'What do black people want?' I'll tell you
Sunday, March 8, 2015
By Tara Jaye Frank
I made a personal commitment to keep it extra real in 2015.
I love social media for connecting, entertainment and the speed with which
we’re able to satiate our natural curiosity. But let's be honest, if we're not
careful, media can also have us believing the worst about humanity. With every
negative portrayal or racially, sexually or religiously charged rant, what we
"know” about each other is at risk of becoming what we "think,” then what we
"wonder,” and, ultimately, what we doubt.
I've seen folks from all backgrounds grossly oversimplify
others' motives and concerns. As a black woman, wife and mother who attended a
historically black college, worked on Mahogany — an African American social
expression line — for 15 years, and now leads one of America’s most beloved
brands, Hallmark, in its quest to more meaningfully reflect a diverse America,
I know a thing or two about what black people really want from you. And because
it serves business leaders to understand the deep and abiding motivations of
their employees and customers, I’m going to tell you. Here goes:
1. Acknowledgment. Black people want you to see them. Non-blacks
get antsy when we mention the civil rights movement, but everything has a
historical context. Please understand that such experiences still impact the
collective psyche of African Americans. Our parents (not our great,
great, great-grandparents) have painful stories of being denied, attacked, ignored
and generally marginalized. This isn't ancient history, and in some places,
it's still happening. Because of this, we're on hyper-alert. Nothing fires us
up more than being dismissed or made to feel invisible. In stores, at work, in
Bonus tip: Don’t tell us you don't see color. We see it, and
we're proud of who we are.
2. Caring. Your black employees and customers want to know
you care about the things they care about. We're increasingly concerned for the
safety of our children and the health of our communities, and in an era where
our "bad side" is apparently so entertaining, we are also protective of our
image. We want to be positively reflected in the media. We want our families to
be celebrated, our traditions to be respected and our uniqueness to be valued.
I was sincerely moved when my white friends and colleagues reached out to me
about what happened in Ferguson, New York and Cleveland. They know I have four black
sons. They showed compassion for my family, and it meant everything. There are
many ways to be a force of good. Start somewhere.
Bonus tip: Don’t be afraid to address the hard stuff. Even
if you open with "I don’t know what to say . . . "
3. Engagement. Your black
employees and customers want to be part of the solution. They desire to lead,
advise and contribute. They want to be fully leveraged as the trend-setters
they are, and are hungry to be included in your most important conversations. We
are creative, passionate, loyal and united. We are powerful! We know this, but
sometimes we don’t think others do. The companies and leaders who recognize
this truth will benefit for years to come, because the innovation inherent in black
culture permeates all cultures. When you walk a mile with us, you’re walking
ahead of the crowd.
Bonus tip: Ask for our feedback, and not just on perceivably "black stuff." Our opinions (on anything) will help ensure a more inclusive
There you have it. This is my public service announcement.
If you found value in this blog, please share it. If you have questions or even
a difference of opinion, I'm happy to engage in conversation!
As vice president,
multicultural strategy for Hallmark Cards Inc., Tara Jaye Frank is responsible
for partnering across product development, marketing and retail to drive growth
with an increasingly diverse consumer base. She was the youngest person in Hallmark's history to be promoted into executive management and its first
African American female vice president.
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