If you’re an African-American employee, chances are you’ve had to restrain your voice in some manner.
We’ve been taught to curb how we use our voices through admonitions like ‘watch your tone’, ‘calm down’, ‘remember not to sound too aggressive.’ The end result is that many African-Americans are warned by their counterparts about how to use their voices, so much so that we begin to police our own. And should these warnings not completely silence us, it makes many think twice about how and when to use their voices.
Yet, whether your voice is trusted by few or many, it has the ability to create change.
In episode 25 of C-CRETS, Theresa Robinson shared why African-American women releasing their voices was critical. But the buck doesn’t stop there. We need more African-Americans speaking up at home, in the workplace, and everywhere in between.
Here’s why your black voice matters.
A History of Erasure
Erasure takes place when your narrative is not told or is told from the vantage point of someone else. The more African-American voices are heard—in online spaces, in books, in podcasts, in the media—the harder it is to dismiss our experiences and knowledge.
When we willingly choose to silence our own voices, we not only dismiss the value that we can create within our own lives, but in that of other peoples’ lives.
Though our narratives are different across cultures, each is meaningful. Be assured that the white narrative means something to the little white boy or girl learning about American history at school. Yet the Indian history, the Asian history, the Hispanic history, and the African-American history is no less important.
Erasure minimizes people.
It raises one group up while dimming the light and contributions of other groups. By choosing to use your voice, you are not only contributing to the black narrative, you are preventing the erasure of your experiences as a human, as well as reinforcing the significance of each black life.
Each One, Teach One
We reinforce what we know when we’re able to teach others. Not only that, by teaching and speaking on what you know, often a person is able to gleam some insight that helps their own personal or professional growth.
In the age of social media, whether its Facebook or Instagram, Twitter or Linked In, you’re able to teach others with your voice or words.
Words have power. Whether you’re sharing a story about what happened at the family BBQ years ago or encouraging a friend to ask for a raise, they not only carry the ability to heal or harm, they can transform lives.
Each week, listeners tune in as we share our C-CRETS to making it to the C-SUITE. But here’s the thing, though we may include light banter and talk about filling our cups, we’re also teaching our audience lessons that we’ve learned through personal experience.
In each episode, our audience of listeners are able to gather insights, or a sense of knowing or of having a similar experience to us, and in that they’re able to feel validated.
Validation communicates that a person is important. It’s something we all need, whether we’re a child, partner, spouse or employee.
The little boy who sees a book cover with a character having the same deep brown-hued skin as him, who goes on to read the book and picks out similarities between him and the character, closes it feeling validated.
The woman who watches a news segment about a single mom who cuts off her 4C hair to save money for a washing machine and later opens up a laundromat, is now encouraged to take a risk. She’s been wondering whether to cut off her own hair and put the money saved from salon visits towards an online course.
When we intentionally choose to use our voice, whatever medium it may be, we are opening ourselves up to create real life shifts.
And while there are constant shifts during the COVID-19 pandemic, your voice is rooted in who you are as a person. Your perspective, truths, experiences and insights matter. As an individual, it’s paramount that you use your voice. Let your voice wield its power so that others can learn to wield their own.