you.
I am a wife and a mother. This spring, the love of my life and I will be married for 16 years. While I’m not expert on marriage, I am amazed about how different life and partnership looks after that many years. I don’t anticipate sharing much about my daughter (unless she says so). She is a minor, and a black girl, and I’m a fierce Momma Bear, so that’s that. Additionally, she is a great writer, and eventually will have her own life’s story to tell.
I will share about what I am learning through these relationships, and others. I’ve changed. Today, my life is not like anything I ever imagined, and it is everything I would have imagined.
That’s life. It is my A Sista’s Journey. I’m grateful. I want to write about all of that.
My word and intention for 2020 is: New. For this reason, I am relaunching the blog with a new theme: Lifestyle, Leadership, and a Living Faith.
I have broken the blog down to the bare bones: just you, me, and some words. All of the original content remains, and you can stroll to the bottom of the homepage to “search” the blog using categories or word search. While there, you can also subscribe to receive blog posts directly in your inbox.
If you want to know more about my ministry work which includes writing, speaking, podcasting, and mentoring, you can visit my website. You can also subscribe to my newsletter on the website to receive exclusive content, be the first to know information, and get great deals. I have some other professional leadership and learning opportunities on the way, which I will share soon.
For the OGs (look it up if you need), thanks for sticking with me for all of these years. To the new folks, I welcome you! You will be hearing from me more regularly.
In the meantime, what are your intentions for the year? What’s NEW? And what would you like to talk about here?