Being born Black was my first and greatest blessing; fully embracing that blessing has been my greatest journey.
December 14th, nineteen-none-of-your-business, I was born to two, “woke, Black-is-beautiful, I marched with Dr. King, We Shall Overcome, HBCU-alums.” Accordingly, when it came to naming me, they adopted the popular trend of the late 60’s and early 70’s of giving Black children names that rejected European standards; and instead embraced African roots and/or showed how grand and unique their children were. “Sharkeisha, Tameka and LaQuan” weren’t simply names; they were political statements. Similarly, I was named Randalyn: a name that my parents chose because it honored my dad, Randy; thwarted the establishment, and displayed their love of their culture — at least privately.
Privately. Yes, “Randalyn” was placed on my birth certificate and used early-on by a few relatives; but my Black-prideful parents were also practical. “Randalyn” announced that I was Black before any teacher, interviewer, bank, or boss had even met me; and in a society that has been built on institutionalized racism, that name would create hurdles. So my parents and everyone around me have called me Randi for as long as I can remember.
Starting with the public mainstreaming of my name and through hundreds of additional lessons along the way, I, like most Black children, learned that loving your Blackness, loving Black people, Black pride, concern for the Black community and interest in Black matters was best done privately — or at least out of the eyes of mainstream society.
As much as people and companies proclaim to love diversity, most minorities are aware that to be successful in America, you must hide much of your culture / race in order to fit-in with the White mainstream. I believe most companies and people have the right intentions around diversity issues, but quite naturally, most people are uncomfortable with what is different, what is unfamiliar. Accordingly, as a Black person, you are more likely to be accepted by White people the more like them that you are. The Black guy wearing a Black Lives Matter pin on his jacket, or who wears dreads, or reads things like Race Matters at lunch is not getting asked to join as many project teams and will not be promoted as frequently as the Black guy who wears khakis and a collared shirt, has a short haircut, and mainly stays quiet and smiles a lot.
This isn’t conjecture; this is fact. Look at the studies on resume name bias. Heck, walk through any corporation in America. Look online for Black leaders in corporate America. I guarantee that you won’t find many women wearing their hair natural, or men with facial hair, dreadlocks, large afros, or twists. You won’t find many people who are vocal on Black issues either.
There is a price to be paid for success in America; and for most minorities part of that price is sacrificing a part of your identity. My parents and most African American parents must try to raise Black children with high self-esteem; while simultaneously minimizing or asking them to obscure characteristics associated with being Black.
So that’s what I’ve done my entire life—even as an adult working as a diversity and inclusion trainer. It almost seem ridiculous to me now; but for 16 years, I would get up and discuss the values of diversity, the realities of implicit bias, while making myself almost gender, race and opinion neutral. I only talked about real issues in diversity and inclusion when I would “code-switch” after work and talk amongst my friends and family members.
I became acutely aware of how pervasive code-switching and hiding our true selves was when my friends (who in their own rights are righteous, brilliant, and politically active) were completely silent on social media when the Black Lives Movement and the uncensored, recorded killings of Black women, men and children were at their height. Most people are FB friends with co-workers, neighbors, and fellow parents. Just like at work and at school, my Black friends were scared that if they posted about their dismay of the Trayvon Martin murder and trial, their concern if their children were safe, the BLM rallies that they had attended; they or their children would be viewed as radical, angry, hard to get along with, or confrontational.
So, they were Black and involved – but only privately.
That’s when I started Beanik24. I wanted to have a safe space where me and my friends could vent, empathize, share concerns and brainstorm solutions. On Beatnik24, I’ve written many articles of being proud of my Blackness. But, I eventually had to ask myself, if I was so proud why was I still hiding under an alias? I am proud of being Black, but I knew that the bold things that I say could cost me contract opportunities for my business. I knew that I would make many of the people I depend on to hire me for their diversity and inclusion needs uncomfortable, or frankly, scared of my boldness, my willingness to tell the truth, and my comfort with discomfort.
But I’m tired of not being authentically and fully who I am. I know that saying I love Black people does not in any way mean I hate any other people. I can’t own or be responsible for other’s unreasonable fears about Black love and Black pride. Saying that our lives matter should not make anyone uncomfortable; so I will no longer accommodate such ridiculousness.
I want us to raise Black children who aren’t told directly and indirectly by their own people, by their own communities, and by their own parents that their Blackness should be muted or hidden.
I also want to make things better for Black people and for our country as a whole. There is no way that people, organizations or this country will get to a place where we ALL feel included until we start getting real with ourselves, with one another and with having uncomfortable conversations.
No one should feel as if they must hide parts of who they are in order to flourish. Cultures, people and a real appreciation of diversity dictates that it’s not fair to choose characteristics of a person/culture that are easier to accept (music, style and food) while shunning the parts that make us ill-at-ease (painful pasts and current concerns). Blackness, in its entirety, isn’t scary. I should not have ever– nor will I ever again== make decisions rooted in that narrative. I’m Randi (the artist formerly known as Beatnik24). Nice to meet you.
It’s time to have a conversation.
My intention is for Black people to love themselves and each other. It sounds somewhat silly, I guess; but oftentimes my people are overwhelmed with negative images, bad news, and stereotyped characters about us. I’d like to flip that script. I’d like to remind us, as often as I can, how incredible we are. Read more