Childish Gambino woke or not…

…because he has a white wife?

Childish Gambino hit the internet hard with his video “this is America“. The video went viral right away! And within hours there were countless interpretations of what every single sign in the video could mean. I mean there were a lot of opinions. Even the time.com gave a detailed analysis of all the race and gun violence references. I do not know if everything was planned but for sure I admire the effort, the intent and the impact that this video had. It got the conversation started.

While a lot of people praised Glover for his work, haters did what they do best. They hated. They hated hard. I am not talking about white haters, racists haters or rap haters, etc… I am talking about African Americans haters. Why did they hate? Because Glover is married to a white woman and he has mixed race kids.  The haters’ argument is that Childish Gambino does not have the right to speak of the African American experience because he is not experiencing the full African American experience. Because he is married to a white woman.  Who is he to take the stage an include dozens of race references when he most likely has not experienced them thanks/because of his Caucasian wife?

I may surprise you on this topic. I partially agree with the haters.  Because his partner is a white woman, Glover is not getting the full African American experience.  I repeat. I agree with the haters on that point.

I am also married to a white woman.  We have 2 lovely mixed-race kids 4 and 1 year old.  I have multiple examples of when I “benefited” from the situation.  Once we had a road trip into deep Oregon. When I say deep, I mean giant Trump billboards by the side of the road, rifles for sale between the bbq and the school supplies, a deer’s head on side of the road (I still dont understand why), deserted stores with bars on the windows..  Yup, just like in scenes of scary movies where a Black guy steps out of a car to ask for directions and gets lynched by the KKK.  So yes, when we stopped in that deserted town, my wife stepped out to ask for directions. Ok, this is an extreme example.  But on a day to day, I noticed the difference as well. In our nice neighbourhood, walking with a white wife seems to make people feel more at ease. At the playground, my wife talking to random parents seems effortless.  On the flip side, when my mom walked the street with my son, people asked her if she was the nanny – my son looks racially ambiguous, he could play a latino, tanned white or a light black kid.

I can only imagine that the difference in people’s behaviour is going to increase as the kids get older.  Picture Black parents with a Black teenage boy with a hoodie compared to a mixed family.

So I get it that some people that suffer every day from the harshest discriminations are annoyed at Glover telling a story, that someone else could tell from a more “authentic” viewpoint.  However, all the haters should appreciate the support.  It is not about who gets the benefits here. We are all fighting for the same worthy cause. And whoever supports the cause, should be welcomed, because they are woke too!

Photo by Warren Wong on Unsplash

Live my life of a woman…

…For a day and see how you feel

This is the #metoo era. About time!  And unfortunately, it may be the #metoo era for a little while. Because there is so much crap to flush out of the system.  Crap that has been there for so long that people convinced the rest of us that it is a diamond in the rough.  But like I like to say: “if it looks like pooh and smells like pooh, it is 99.9% pooh”.  There is so much to learn about how to come out with hard truth, follow through and make a sustainable change for the community.  But that will be the topic for another blog post. Right now, I want to focus on women situations.

What better way than putting myself in their shoes. At least trying. Because does not matter all my good intentions I will never feel how most women feel. My obligation though is to actively listen to their concern and be at least supportive and of course at best a change agent.

A colleague of mine has been helping, probably without meaning to. But who cares. The important is the result.  It first started a day I met my colleague after she had worked out.  She looked very happy and full of energy that morning. So I said: “working out first thing in the morning suits you well. You have a glee today”. It turned out that she wore make up that morning. Which may or may not be the reason I noticed that glee.  She cheekily answered, “You can not reduce women to the make up she wears”. I know she was joking, still, she was making a good point.  I am a big fan of Alicia Keys not wearing makeup.  Great signal to women in general. And I love what it will convey to my daughter when she is older. “It is ok to not wear makeup if you do not want to. Your body, your rules”.  So how come I made that comment to my colleague? My best guess is unconscious bias.  Not an excuse. More an insight for me to do better.

There is also a second incident where she said, she wanted to make me feel for a few minutes how it feels to be a woman. But I will keep that story for next week.

I would never do that…

Well, actually you would!

By now you know how much I love understand how people can be manipulated, oups… I meant influenced. No, really I meant what I said.  How to make people do, what they think they would not.

And this is a different take from the last post about we all follow like sheep.  It is not about getting a critical mass of people to do something, so that your mark, oups again, your negotiation partner does what you want him/her to do.  This is the art of influencing someone step by step to do what you want in the long run.

It sounds cryptic. Let me take a concrete example from the book “the spy’s son“.  The most famous US double agent.  He is not only famous for all the intel he gave to the Soviet Union during the cold war, he is infamous for having convinced his son to continue spying for the Soviet Union while he was in prison. Yes, this guy would never get dad of the year award and must be seriously twisted.  What needs to be unpacked is how did he manage that.  He is in prison, and his son who comes to visit him in prison, and knows that his dad is in there because of spying on his own country, would nevertheless continue spying for the Soviet Union.  How did he do it? He did not say “you will pick up where I left it”.  Instead, he first asked his son to do something small, like sending a postcard to an address in the US, then it would be to pick up an envelope, then it would be to transport a small package, then he would start receiving money and before the son realizes it, he would have meetings with the head of the rezidentura (the Russian spy big boss). If you asked the son “give this secret message to a chief Russian spy” most likely the answer would have been “hell no”.  But asking a small, innocent looking favour for his dad, what kind of son would say no…

The reality is “what separates honest people from not-honest people is not necessarily character, it’s opportunity” says Dan Ariely, a professor of psychology and behavioural economics at Duke University in his book The Honest Truth about Dishonesty.  Because behind big lies are a series of small deceptions.  Some people may take advantage of this bias with people to lead them step by step.  My personal opinion is that the saying “this is a slippery slope” may well come from that bias too. Watch out and use with care.

We all follow like sheeps

How to use it in negotiations

Grandpas do not graffiti on walls in their neighbourhood. But what would it take for them to? Yes, you read right. Spoiler alert, the answer is not “this is impossible”.

One of my idol, Malcolm Gladwell, has the podcast called « revisionist history ». In one episode he talks about the threshold for someone to do something that looks “ridiculous”. Let’s go back to your grandpa. If he sees enough people doing graffiti on the walls in the neighbourhood he will go and do it. Why? This is how we are wired, and this is how we survived for so long. If cavemen/women saw one of them eat a berry and die, they would not go and eat the same type of berry. In a similar way, if your grandpa sees everyone tagging walls in the neighbourhood and nothing bad happen to them, eventually even the most rule follower grandpa is going to follow. The key for this to happen is to understand what is the threshold. The threshold is the number of people who have to do something before you do it. This is also what people call the sheep following mentality.

But how do we use it in negotiations? How do we use it to influence people? It is simple, find out how many people it would take to do something to convince the one person you want to influence to also do it. Sounds easy right? The tricky part is the how. This video is funny and very instructive.

Someone who seemed totally crazy at first then becomes normal when everybody joins in, and suddenly the ones not joining are looking odd.

When doing good leads to more good…

…and when it does not

What do Jackie Robinson and Barack Obama have in common? There both were first. Both first opened a door that was previously locked tight. The first Black player in the Major League Baseball (MLB) in 1947 for Robinson and obviously the first Black president for Obama.  Amazing achievements. We already know that 5 years after Jackie Robinson first game in the MLB, hundreds of other Blacks player were in the league.  Jackie Robinson opened the door.  What we do not know yet is if the door will remain open after Obama.  I do hope there will be many more Black presidents. But maybe not because of moral licensing.

You guessed it by now. This post is more about understand a situation that impacts Black people and I believe is critical to understand to get what you deserve.

Back to moral licensing. This is when people in power – read my previous blog post to understand who I am talking about – after doing something that is morally right, feel better about themselves but to go back to their old habits in a heartbeat. It is like I did a good deed and it excuses all my bad behaviours for the next decade. We all experienced it at some point. This is similar to people saying “I am not a racist, one of my friend is Black”.

Moral licensing is a beautifully sadistic way to control people. Build a door, let the people you like come in all the time, and let a tiny fraction of the people you do not like get in once in a generation. It reminds me of “exclusive” night clubs in NYC, LA, Paris or London. No line, just a crowd of people all over the entrance. The bouncer picks from the crowd the people going in. You see people going in, so there is hope. And at the same time, nobody tells you no you will not get in, so you can’t get really mad. Hope that you may be the lucky one. We all know how that story ends. You do not get into the club.

I do not know how to keep the door open, other than becoming the owner of the door, building our own doors or even breaking them for good.

Perfect influencing skills, for horrific reasons

How human traffickers find and control their victims

Not for the light-hearted. Not even for the strong hearted. I am writing this post with the hope that by exposing horrific influencing tactics, people will not fall for them, and will also help people support potential victims.

I am talking about pimping. Actually scratch that word. I am talking about sex traffickers. This is a critical difference. Unfortunately, pimping has too much of a positive connotation. Somehow it is ok to have songs telling the stories of a pimp, or people calling themselves proudly to be a pimp. People even dress like a pimp! Whereas nobody, in their right mind, would brag about being a sex trafficker. And that is the way it should be. And women “working” for sex traffickers are not prostitutes, hoes or whores. They are victims.

With this out of the way, let’s dig into their practices. I listened today to an Ear Hustle podcast. That podcast is produced by an inmate at St Quentin prison in California. They talk about life in prison and sometimes dive into the story of some of the inmates. In this case, a victim of a sex trafficker was talking to an ex sex trafficker serving a 200 years life sentence. Yes, heavy stuff! He starts by explaining how he managed to commit his terrible acts:

  • Find the victim: I was sadly impressed by how smart he was and how well perfected was his approach. He explains that he would first observe. Hang around schools, and look for a specific profile:
    • Low self-esteem. He would judge that by their physic but also their appearance. It was an indication to him that they may need to feel more popular.
    • Not well off. He would note if the girl was wearing off-brand clothes; if she was wearing several times in the same outfit in a week.
    • These would be signs to him that she is a prey, and could be interested in having nice things and feel in demand.
  • Patience. He would take 2 years before he would start trafficking his victim. 2 years. You for sure have many issues if you can prepare such a horrific act for 2 years while building a relationship with a young innocent girl. But he understood that he could not rush it, and also sadly he understood that the wait would pay off. He looked at it as an investment. Buy “nice” things to this girl for 2 years, and get a pay off for the years to come.
  • Keep the victim: That is when the mind game is elevated.
    • Create fear: You may think what could be worse. Unfortunately, people can always be convinced of something worse. Even if it is highly unlikely to happen. Traffickers use worse case scenario. Because they spent so long getting to know the victim, it is not hard to find the hot button that will keep them in check.
    • Create hope: With an end in sight, victims may think they have no other choice than stay and focus on surviving day to day. And you guessed right, there is always a reason to extend the timeframe.

Traffickers are expert manipulators. It is beyond me how they built these skills. My fear is that they were exposed to the basics of sex trafficking at a young age.  And they learned by seeing. Which unfortunately is probably the most effective way of learning.  It is also unfortunate that these basic skills channeled the right way could make these people successful in the (legal) business world.

When you know more than others

and use it right

I was in Berlin last week. A fascinating city. The city of the “unruled”.   Truly a unique city with a complex history. A city that re-invented itself to be one of the coolest city in the world. Yes, you can quote me on that.

During that week, I met 3 fascinating people.  Real sneakerheads.  All in their mid 30’s with a true love and passion for sneakers.  They named themselves “the OG’s”.  I loved the OG’s, I loved their energy for the sneaker culture.  More than 10 years ago, 1 of them was an emerging hip-hop artist, another was a graffiti artist, and the last one was a sneaker collector.  After years of doing their things, they experimented with something new.  Selling second-hand sneakers online.  They started small. Just for fun and see what would come out of it.  To their surprise, the vintage sneakers were selling fast. Really fast.  Long story short, a year later they have a business.  They went from selling a few pairs of sneakers here and there to traveling every month to the US to collect their eBay shopping that they would then resell in Europe.

How did they their business become so successful so quickly? 2 things:

  • They know vintage sneakers better than anyone else.  Fancy people call it “knowledge asymmetry”.  When the average Joe decides to empty his attic and make a few bucks in the process, what he sees is old things taking up space.  The OG’s, on the other hand, see a unique pair of sneakers, from a limited edition that has not been re-edited.  That fancy term, “knowledge asymmetry” means that you can buy something for $10 and resell it for $300 because you know!
  • The OG’s are trendsetters.  Spend enough time obsessing about one thing, you will know it intimately.  The OG’s do not only obsess about sneakers but also about everything surrounding sneakers.  They understand the movement, the trends. In some ways, they can predict what will happen in the streetwear culture better than anyone else in Berlin.  At that point not only you can predict it, you actually can influence the trends.

Let’s recap.  In both cases, they buy low and sell high.  In the first place is because they know better.  In the second case, they create the value by making the sneakers hot.  Here think about the ugly sneakers trend.

The point here is: go beyond information is power.  This is only your first step. Once you have it, milk it as much as you can.  I truly hope the Berlin OG’s will continue to expand their business super fast and dominate that space.