Odd versus Even: the prime number of systemic racism and what we can do about it.
“A plan is an ideal. A plan is not a blueprint.”
I have always prided myself on being a (mad) man with a plan. Yet often, I have learned after many personal and professional failures that I can change plans.
A plan is an ideal to aim for. If I grow, if I acquire new information, I can change my plan.
There is no shame in that.
A STORY OF GRIT AND RESILIENCE.
Often at work, I will try to discuss systemic racism. Often I feel like I am ignored.
Sometimes people pay attention just to be able to argue back.
As we are having this discussion, I try to share my feelings.
Being in an environment where my skin color, cultural background, and life journey are different from most of my colleagues can be a daily challenge.
As I discussed with another colleague, working in the same company is like being in the same storm.
Yes, we are not in the same boat.
Most of my colleagues have speedboats with more horsepower than the GDP — Gross Domestic Product of some countries.
And often feel like they don’t understand why I am so agitated by the storm while enjoying their smooth ride in their shiny boats.
Being far away from my family, grit and resilience were often my only companions in the darkest winter days in France.
TALENT IS EVEN, AND OPPORTUNITY IS ODD.
In France, life is all about bubbles.
No, I am not talking about those magic bubbles you can find in the finest Champagne wine.
I am referring to the country’s history, which is still leaving its mark on today’s life.
In every village, you will have the center and the peripheral. No matter how small the village is, there is always a central power and a peripheral vassal.
In the education system, you have elite schools, generally accessible to the Elite’s children in the majority.
In big corporations, the same dichotomy applies. Those who have been into elite schools like École Polytechnique or ENA — École Nationale d’Administration dominate the industry or the political fields.
Many of the C-suites, people of the CAC 40 or the politicians, the people leading the media are from maybe less than 10 schools in France.
One could argue that education is free in France, so only the best of the bests are getting into those schools.
One can also argue that people at the top are there solely because of their talent in French corporations.
I beg to differ. Looking closer, we can see that most of those people are there not only because of their talent.
Indeed talent is equally distributed all around the world. Talent is even.
What is odd is the opportunity we are given. Opportunity is often tied to our environment, our network, or how people around us can perceive us.
THE BAD INTENTION OF SYSTEMIC RACISM.
Most of us cannot imagine that some people are color blind.
We go about our life enjoying the blue of the ocean or the green of the forest.
We tend to forget that those color blind people are not having the same experience in life.
We are in the same storm of life. We are riding different boats.
Systemic racism is not mainly fueled by the White supremacists or the people who are bluntly racist or feel superior to other humans in any shape or form.
Yes, they have their role in fueling the system. Yet, their actions count only for the tip of the iceberg of systemic racism.
The hidden part is caused by the silent people, who choose to look the other way, by those who are not aware of the impact of their bad daily intentions.
“He is brown. He must be an Indian.” Where are you from?… Ah you were born here…
“She looks like an Asian. So she must be a compliant person.” Why are you so vocal?…you Asians…
“He has Afro hair. He must not be very professional.” I can talk down to him….
As long as people do not educate themselves about their biases and how their “good” intentions negatively impact people who are different, systemic racism will prevail.
TAKE ACTION: GIVE MORE OPPORTUNITIES TO PEOPLE WHO ARE DIFFERENT AROUND YOU.
“You have to be odd to be number one.”
I repeat: “Talent is even. Opportunity is odd.”
We all have to be conscious of our privileges. Often where we are today is not mainly the result of our talent.
If we look closely, if we look deeply, we are where we are, thanks to the opportunities that were given to us.
The more each of us is willing to give opportunities to people left to the side by the system, the more we can bridge the gap of systemic racism.
I am not in favor of quotas of positions in a team, a company, or an organization.
I am in favor of giving more opportunities to people with different cultural and ethnic backgrounds.
Because we all have talents that will only blossom in the light of opportunities.
We must be aware of our privileges and try to break the chain of blind giving.
When in a position of power, when having a promotion, when deciding the budget for a community, we have to remember that talent is everywhere.
Each of us is a change agent. We can give 9 opportunities to our children, friends, family, and people like us.
We must always give the 10th opportunity to one individual who is not blessed with those opportunities.
Each One Give One…to a stranger.
Because we all want to be number one in some shape or form, and only opportunities can make us odd.
Talent is abundant. Opportunity is scarce.
What are you doing to expand the circle of opportunities?
Are you impacting beyond your circle of talent?
Are you expanding the opportunities in the universe of today?
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