What Exactly Is Job-Culture and Cultural Fit?

In many workplaces, we often hear terms, such as ‘job-culture’ or ‘cultural fit’. For many of us, we still have yet to figure out what those two terms mean. We may have an idea, but not a definition. However, we often find exactly what these two terms mean as we spend more time in our role(s) at a company.

Truth be told, organizations are composed of people. People come with values and belief-systems. In the heart of this, you have the human-experience. No problem. Organizations usually do not expect people to come in the door as a blank slate. On the contrary, they are looking for individuals that will help the organization accomplish its goals. No problem. All organizations have end-goals at the end of the day.

So, what exactly is the problem? The problem comes with organizations disguising White-supremacy. Disguising as what? Job-culture or their definition of being a cultural fit. In many workplaces, diversity is usually tossed around in trainings, workshops, and business jargon. However, it is quickly seen that many people of color do not occupy positions nor occupy positions of leadership. Why?

As previously noted, organizations are composed of people. However, what happens is that predominately-White organizations may state that they’ve tried to recruit people of color, but haven’t found anyone qualified. Another common excuse, we don’t know how to recruit people of color. Honestly, I find these two excuses as…excuses.

In sitting in meetings with (White) recruiters, (White) board members, and (White) supervisors, there’s not a lack of ideas on how to progress an organization forward, or how to accomplish quarterly goals. However, it always seem as if there’s a lack of ideas on how to recruit and retain people of color. In often seeing myself in predominately White spaces, I am told how smart I am and how I am great at articulating myself. This is racist. I do not like to coin this as microagression. It’s just racist. Call a spade a spade.

On many occasions, (White) co-workers have made sly comments about my hair and how I styled it. On other occasions, (White) coworkers would use Black vernacular to speak to me. On a few occasions, (White) coworkers would make derogatory comments about Black people and try to make an excuse for it. In organizations that lack diversity AND inclusion, nothing will change. To be exclusive of people of color and to punish those that are Black and brown in the workplace because they do not fit Whiteness is White-supremacy. Diversity trainings and workshops are ineffective if positions of power are still being occupied by Whites. Furthermore, keeping people of color in the lower-tiers of the hierarchy subconsciously aids in the belief that these populations of individuals are not qualified for the upper-echelons of an organization. In essence, this feeds into White-supremacist thinking, and maintains the ideology that people of color are inferior to Whites.

In the nature of transparency, people of color are growing tiresome of these vague concepts that are simply indicative of White-supremacist ideology that is running through an organization. Hiring one person of color doesn’t make you diverse nor inclusive. If that person of color has to succumb to racist comments and exclusionary tactics in the workplace, the job-culture is problematic.

In my own personal experiences, I have seen workplaces that are diverse and inclusive of all individuals from all backgrounds. In these workplaces, the organizations flourished. On the other hand, places with White-supremacy can still flourish, but it lends itself to a workplace that will not flourish in the way that a diverse and inclusive organization will. As a globalized world, we have to learn and understand one another. We have to learn how to communicate with folks that do not look, speak, or behave like ourselves. It is a reality that we have to understand, despite the opposition of some.

So, what do I propose? Absolutely nothing. People of color continuously teach and labor behind equitable practices in workplaces. To draw out a plan for organizational change in the department of equity is not my job as a Black woman. It is the job of those in power to create an equitable place of work for all employees.

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Social-Inequities In Education

“If you wrote this paper, you did a very good job,” were the words of one of my professors. As my professor spewed these words to me, I wanted to retreat and not return to class. I was absolutely stunned that he questioned my academic-integrity, despite the known passion that I had for the research topic. In replaying that comment over and over again in my mind, I am often left speechless. What exactly did he mean? Was I not expected to deliver a well-written paper? Was I not expected to deliver a thought-provoking thesis? I’m not sure. However, I am often faced with these scenarios from White professors.

Back in May, I remember wrapping up coursework for the semester and feeling a bit of relief for the work I had done. For one of my classes, I remember giving a presentation over the criminalization of Black girls in PK-12 schools in America. Specifically, I looked at the impact(s) of zero-tolerance policies for discipline. After class, I asked my professor clarifying questions for our final-paper. In giving advice, she jokingly stated that I should add a narrative about a time that I was kicked out of school in order to really bring the reader into the research. As I stood there, I felt angry. Why? Because I’ve never had this experience. Furthermore, she felt as if this issue was laughable. I didn’t approach this research through an autoethnographic lens. I didn’t center myself in it at all. However, my professor felt that I should’ve added a personal touch to really engage the reader, as if the research wasn’t sufficient by itself.

In completing coursework and balancing college-teaching for the Spring semester, I can recall working with an organization that centers it work in urban schools. In working with the organization, I quickly realized the underlying racist and classist undertones of the group. The employees of this organization were middle to upper-class White women from the suburbs of Leawood, Overland Park, and Olathe, Kansas. In spending several hours and days with the same group of women, I would often hear comments about students’ dirty clothing, a student’s foul odor, the spelling of students’ names, how these students were affected by trauma and how this organization was necessary to prevent students from going in the wrong direction. Coupled with these disparaging remarks, these women would often engage in conversation on the greatness of the suburban schools in which their children attended. These interactions were indicative to me of the importance of checking one’s positionality and personal biases.

As a Black woman, I would often find myself disengaged with these women and the organization because I saw the attitudes in which they held about the students they were seeking to serve. As a young, Black girl that attended these same schools, I was frustrated. I felt bad for the students because I was able to hear the conversations held behind these students’ backs. The women would often go back and forth with one another and not see a problem with the comments they were saying. It was bewildering to me. You’re working with a population that you truly disregard as inferior to you. In this eye-opening experience, I have vowed to never place myself in another organization that doesn’t value the people that it serves. For them, I guess it was for the accolades.

In reflecting on these most recent scenarios, I continue to fight for social-equity in education at the intersections of race, class, gender and dis/ability. It is truly disheartening to see how students of color and faculty of color still face unfair conditions. Unless systems change, little will be done to dismantle what is happening. Honestly, this isn’t a call for individuals to change, but to get a collective understanding of what needs to change. People make organizations. People carry ideologies. Ideologies form the way we see the world. In looking at the world through a certain ideology, we are able to engage the world in that capacity. Ideologies matter. People matter.

Starting My Doctoral Program and the Politics of It

After working with students in the local school districts in my city, I became inspired to continue my academic work. I had many unanswered questions that couldn’t be explained. In searching for answers from teachers, support staff, and administrators, I was at a halt. A standstill. I wanted to know about the history of education in America. I wanted to understand organizational behavior. I wanted to figure out why social-inequities continued despite social-movements and education reforms. I wanted to learn how and where to connect the dots.

In deciding to make the leap into a doctoral program, I made sure to have conversations with professors, colleagues and friends about this big step. In having these conversations, I quickly realized that my perception of a doctoral program was extremely off the mark. I had no idea that I should look for a program that would fully-fund me. I had no idea that I should look for a professor that had similar research interests as me. I had no idea that my life would become immersed in my research interests.

In attending the orientation for my program and starting my first term in 2018, I soon started to realize that a doctoral program is a full-time job. How? You will have coursework, work with a research team, work with your advisor, and have a teaching assignment. In essence, this is how your education is funded. Your program is investing in you. I would advise all students that are seeking to go into a doctoral program to find a program that will fully fund you. You shouldn’t pay out of pocket for your doctorate.

Along the way, I’ve come to realize how important to stay focused on your end goal. One of my professors told me that I need to know what I want to do after graduation. Why? Because your future employers will decide if you’re worthy of being in their department as a professor on the basis of your research and/or teaching experience. However, he warned me that if I wanted to secure a position as a professor that I should invest my time and energy into research and to publish. Interestingly, many of my professors have stated numerous times that publications are important for doctoral students in the advancement of their academic career. To not publish is to perish.

So, remember to write, write, write. Now, I will tell you that you can’t write if you’re not reading. In order to do any research, you have to have knowledge of the literature out there in the universe. Your writing can’t exist without knowing the literature. You can’t find a gap if you don’t know if there’s a gap. Believe me, there’s always a new perspective to look at any issue.

In learning of all these things in my first year of my doctoral program, I’ve come to understand my role(s) as a student and academic. Not only my role(s), but the importance of reading and asking key questions. You are becoming a scholar, so you must be willing to create new knowledge. Honestly, I find this extremely moving. You’re reading, asking questions, and beginning to connect the dots. My reason for applying to a doctoral program is to understand and begin connecting the dots. So far, I’ve started to connect some dots, but not all. However, that’s the fun of it all. You’re getting knee deep in a topic. You’re beginning to formulate thoughts. You’re beginning to connect the dots.

The Problem(s) with Diversity Workshops

On Monday, I attended a series of mini-workshops on diversity and inclusion. In the span of a few hours, I was ready to call it quits. I was tired and irritated. Diversity talks are becoming increasingly popular and sometimes required by employers. However, I’ve concluded that these talks are merely emblematic of the bigger problem in our society- we talk a good game, but lack true action.

In these workshops, we were given handouts over the definition of diversity and why diversity is important. Honestly, most people will never say that diversity isn’t important. However, society often shows how inclusion is a tough pill to swallow. In these small, one-hour workshops, we nodded our heads to the reasons behind striving for social-equity in our classes, places of work, and etc. But we never discussed the need for diversity. We simply started the conversation on how we can become diverse and inclusive in our practices.

These workshops were relatively easy to sit through and didn’t require much critical thinking.

In efforts to appease the predominately White audience, Whiteness was never a part of the bigger picture. The concept of Whiteness was never on the table to be deconstructed. It was completely ignored. Out of sight. Out of mind.

As being a Black woman, I couldn’t ignore this huge elephant in the room. I was bewildered that this wasn’t the first point of discussion in our conversation on diversity and inclusion.

The speakers would speak about ‘the other,’ ‘voice,’ ‘cultural-relevancy,’ and etc. However, there was no mention of Whiteness and how it perpetuates the inequities that plague the lives of Black and Brown people. In order to have a true conversation over this issue, we have to contextualize the issue. There wasn’t any contextualization. The conversation continued as if there wasn’t a reason for why these social inequities persist in our society. I guess, these social inequities are just inherent.

As I shuffled between the mini-workshops, I only saw a handful of people that looked like me. Why? In a place that parades the necessity of ‘diversity’, where was this diversity?

In arriving at the rooms in which these workshops were held, I wanted to scream and pull out my own hair. I was being told the necessity of diversity by a White person in a room full of White people. I was being told that there were external organizations available that could facilitate an easier existence in the space I would occupy for work.

In the numerous diversity workshops I’ve attended in the past and present, I believe they play to lip-service and have no real impact on changing the climate of a space. If the issue of Whiteness isn’t deconstructed then the cause is lost. The content in these workshops are very sanitized and lack real depth. Inequity may be used, but the concept is very much misunderstood. In most cases, structural changes are usually not a part of the conversation.

In being a Black woman, I am deeply enraged by these workshops. I find them extremely nonsensical and unhelpful in the fight for creating equitable conditions for underrepresented and historically oppressed groups.

Diversity and inclusion are two separate concepts.

In my opinion, we must aim for both. We must aim to create, sustain and enforce new ways of including those that are continuously silence and marginalized in our society. There’s no benefit of having diversity if people are being structurally excluded.

If tokenism is the aim, diversity may be the route for you. But if you’re aiming to be inclusive, you’re digging deep to change the structures in place to create space for all voices to exist and maneuver.

 

 

My Experiences with Double Consciousness

As I sit here reflecting on my experiences in school, I can say that I struggled the most in the suburban schools I went to. Academically, I was fine. Psychologically, I was fighting a war daily. As one of only a few Black kids in these schools, I had to trust that my parents knew what they were doing. They kept telling my brother and me that education was the way out of poverty. We needed to learn the ways of the White people. We needed to learn how to navigate this White world in our Black bodies. But every day, I had to decide who I wanted to be. With my Black friends, I could be myself, but I didn’t know which self to give to my White friends.

I remember my White bestfriend told me that her mom didn’t want her hanging out with me because I wasn’t a good influence and made F’s. I remember that phone call. On the contrary, I was an excellent student and made great grades. I met her mom and her family a few times and never had an issue. Where was this coming from? I don’t know if it was a race issue or a class issue or maybe both, but we were great friends.

After that experience, I was heartbroken. Her mom pulled me from a great friend. In these schools, race and class were issues that went unaddressed but were important to the fabric of the community. As a poor Black girl, I didn’t have the luxurious car to drive to school or the extracurricular activities that many parents would have their kids in. We didn’t have money for many things. No, we didn’t wear designer clothes but that was almost a requirement for the student body. And of course, I didn’t look white.

But this was a part of the plan- to learn how to navigate Whiteness. On top of this socialization, I had to learn how to control my tongue when teachers made racist and classist comments. I would go home and tell my parents and they would say that I had to learn when to pick my battles. It was a huge game that I felt I was losing at. I didn’t fit.

In order to keep myself from going crazy, I started gravitating towards sub-cultures- the emo kids, students of color, Muslims, LGBT community and etc. Honestly, these groups were seen as subhuman in their proximity to Whiteness, but I didn’t want to continue my fight in fitting in with White students, especially the wealthier ones. I didn’t fit. I tried straightening my hair, dying it blonde (my hair fell out), talking White by way of code-switching, wearing designer clothes I couldn’t afford nor fit, and disconnect myself from Blackness. All of these attempts failed.

I understood why my parents wanted us to go to those suburban schools. I get it. As a parent, you want the best for your kids. But in my humble opinion, I felt traumatized from those years. Doing my schoolwork was easy, but everything else was mental gymnastics.

As W.E.B DuBois called it, “double consciousness”- having to live in the world as a Black person but feeling divided into parts because of Whiteness. You try to figure out how to live in your Blackness in a world that rewards and upholds Whiteness.

Where Are You Looking?

thinkoutsidethebox

 

Over the last two months, I’ve been immersed in a certain topic. I’ve made it my priority to read all of the existing literature out there. In opening and closing different books and putting down journal articles, I was told to stop. I was told to refrain from going down the path I’ve been going down. In this rather unexpected demand, I was shook. Honestly, I didn’t understand the request. I thought I heard wrong. No, I was hearing it right.

“Lauren, I’m going to need you to suspend your readings- completely,” said my professor

“What do you mean? This is my topic. Didn’t you say we needed to review the extant literature for the literature review?”

As the answer carried itself in the air, the book in my lap had closed. He went onto the next student to hear about their research topic and their developments. As the trend continued, I was frustrated that he told me to suspend my reading. However, I was quite done with his request. So, I offered up a question.

“Excuse me, but you said that we can be on two sides of the spectrum- either objective or subjective, willing to research for change or to simply track trends,” I stated

The class was quiet. A pen couldn’t drop without its sound being heard.

“Yes, you’re correct. What do you want to be? Do you want to be an activist or a deal in scholarship,” he responded back.

“I want to do both. I want to be an activist and a scholar,” I argued.

“I understand. However, you need to be clear on what you’re saying. Your scholarship will be your vehicle for initiating change. Look, there’s been numerous scholars that has changed the world through their scholarship- the doll’s test, the stereotype threat study, etc”

I sat there. I looked dissatisfied. Maybe I was. He knew. The class felt the uneasiness. For me, I knew that the world needed a big thinker, as my undergrad Philosophy teacher said. So, I sat there. Twenty to thirty minutes later, my professor dismissed us for a break.

“Lauren, can you come here?”

Once again, I was shook. Like, what did I do now?

“Yes?”

“I understand that you’re passionate about your topic. It shows. Also, I see that you have a grasp of the topic. That’s good. However, you’re looking at it the wrong way,” he said with a stern look.

My mouth dropped.

“Look, you are saying what all of us know. You and I both know that racism and sexism exist in schools. Heck, all of us know that. That’s no surprise”

So, he started to draw an analogy on the board between patients and hospitals. He began to say that patients come into the hospital with an array of conditions. Now, on the other end, the hospital has its own things that it brings to the table. In this exchange, you have two entities/groups/populations that are either work with one another or against each other.

In bringing this full-circle with my topic, the professor said that I need to understand that schools are structures/institutions with their own beliefs and cultures. In these institutions, they function to produce something outcomes.

“Cultural hegemony, Lauren. I’m talking about hegemonic beliefs”

“I see what you’re saying. These schools function to keep out individuals or groups to produce the outcomes that they strive for. For those individuals and groups that aren’t serving the interests of the structure, they are marginalized until they are pushed out,” I exclaimed in an epiphany.

“Exactly. However, you need to bring this to your research. You need to look at the history of education, schools and teacher’s education programs. You need to understand the historical nature of why certain groups and individuals are pushed out of schools. We are talking about structures. Systems. Machines.”

“I understand. I will make sure to do the research. However, will any of this change?”

“Revolution, Lauren. Revolution.”

Week after week, I have argued and gone back and forth with my professor. We’ve butted heads about the trajectory of my research and now I understand. In life, you may think this but it could be that. You are sometimes looking in the wrong place. Sometimes, you are looking at things wrong. Sometimes, there is a bigger picture. In our fifteen-minutes break, I became aware of an issue that plagues the American landscape. I mean, I knew that schools were cultural producers of dominant values, but I didn’t have the research to back up my claims. So, my professor challenged me. He said, “research”.

In educational reforms, we hear about this new law or regulation, but we don’t hear about revolts. Well, I don’t think you will. Revolutions usually occur when the oppressed and marginalized are fed up. It’s very Marxist. The underdog bites back. The marginalized carves out space and occupy it.

So, I ask you, “Where are you looking?”