A Personal Response — Addressing the Residential Tech Industry’s Race Problem

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CEO Alex wrote an article last month about the challenges he sees in our industry around race. The responses he received varied across the spectrum, but overall, it was great to see the industry engaged in a discussion about, what we believe to be, a very important issue.

One of our industry peers was following one of the discussion threads in the CEDIA community, and wanted to respond in greater detail about what her experiences have been in life and in our industry. With her permission, we are publishing her response below.

Before I begin let me say thank you to both commentators. It clearly affirms that these differing viewpoints are currently impacting the WORLD.

I am attaching a recent video that captures some of my feelings. I pray that this video will answer the questions that were posed in the second response. I hope that everyone views the video as it is a conversation that I believe needs to continue in order for change to take place. It is a non-threatening format and speaks to my White friends and neighbors.

Video link

I would like to say that institutional racism/unconscious bias/implicit bias is REAL.

Many White People exhibit racist actions without knowing that they have done so. In many cases, these White people are not intentionally trying to be mean. They honestly do not understand the issue. It does not matter to them because they are not able to relate.

I have been told:

To get over it.

God’s got it.

I had it hard too.

You just have to be a good worker.

Why should you get a break when I am just as good?

I know that it can be hard to understand why I physically feel pain when a Black person dies for a senseless reason.

As a Christian woman, I feel sad when anyone dies a senseless death — BUT there is something that makes me want to vomit when my PTSD is triggered every time someone that looks like me, or my husband, or my son, or my daughters, has died or been physically, emotionally, mentally, and socially mistreated because of his or her color.

I teared up from both comments for opposite reasons.

I am emotionally exhausted and unsure of how to exist in White America.

As for the direct industry impact:

  1. My business experienced racism when we were not considered for work because someone felt that our color was not trustworthy.
  2. We have had racist remarks said to us.
  3. We have feared for our lives in a wealthy neighborhood (FedEx).
  4. A dear friend in the industry was honest with us and said that he knows for a fact that we do not get as many jobs as he does because of our color. He understood the issue and helped us by offering to pass on referrals.

I am so proud of CEDIA for its effort of diversifying its board, members, and international industry presence.

When I am at CEDIA, I am glad to be there and happy to know that I am accepted.

BUT that does not change how it feels when someone makes an inappropriate joke, talks about what a great President Donald Trump is and expects me to agree. I still worry about my natural hairstyle or my inability to relate to jokes that the rest of the group clearly gets. How I must focus on my slang and how scared I am to speak up because I know that I represent that one Black friend.

Perhaps White people have these same fears.

BUT here is my back story:

  1. I was born Black. I cannot change that.
  2. I was 8 the first time little White boys threw rocks at me and called me n****r in Queens, NY.
  3. My bus stop from work in Long Island had a Black face doll hanging in a noose. Two Black men were hung this week in CA.
  4. I was chased home by a White mob of men from my job at the mall because I was Black, and my boss was Black and Gay.
  5. My son was 10 the first time he was called a n****r by our neighborhood friend who had been to our home regularly.
  6. My daughter was 12 the first time she was called a n****r by our neighborhood friends who came to our home regularly. She qualifies for Honor’s classes but will not go because the children that called her a n****r are in Honors. She cries because classmates say her hair is not long enough or straight enough, and her face is not light. Her self-hate is the hardest thing a parent has to face especially when I know how real it is. I tell her that she may not be liked by others because of her complexion, full lips, and thick hair. I tell her that Black men may prefer women from other races. Yes, I tell her not to laugh so loud knowing that her voice is deeper than other children. Yes, I tell her to be quiet, ignore the name-calling, be docile so you can get by. Yes, I moved to a White neighborhood because the education system is better and that will be her head-start, although it cost her confidence. I compromised my child’s self-worth to ensure that she would be acclimated to the White Workforce when she graduated with a master’s degree because that is the only way she can survive in America.
  7. My son had to stay on the phone with me because he was afraid to walk 3 miles to my home at the age of 15. I was afraid too. Trayvon just died and so did Kendrick Johnson. I emasculated him by telling him that he was not old enough to walk home alone at 15 years old. Yet, I am trying to raise him to be a man that can leave my home with confidence and strength. My son could not hand out flyers for my business on doors because he is Black. There is a 50% chance that he would be confronted, mistreated, or even killed.
  8. A home in the framing stage of my neighborhood was vandalized with the words “Get out N*****s.” We stayed because of the school system, we feared for our lives, we did not mingle with neighbors, we accepted the glares and more.
  9. I am darker than my siblings so many family members called me ugly, tar baby, and nappy head because I was not lighter, and my hair was not straight. I still struggle with self-esteem, so will my daughters.
  10. My two sisters married White because they did not like themselves or Black men did not like them. They have wigs and weaves to look more acceptable. They have bi-racial children and say inappropriate things about my daughter’s hair.
  11. My husband is tall and very dark. He has a deep voice. Some White people fear him. During a mission trip, a child said, “Why is he so Black?” The other kids loved him because he reminded them of a basketball player.
  12. We were denied housing twice because of our race. Our realtor was appalled and changed her plan to find us more accommodating areas.
  13. The majority of our White friends don’t understand why we are upset with Trump, and they think that we are “good Black people” because we are Christians. My husband served 20 years in the Air Force, live in a White Neighborhood, keep our heads down, and don’t cause any problems. They say that we have money because of Trump and that they do not want to give more of their money to the “Mexicans and Welfare folks.” Why should they use their hard-earned money? I say that because I am a Christian, I love everyone, and I would rather pay more in health care so that my fellow brother and sister would have care.
  14. My husband is from the South, his experience is much different from mine. He has a way of pushing past the issues. He never speaks ill of anyone and trust that it must be a blessing to not get a job if the person is not accepting of his race. He was raised to stay in his place, avoid conflict. Do not bother them and they will not bother you. I am from the North and just cannot keep quiet because I cannot sleep at night now that my son is 21 years old and on his own. My 28-year-old daughter is in San Diego with her Syrian Boyfriend. My 12-year-old is losing friends and was told things like, “the Black man that died deserved it because he was a bad man with a record,” and “why don’t Black people stop resisting arrest?” I know several Black people who were pulled over and told life-threatening whispers that only they could hear (“I can kill you and no one would care”, “ I can do whatever I want and no one would believe you”). I tell my daughter that no matter what, do not run even if you are sexually assaulted, beaten, or threatened; just pray to be quiet. Do not fight back.
  15. My family lives in fear every day. It impacts our family life, which impacts our work life, which impacts our health, which impacts our relationships, which impacts our industry. There is no way to change my color, and if anyone in CEDIA thinks that being Black is not an issue for the world/industry they are WRONG. I respect everyone’s opinion, but some opinions are unnecessary, hurtful, and hinder progress.

To the second responder, I pray for you and your family’s safety as they support the movement. I pray that they do not follow your way of thinking. I pray that they never think for one minute that they know what it is like to be Black. I pray that they will use the two ears and eyes that GOD gave them and refrain from opening their mouth or typing their thoughts on an issue that they could never fully understand. I pray that they use their White Privilege to be a benefit and not a hindrance. I pray that they are not misguided or delusional about how race impacts everything in this WORLD.

In closing, I leave you with a thank you for reading along and hearing another side of the story. I also leave you with the second video that just came out with Matthew McConaughey as the guest for Conversations About Racism on Emmanuel Acho’s Video Series.