If we all played our part 25 years ago, I would not have been saying these things, but we didn’t. So here we are. Please start taking accountability. If you want to really do something, commit to doing the following from June 17, 2020:
1. Hire black youth. Stop saying that that the talent out there is really scarce. It’s not. And young Black people are so keen to learn and succeed. Not to mention that they constitute a third of SA population. Who do you think is best suited to talk to that audience? Don’t preserve the status quo. Hire Black youth.
2. Give Black youth opportunities to shine. All the career-making opportunities are held back and given to “senior talent”. Give Black voices an opportunity to be heard. Give them a chance on the big briefs. Promote Black talent to senior positions and watch them fly.
3. Groom young black talent. This requires you to spend more time with the young ones helping them succeed. This is your chance to practically voice your support for Black issues, to share your knowledge, experience and skill. This is your chance to give back. Take of your personal time to build people up. And if they leave, so what! At least you helped a young person have a better life.
4. Be more empathetic. Try to understand that Black youth don’t have some of the simple advantages most of us have. They don’t always have their own cars to get to work, no access to data and computers like we do and no exposure to experiences we’ve had. Understand that their context is completely different to yours. You just cannot say, “When I started out…”
5. Pay better. Black tax is a real thing. Don’t try to change what you don’t understand. Rather consider that when you pay them. Black youngsters are building their own lives… from scratch. They don’t have a financial head-start nor the generational knowledge on money matters. Understand that they buy their own first car, have no money to buy lunch at the office everyday and have no money to spend on costumes for office themed-parties. Try to understand some of the things we don’t even think about.
6. Let Black youth to be Black in the workplace. Encourage the youngsters to express themselves in their mother tongues, enjoy music and culture as they enjoy it, cater for food and events with consideration for African culture.
7. Expose Black youth to the world. Send young talent to award shows, international trips and events. Let them experience travel… the things you were lucky to have experienced in your youth.
8. Check your conscious and unconscious biases. Be careful about what you say and how you say it. Black youth don’t leave themselves at home before they come to work. Their experiences, their parents’ experiences and generations before them are embedded. They bring their histories with them. So you should watch what you say and check your own biases. Be supportive, inquisitive yet empathetic.
9. Stop using Black faces. Do not take Black youth into your boardrooms to win pitches, for PR photos ops and to pretend that you’re something you’re not. It’s insulting. And very difficult for Black people to speak up because it’s career-limiting to say “no”. Be authentically inclusive at every level.
10. Stop saying these things; “you’re the best Black designer”, “I worked so hard, why should I give 50% of my company away.”, “Do you think Black people will find this offensive?”, “This script needs some Black lingo”, “Will a Black director/photographer be able to nail this?”, “We’d love to put more Black judges on the panel but we can’t compromise on the quality”. Fill your offices and zoom calls with a diverse spectrum of faces, voices and opinions so we stop saying hurtful things. We need to change our actions, in every interaction, corporate policy and unspoken rule. We need individuals in every capacity to start making positive changes by changing behaviour and attitudes. And to my fellow Black and Brown people in leadership and senior positions who have not done enough (I include myself here), please do more. Promote young Black talent in the boardrooms, social platforms and office corridors we occupy. Things don’t change overnight but they do start immediately. Don’t just insist on positive change, start doing. Because we are accountable. It’s our youth. Our cause. And everyone’s… Black, White and Brown’s futures. We must all contribute to the improvement of Black lives by making #BlackCareersMatter because #BlackYouthMatters
WRITTEN BY @AHMED TILLY