Can a Black executive mentor a White executive?
Let’s address the elephant in the room right now.
Why, when we think about mentorship, does it always have to be a White executive mentoring a Black executive, or, Black high potential? When we approach mentoring with that mindset, aren’t we implying that Black executive have inferior knowledge and insights to White executives? Sure, White executives may have broader and deeper social networks, but does that mean they have superior knowledge and insight?
When it comes to mentorship, it doesn’t always have to be about navigating office politics, giving constructive feedback, or working on your career path. It should be about stepping into someone else’s shoes that are not like yours. This is where the true learnings are. People say walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, yet they never do.
As a White woman, regardless of whether I grew up rich or poor, I still have White privilege. I can drive down the street without fear of being pulled over. I can go to the bank without fear of not being serviced. I can walk into a business meeting and appear confident, just because of how I look. All because I am White. How do I know this? Because my business partner is Black. I’ve been in the car when he got pulled over and harassed by the police for no reason. I’ve been asked to go to the bank with him because he doesn’t have three forms of I.D. on him. I’ve seen him walk into a business meeting and be asked to get the sandwiches. All because he is Black.
So I ask him, “Don’t you get sick and tired of this?”. His response, “This is all I know. I’ve been dealing with this my entire life”. So I challenge every White person out there to put on a different pair of shoes. Get out of your bubble. Put your fears aside. And choose a mentor that is going to give you hard life lessons you can finally relate to, and learn from people outside your circle.
That begs the question for me, “If I never met my business partner, would I still be living in a bubble?”.