Simply Saying “Racism” Without Context is Harmful

jyarlandBy Jyarland Daniels, executive director of Harriet Speaks, an organization doing diversity differently providing a Black voice and perspective in diversity, equity, & inclusion

I write this because I teach and talk about race, diversity, and equity for a living, so there aren’t too many topics in this space that I am silent on. However, I prefer to “think fast, and speak slow” and try to offer thoughtful insights (vs regurgitation) where/if I can. I’m not here to be right or wrong — just to think.

The facts speak for themselves. There is a disparity between not only who contracts this virus, but also in the death rate. Black people are most likely to experience both. But just touting this data (as is too often being done) and attaching the word “racism” to this situation is incomplete, alarming, and confusing. And, I find some of it paralyzing; discussing race without steps to take can have that effect. Continue reading

If We Aren’t Willing to Tell the Truth

LorraineFrom Jyarland Daniels, the executive director of Harriet Speaks:

April 4th will be upon us soon, and we will read articles like this for days. I want to ask (read: beg) you to remember language matters.

This article says, “50 Years After Dr. King’s Death…” “Death” is also used throughout the article. If we stop and think about the word “death” for a moment we see history is being sanitized and re-written before our very eyes.

You see, “Death” is the word we use when someone does of old age, or perhaps after a battle with an illness, or even an accident. But Dr. King was MURDERED. And not only that, but we now know that this government was complicit in his murder. 

Language matters. Words matter. If we aren’t willing to tell the truth and use the right language for how King died, then we aren’t ready to talk about what his life meant.

Black History: Where to Begin?

 

JyarlandBy Jyarland Daniels, executive director of Harriet Speaks

My inbox usually contains questions from friends (and strangers) about things related to race. Today was no exception. This question, from a friend (a white woman) who I have known since childhood, reminded me why the Universe has called me to teach to the best of my ability. Here is the inbox message (shared with permission):

I’m asking this question because you are one of the most well read people I know – especially of your own culture. I’d like to spend this month getting to know the story of at least one Black person that has contributed to the goal of change. Now, I’d prefer it not be the mainstream celebrated figures. That’s too easy. And I don’t need a book reference unless you just happen to know one you WANT me to get into. I have no problem doing research and following that path. It’s part of why I enjoy historical fiction. It inspires me to get into the ditches and find my own truth. I could go online and easily find a random book. But I wanted to get to know someone who inspires you and get a new insight or deeper appreciation of one of the strongest, most driven women I know and who keeps my compass going forward. That would be you my friend — in case you were looking around trying to figure out who I was talking about. 
I could barely contain my excitement and eagerness to respond. I quickly made two recommendations to my friend, and I might make the same recommendations for those who enjoy historical fiction and are making a sincere effort to learn about Black history. I recommended, The Warmth of Other Suns and The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks. The reasons I recommended them might be of interest to others.

Continue reading

When Networking Goes Wrong: The Trouble With “Come Meet a Black Person”

jyarlandBy Jyarland Daniels, CEO and Founder of Harriet Speaks

I wish we lived in a world where I didn’t have to write this blog post. But, alas, when bad ideas arise, some people need an explanation for why the idea is bad and we should just throw the entire thing away. So, here goes… For 400 years – before and since Emancipation — among Black people, there have been differing ideas on how to get free; on how to escape the system of racism that exists as a web, touching all aspects of our existence from cradle to grave. There have been those who have advocated patience, hoping that the oppressors would change their ways. There have been those like Harriet Tubman who, while willing to work with white people who supported her cause, did not seek to change the minds of her captors. Tubman, and others like her, simply took their freedom and invited other enslaved persons who understood that their humanity was neither something to be given by another nor had to be earned, to join their efforts. Today, too, those differences remain. The latest example of how to get free can be found in a networking event just outside of Atlanta, Georgia, created by a Black person, inviting white people to, “Come Meet a Black Person.” Continue reading

Black Women & Equity at UPenn

JyarlandBy Jyarland Daniels (right), founder of Harriet Speaks, doing diversity differently by providing a Black voice and perspective in diversity, equity, & inclusion

Today my newsfeed greeted me with a story of a PhD student assistant at The University of Pennsylvania with the following headline:

This instructor calls on black women first and white men last. Critics want her fired.

In a world where we are bombarded by information and everyone wants to be in the know, going beyond the headline can seem passé. Yet, being “Headline Hoppers” is one way we give our implicit consent for the media to dominate the narrative on race in a way that does not reflect reality; these narratives are why, in a recent study, 55% of whites reported they believe they are discriminated against, but a much smaller percentage say they have actually experienced this discrimination. Continue reading

The Categories We Need

JyarlandDay 43 of our Lenten Journey beyond “Beyond Vietnam. A rich resource from Jyarland Daniels (photo right) of Harriet Speaks, who did the hard work of reading Dr. King and then compiling some of his key convictions.  Informative and inspiring.

After reading several works written by Martin Luther King, his comments seemed to fall into several categories. I’m not sure if they fell into those categories, or if I see those categories that I believe we need the words of MLK today.

Martin Luther King: On Ally-ship

“Young Negros had traditionally imitated whites in dress, conduct, and thought in a rigid, middle-class pattern… Now the ceased imitating and began initiating. Leadership passed into the hands of Negros, and their white allies began learning from them.” (“The Trumpet of Conscience”)

“I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Councilor or the Ku Klux Klan, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice.” (“Letter from Birmingham Jail”) Continue reading

Let’s Talk

jyarlandBy Jyarland Daniels, CEO/Founder of Harriet Speaks: Strategies and Communications for Racial Equity, an open letter to Bookies co-owner Marko Jerant, originally posted at Michigan Chronicle:

When I first heard there had been a shooting of yet another unarmed Black man, this time in Tulsa, Oklahoma I did something that I normally don’t do: I watched the video being shared in my Facebook newsfeed. Nothing prepared me for what I saw; a stranded motorist, walking slowly away from an officer and toward his car, with his hands up was in an instant hit with a taser and then fatally shot. His body fell to the ground where he was left unattended, receiving no immediate medical attention. His blood spilled to the ground while police arranged to divert traffic and a voice in a helicopter above, only able to see the fallen man’s blackness, proclaimed this father of four, “…looks like a bad dude” and “might be on something.” Continue reading