Why I Choose To Speak Up

A few reflections on being vocal in the workplace.

I’ve been asked a lot why I feel the need to be so candid and vocal about diversity and inclusion, social justice, and other related topics.

The irritation typically comes from those who most benefit from our current status quo. These are the kinds of folks who recognize that injustices exist and enjoy envisioning a world in which everyone is equal and no one has to feel isolated or alone in their workplace.

These individuals often have great intentions but are usually unable (or unwilling) to accept that racism is not a topic that can be compartmentalized. They are happy identifying the problem but shy away from engaging in ongoing conversations about solutions outside of contexts that they themselves created. In other words, they are uncomfortable showing solidarity and reflecting on their actions on a day-to-day basis. And so, they wonder why I have to keep making their lives more complicated with my predilection for speaking up.

On the other hand, the fear usually comes from my peers: fellow BIPOC citizens who are trying to build lasting success within a complex and often exploitative capitalist society. (Some are likely shuddering at the very usage of the term ‘BIPOC,’ which is quickly becoming a staple of lip service). We recognize that being vocal about these topics is inherently risky. Others’ annoyance may lead to a misinterpretation of one’s intention; what is meant to be a constructive criticism can sometimes come across as troublemaking.

With that in mind, folks like me are used to biting our tongues for the sake of survival. Life is stressful enough as is without having to worry about losing one’s paycheck in the name of progress. The world has enough martyrs. Why not just let this one go?

I understand both of these perspectives well. For much of my career, I tried to embrace reticence by adopting a ‘pick your battles’ mentality. But that attitude is now gone.

In the pursuit of authenticity, I wanted to share why I’ve chosen to use my voice in this way.

FIRST: My identity as a human and a citizen is more important than my role as an employee or worker.

SECOND: What happens in the workplace can never be fully separated from what happens in the “real world.”

THIRD: I truly believe we have an opportunity to build a better society and culture.

FOURTH: Many people feel like I do…

FIFTH: I know my worth and I am unafraid of challenges.

I wish I had a perfect way to conclude this piece — one flawless sentence that could summarize everything I think and feel about all of this. Truth is, I’m going with my gut. And it isn’t without hesitation — I’m quite wary about being pigeonholed as ‘the diversity guy.’ (I suppose I’ll have to ideate on what else to discuss here to balance it out!)

But I’ll keep using my voice however I can. I hope you will too.

i have an idea