Black People in Racist Work Environments: Sellouts or Changing Perspectives?

Black People in Racist Work Environments: Sellouts or Changing Perspectives?

Progressives aren’t the only people who have harshly criticized President Donald Trump for delivering two controversial statements following the racially charged protest in Charlottesville, Virginia, that ended in the killing of a counterprotester. A number of Republican leaders, along with right-wing hosts and correspondents on Trump’s beloved Fox News Channel (FNC), have also denounced him for presenting a moral equivalency between neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan, and members of what he described as the “alt-left.”


Fox News Host Has No Regret Firing Off At Trump


One of the most impassioned responses came from Eboni K. Williams, co-host of The Specialists on FNC, in a video clip that has gone viral and been featured on various left-leaning news sites like The Grio and Variety. Many fans of the conservative news network, however, aren’t happy about her rant and have sent her death threats. Nonetheless, Williams told Black Enterprise that she does not regret condemning Trump on a network that caters to his base.

“I had to say it,” said Williams. “I’d do it all over again and I will do it every chance I get it.” In wake of the backlash, she says, “I am prepared and ready for all consequences—financial, professional, personal, or otherwise—because if I don’t speak what feels like my truth in that moment, I might as well not be at the network.”

Rather, she says it’s important for her audience to hear contrary views. In fact, that’s what motivated her to begin working as a FNC contributor back in 2013.

“When it comes to being a person of color, particularly in my case a black woman, I think it is not only our right, I think it is our responsibility to be in all spaces,” she says. “Representation matters,” especially in mainstream media and in spaces we’re not expected to be. On the other hand, when people of color opt out of these spaces, “then the narrative gets to become whatever our counterparts want it to be.”


(Image: Screenshot of Eboni K. Williams via YouTube/Eboni K. Williams)


Black Enterprise and Fox?


Although we have yet to receive death threats, Black Enterprise received a mixed reaction to a recent Facebook Live interview we conducted with Williams about her new book. A handful of people scorned BE for going to FNC, which has only 1% of African American viewership and has been infamously hostile toward black talking heads. Plus, a number of Fox News hosts have made discriminatory and racist remarks with little to no accountability. Still, Williams maintains that even if you don’t agree with the cable channel’s politics, it’s imperative for people of color to have a voice on the network.

Whether it’s Fox News, the GOP, or any other white-dominated space, they’re going to tell our story to and talk about Charlottesville, Colin Kaepernick, and all these things that involve the black narrative, said Williams. But if we don’t “make a concerted, intentional effort to correct narratives or at least provide some type of genuine black perspective and experience to these stories that will be told anyway, trust me, they will tell the story without us and it will be even more flawed, even more jaded, and even more dangerous.”




Can People of Color Change Hostile Organizations?


Joshua Clennon, the treasurer of the Black Caucus of the Young Democrats of America, says that having people of color in spaces of predominantly white conservative thought or at workplaces that may traditionally be hostile to them, is necessary, but not always helpful.

“A POC with genuine conservative views that can also speak truth to power is desperately needed for the swath of POC who are right leaning,” he told Black Enterprise in an email. “However, sadly what we mostly see are POC occupying spaces in conservative networks just to operate as mouthpieces for covertly racist and oppressive economic agenda’s [designed] to stifle progress in communities of color. Which is entirely problematic and disgraceful,” he added.

Stanley Fritz, a political contributor for Black Enterprise and the New York City Campaigns Manager at Citizen Action of New York, says that having POC in these spaces can even be detrimental in some cases. “You would hope that that person of color would be able to [deliver] a counternarrative, but if that black person is as much as an ‘Uncle Tom’ as that institution is racist, then it doesn’t really do much than just reinforce their negative ideas,” he said. On top of that, they often become designated as a black token.

“Are they being utilized? Are they being developed? Are they given a chance to grow and lead? Or are they [given] a title, [but] no power or real influence?” he asked. “It’s very easy to become ‘tokenized’—and that happens on the right and the left. Everyone’s so desperate to make sure that they have their POC quota filled that they are not actually thinking about how [people of color] will fit into their organization.”

Fritz also advised people of color working in majority white spaces not to waste their time trying to reach hateful people like the white supremacists who caused chaos in Charlottesville. Instead, he says, “we should work with the people who have common sense and let our white allies and comrades deal with those racists.”


Inclusion and Diversity


BE also spoke with John Burnett, a GOP strategist and entrepreneur, who pointed out that inclusion and diversity has a unique value that is needed at all organizations and business — and especially in politics.

“The inclusion is just as important as the diversity. We see diversity in the Democratic Party but there is very little material impact to propel urban communities forward. Why, because in order to effectuate material change in the political sphere, people of color must engage all political spectrums to mold, shape, and execute a comprehensive urban agenda that is sustainable.”