The corporate immigrant – The case for a black Google, black Yahoo, black Amazon and everything big like that; By Ngozi Bell




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Please note that Google, Amazon, Yahoo and the likes are used as metaphors for big corporations that contribute significantly to the life blood of many economies!

I believe that my role or job is to change the environment that black people encounter.  For example if they have always encountered a hostile environment then they will never feel a belonging so what that could practically mean is the necessity to create a Google-black,à Yahoo-black and Amazon-black. Feel free to flip the order, I just like the ring of this format

THE MAKING OF A  CORPORATE

But what does that really entail? Does it mean that black people cannot exist in Google, or Yahoo,or Amazon?  No it is not that, it is just that the way that the Yahoos and Googles and Amazons approach diversification is very specific. They started those spaces as white spaces and maybe on the workforce side as Asian spaces so you have what they call the model immigrants and white spaces co-existing with a majority of those spaces as whites. When it comes to other people of colour, specifically black people, there is a separation. Now to some extent some international black people like Nigerians, Ghanians etc, some of them fall into that model mode, not wholly but factually. To that end, many of those who emerge in those spaces maybe by virtue of having gone to some of the top schools or having significantly oversized exposure might get some of those spaces organically. But in general what these major multinational corporations or more appropriately these major “space owners” might do is they would say by their actions, we have a quota system literally (or at least that is the way it plays out), and we are willing to give X amount of seats to diversify or at best create some kind of a diversification process. Then within the allowance of those X spaces allocated, they bring in people of colour, particularly black people into those spaces. and many become “immigrants”, they become economic immigrants or corporate immigrants. As corporate immigrants, they resort to survival like a typical immigrant. What do immigrants do well? Immigrants learn to adapt!  In the process of trying to first find stable ground you have to  leave what you know behind. As an immigrant, at the onset, you really cannot represent your land of origin nor can you represent your new land. The same with a corporate immigrant, they must adapt without the support of familiarity!

THE ANATOMY OF A CORPORATE

The corporate is trying to assimilate the culture and mandates of their new space as quickly as possible so as to reap the benefits of their immigration as quickly as possible. So in light of that these corporate immigrants would no longer be able to represent their “lands or spaces of origin”. In addition, these spaces are unable to provide adequate resources that make the adaptation process robust. In order to participate as fully as possible, they have to give up as much of their pre-migration history as possible! So the separations start, many corporate immigrants who are people of color, particularly black people find themselves unable to expand their numbers, as they are not successful in bringing on others like them. Not for lack of trying or for lack of desire rather because of the lack of real empowerment, and the fact that there are just not enough spaces.

In addition, practically, immigrants need assimilation time, there is due process that they have to go through, because they are entering a space that originally did not have them in mind. So now in order to survive and eventually thrive, a corporate must adapt, occupy, and then prosper. It is after prospering  that the corporate immigrant might have the agency to engage the space owners, to advocate for more black immigrants . Before they have that agency, the corporate immigrant must  have prosperity (say so, clout, value etc.) and that takes quite a bit of time. This whole thing is a process better than nothing, a trickle where no flow is intended or expected!

SO HOW THEN IS A GOOGLE BLACK,  AMAZON BLACK, YAHOO BLACK DEVELOPED ?

It becomes necessary to create environments that are conducive to people of colour, black people from the get go. Environments that are necessarily inclusive and foundationally desire people of colour. That is what the metaphor of Google Black, Amazon Black, and Yahoo Black imply. Big, bold, rich, prosperous, industrious spaces that are foundationally and intentionally formatted with black people in mind. What that means is that from the get go, the principle around those organisations will desire black people. Not just being inclusive as in the opposite of excluded, but fundamentally and  foundationally spaces where people of colour are part and parcel of what the vision of the space is, and what the function of the place is. That is how you create authentic black spaces for people of colour or black people.

THE IDEAL

You could also say that in a truly integrated space you would have an environment that is conducive to all. That is the ideal. Why is that such a hard to reach ideal? Because human beings are creatures of habit,we tend to migrate towards our own, especially in an environment where supremacy, dominance, better or these comparative analytics have always been the norm.

They say it’s hard for a tiger to change its stripes, or a leopard to change its spots and it is true because these demographic and hierarchical analytics have been part and parcel of the infrastructure of those environments or those spaces for ages. The thinking of a space that is demographic neutral or type neutral is a far fetched idea, an ideal!

I will take myself for example. I have a native language which is Igbo. I understand Igbo, my speaking is not stellar but I can hold my own decently but not anything to write home about. But the key to being Igbo in all its glory, complexities and all its enablements is to be able to think in igbo. I know, I don’t think in Igbo. In some things, I can make myself think in Igbo, if it is geopolitical, if it is ethnocentric,  ethno economic you know things that have to do with me trying to engage at the level that Igbo is central to what I am engaging in. In those cases, I can think in Igbo. However, in the spaces I occupy most of the time, in real-time in the things I do often, I do not think in Igbo, I think more in English or perhaps more appropriately my American adaptation. Now, my ethnocentric nature and upbringing still informs a lot of my thinking, but my thinking is now somewhat neutralised by the way language is formed within me. For that reason, it would be wholly inappropriate for me to convene an Igbo forum and solely represent all parts. I will be out of my depth, unless I only care to pay lip service or disregard much of the culture. 

So taking that kind of analogy to the corporate spaces we are talking about, what you will realise is that it is going to be impossible for the existing infrastructure and the architects of that infrastructure to truly be able to create a neutral space that allows all to come, because their faculty, the way they imagine solicits certain criteria and that criteria completely exclude people of colour, particularly black people. 

Generally, if you ask someone to create or define for you an archetype of success that person will not look like a person of colour if they are being honest, even when they try to create a neutral image, you are going to see leaking and pouring into their perspective, someone other than a black male or female as the archetype of success

Now people are begijnning to create the imagery that allows society to see more and more black people in diverse places as emblems of success and we know imagery matters, the more we see the more we believe, the more we can imagine. So there are ways to keep moving the mindset

HOW THEY SEE 

The point though, is that because of where we are and the huge disparity in black – white economics, it is necessary to ensure that black people can be quickly accelerated, as a sort of catch up mechanism to where they should have been had spaces of import that are largely white, been more available to them. The solution is to create big, bold, important black spaces – We have to create the Google-Black, Yahoo-Black and Amazon-Black. It is sort of like you are creating this equal footing, So let us say Amazon, Google and Yahoo are on an elevated platform that is high above most corporations and economic entities. Given that those spaces are largely devoid of black people. It means that in those spaces, black people are largely left out of all the benefits bestowed on the elevated platform. So as those benefits translate to access, economics, knowledge, engagements and strategic encounters black people are non-significant participants.

So the narrative persists “in order to fully participate, black people must meet specifics standards” – standards set by the people that excluded them. In fact I was listening to Kramer on CNBC the other day and it was ironic how he was lamenting the need for black people, women, people of colour in general (except some Asians) must learn coding, STEM and get up to speed on technologies of the future to participate and not be further left behind. I know it was coming from a good place. The reality though, is most people generally see people of colour as below, behind whether for historical reasons, statistical data and measures or biases etc, the point is that there is a mindset that relegates black people to a lower tier.

EQUITY 

So given that, in order to accelerate black people to a level playing field with the people for which the spaces were originally created for (those with an unfair advantage), the philosophy on space creation must change. Now I must reiterate that within spaces not designed with black people in mind, a number of them have leapfrogged a lot of things to thrive, though relatively a very small minority. which is exactly how it plays out.

However, with people who understand the needs, the gaps, the powers, the capacities, the capabilities and the resources of people of colour from the get go; an infrastructure that understands that and installs the highest standards to support it, can be built. These platforms, commensurate to the existing but exclusive platforms create the much needed level playing field!. To engage authentically, “a bridge replaces the steep steps”.

It is easy to go across a bridge, you can slide across, ride over. They are much easier to navigate the steep steps of the existing platforms with their undulations that have to be navigated without adequate support. Hopefully the analogy has been effective. So in creating a platform that is enabling people of colour, with the right support infrastructure, the right enabling tools and on the same level as the other platforms, guess what happens? When things are on the same level then cross pollination is a lot easier, responsible, respectful movement is possible. Individuals can go from Google-Black to Google and vice versa because there is an exchange that is commensurate, equal and complementary! That is when you really achieve excellence that is equitable, robust and fully inclusive. Which is the noble goal. That is where we must go. That is what is necessary for the success of tomorrow.

A recording on this topic is also available at the links below in 3 parts

https://youtu.be/wobNCpQPabM  – Part 1

https://youtu.be/IjrSVzluzUg  – Part 2

https://youtu.be/nInG6-YOdc4 – Part 3

About Ngozi Bell

Inspiration, Hard Work, Innovation. These three foundational elements anchor Ngozi’s core belief that manifesting the extraordinary is always within reach. Inspired by her mother A.C.Obikwere, a scientist and author, she learned the privilege of living at the edge of important encounters and dedicating herself to robust and perpetual learning. Ngozi’s background is a combination of Physics, Engineering, Venture Capital/Private Equity, regulations, and business where she has managed over $1B in cumulative revenue. Ngozi is a speaker, storyteller, and writer on a diverse set of topics including AI, iDLT, ML, Signal Processing, iOT, women, entrepreneurship and more. She contributes regularly to VOA, has been a TEDx speaker and is published on tech and non-tech platforms. She is a champion of STEM, women, youth, art and the Africa we must engage. Ngozi is an adjunct professor of Physics and management with work

experience in Asia, Europe, Africa, Middle East, and North America. She is a founder of a number of a number of enterprises and host of the podcast Stem, Stocks and Stews (https://anchor.fm/stemstocksstews-podcast).

Https://www.LinkedIn.com/in/ngozibell/