Over the past two weeks, I have had the opportunity to review portions of my “employment” history. I have been under the impression that I understood completely the negative experiences I went through in Corporate America. Hindsight is 20-20, so upon reflection I find I missed many key phrases that were used to void my individualism, civil rights, sense of self, and all-out attempts to “just be me.”
Many times and more often than I care to remember, I was the only Black person in the company, and needless to say more often I was the only Black person with a disability. Reaching the management level, in many cases the factors above were increased exponentially.
In management, the phrase “be a team player” was used for me many times. Bear in mind that 100 percent of the other “team” members were not Black, and 100 percent did not have a visible disability.
My interpretation of the phrase “be a team player” is to be White and able-bodied. Join the “team” and be respected. If I joined the team, I would deny my heritage, culture, and life experiences.
“I will never be White or temporarily able-bodied. My Blackness and Disability are who I am. I am proud to be me and would never trade or disrespect my life or myself by denying the blanket truth.
I understood from an early age that I would have to work twice as hard, be twice as good, give 110 percent, and maybe then I would be accepted. I learned early that my success was not and never would be based on acceptance, how much money I make, what vehicle I drive, or what things I possess.
The powers that be that have kept me on this earth and in this human body regardless of outside forces has blessed me with the success of being alive each day. Everything after waking up, taking a breath, and giving a smile is a true blessing to be cherished.
I was born a leader, not a team player. The team should join in and follow me as I will inspire them as a group and individually to do great things and be great people.
The phrase “join in with us” interpreted means leave “those people” behind. Of course “those p
eople were Black people and others who somehow were viewed as less than, undeserving, and as having jobs to “serve us.”
We are much more than servants and “those people.” First and foremost, we are human beings and part of the “only race,” THE HUMAN RACE, that truly matters.
I have survived, lived and thrived with countless successes. I and only I have the capacity and capability of deciding my success. Some might say I am crazy, but I do not have to be “like everyone else.”
Take one good look at me and the view should say to you: “He is different.” None of us should ever desire to be “like everyone else” or be treated “the same” as everyone else. I desire to be treated as I decide I want others to treat me.
Anything outside of these parameters is disrespectful and discriminatory. I have decided I can and will do what is necessary within the bounds of the law, moral compass, ethics, and respect to others in reaching the desired outcome.
Kenneth Brown is a business owner and disability advocate/consultant with a PHD in disability with expertise in surviving, living, and thriving with a disability. Kenneth is a past chair of the Minneapolis Commission on Civil Rights and 10-year member of the Minneapolis Advisory Committee on Persons with Disabilities. He welcomes reader responses to email@example.com