If you’re Black, you’re probably well aware of what Walter Gainer II is going to share in this episode. (Trigger warning, the content may be traumatizing or upsetting to you – please take care of yourself and stop listening at any point.)
If you’re not Black – you NEED to hear what Walt has to say. I thought I knew about the issue from the general media – but in my privilege, I had no idea how pervasive and intrusive anti-Black hair discrimination actually is.
If you’re an employer or manager – you especially need to hear Walt’s stories. Workplace discrimination is insidious because it’s rarely overt. #WorkingWhileBlack is a real thing, and if you’re thinking, “not at my company” – think again.
Tune in as Walter changes our lens on how we see Black hair in corporate North America.
Link to episode transcript here.
As a racialized, recovering recruiter, I'm here to help you survive the search!
Find more support and resources, and contact me directly at: https://www.changinglenses.ca/
About Walter Gainer II:
Walter is a host and producer of Boss Locks, a show where we speak to Black leaders from all around the world to identify the range of Blackness and hear their stories of new growth. Walt’s mission is to create support systems for people Working While Black and lead the world to new growth.
Find Walter on:
The CROWN Act (to end hair discrimination): https://www.thecrownact.com/
Walter’s Facebook group to support professionals Working While Black: https://www.facebook.com/groups/workingwhileblack
LinkedIn Creators Accelerator: https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:6886299814888296448/
Buy me a Bubble Tea! 🧉👉🏻 https://www.buymeacoffee.com/changinglenses👈🏻
Please note: the transcripts attempt to stay true to the essence of each conversation, while maintaining clarity and readability. As a result, certain "filler" words, and nuances of tone, emotion and emphasis will be missing.
If you're able, you're strongly encouraged to listen to the audio podcast. Transcripts are generated using a combination of speech recognition software and human editors, and may contain errors.
[intro music plays]
Rosie: Welcome JEDI visionaries to the Changing Lenses Podcast, where we envision a way of working. That's more just equitable, decolonized and inclusive. JEDI for short. I'm your host, Rosie Yeung, a Chinese Canadian immigrant woman and former finance executive and recovering recruiter.
In each episode, we shift our worldview on business by looking through a JEDI lens. Today I'm joined by Walter Gainer II to talk about a specific form of Anti-Black racism. Now I had no idea how pervasive and prevalent this form of racism is. My ignorance demonstrates my privilege in this area. And I think it's important to note too, that when we talk about racism and when we talk about diversity, obviously we cannot lump everything altogether, as racism is the same against all people in all people groups.
And we're going to hear that and see that very clearly today, as we hear from Walt. So this form of racism is actually very insidious by the very fact that it isn't considered racism by most of the people who perpetrate it. And as an HR leader and a person who has worked in the business world for quite a while. I hear a lot of things that go under the term professional. And this is one of the ways I think we need to be very cognizant of the fact that saying something is professional or expecting a certain type of behavior or a certain type of demeanor can end up perpetuating racism. Now Walt is the founder and creative director of Boss Locks Media, and the host of the Boss Locks Podcast, creating spaces to support people working while Black. He's on a mission to raise the bar for racial equity and the way people are respected in professional environments. And in case you couldn't tell from the title of this episode and everything I've said so far, this insidious type of racism that Walt's going to talk to us today about is Anti-Black racism against Black hair. Now Walt, a very warm welcome to the Changing Lenses Podcast.
Walter: Thank you. Thank you. I'm really excited about this. Thank you so much for the invitation. Thank you all to the listeners. I'm really excited to speak to you today.
Rosie: Awesome. We are excited to have you here. And Walt, I know that what we're going to be talking about. I mean you have a whole podcast on it, so I'm glad that you're speaking out. However, I also recognize that this can be sensitive and maybe even triggering for you and for some of our listeners. So listeners, I also want you to take care of yourselves and just be aware that this may be a triggering or traumatic topic for you.
And if that's the case, please do not listen. Or please listen with care. So I also want to make this as safe and open a conversation as possible, so I commit to you listeners and to you Walt, that I am listening and sharing from a place of love and respect that your story matters and that your truth is welcomed here. So as usual listeners, you can find all the details for this episode in the show notes, just check me out at www.changinglenses.ca/podcast. And why don't we just get right going because I have lots to learn and I've just been fascinated and kind of horrified by the degree to which this stuff is going on.
Like over the last couple of years, as Black Lives Matters has rightfully been an increasing movement and people have become more aware. I've heard here and there about how women and men, but particularly from Black women, how their hair is almost like a spectacle. It's like an exhibit almost. And I was like, well, that's crazy, but I did not think it was so prevalent. And maybe Walt you could just start by sharing a little bit of your story and your experience, cause for anyone who's going to be watching the video clips, you have a beautiful locs of Black hair. I don't understand why this would be a problem, but has it been a problem for you in the past?
Walter: You know, it's um, interesting. So I started my locs in '07. I was about going into eighth grade of middle school. And once in my life that was a reaction, Oh, your locs are beautiful. Your hair is awesome. So cool. All of these things. Black people, white people, people from all different cultures, always like just loved my hairstyle and it gave me a sense of confidence as well for many reasons, you know, um, just growing up in like white environment's, my hair was always different from others and I couldn't do what they were able to do until I really kind of discovered and started exploring my own hair. So most of my life, it has been, you know, admiration and appreciation for my hairstyle all across the board, but it was when I was getting ready to graduate from college that the conversations switched from,
Oh, your hair is so beautiful to, yeah. Okay. So, you know, now it's time, you know, getting ready to enter into the workforce. You have these dreams of being a CEO, a shark on Shark Tank. That's great. You can do it all, but you're going to have to cut your hair. You know, you know they're not going to hire you with your hair in locs and it was a surprise, but also not at the same time, if that makes sense, just because, you know, I, I've never been ignorant to like where I live in the society I'm in and I knew people would have a problem with my locs. But the biggest issue is that these conversations don't just come from hiring managers or people who are racist. They also come from loved ones, people in your circle who want you to thrive and everything. And that's sometimes the hardest part. It's like the people you love and trust also say, Hey, you got to cut your hair cause it's not professional.
Rosie: Wow. Uh, You're hitting me right there when you say that. And right, like it comes from a place of wanting to care for you and protect you. And I'm sure it comes with very good intentions, but why do you think that is that people have that impression? Ooh, your hair is not professional and therefore you got to change it?
Walter: You know, fear. Fears. Uh, it's a very powerful, powerful motivator. Especially for people, you know, in your circles. And then for people who really are in authoritative positions or influential positions, it's a little bit of fear mixed with a desire for others to conform to the way they live, you know, a very Eurocentric lifestyle.
I would say for my case, those conversations that people had with me. It was kind of fear that my locs are gonna hold me back. You know, um, one of the first people I interviewed, it came out later on in the podcast journey, but he shared how someone in his family was talking about, you know, you're already Black, that's one strike against you. You're locs, that's another strike. You know, you don't want to get, you don't want to strike out. And for a lot of people, we look at it that way, you know, Or entering into this world we know as Black people that we have to be or we're told and taught that to survive we have to be the best version of ourselves possible at all times.
And because we're already Black in this white world, people already have all these negative perceptions about us. So we have to thrive to be the best to prove everybody wrong. And we could do that. But then our locs, our hairstyle, fro, braids, any, literally any type of hairstyle, whether it's natural or not, to be honest, but any hairstyle is seen as another strike against us. Another example that were not white or uh, don't meet people's standards. And so for many people, many people I've interviewed, it's interesting to come to the mindset that, okay, you know what, my hair is not a strike against me and me being Black isn't a strike against me either you know. I'm great the way I am. This is how I came into this world. My hair is growing naturally. This is what it's supposed to do and there's nothing wrong with that.
Rosie: Hundred percent. There isn't anything wrong with that. And I want to get more into those experiences, both of you and your guests, but first I have to ask some super basic questions. So apologies for how incredibly basic this is. This is again showing my ignorance. But what's interesting when you talk about you started your locs at a certain point in time. Implying that you didn't always have locs. And then you mentioned a few different terms for hair. So what exactly do you mean when you say locs? Because again, my ignorance I just think hair is hair, but you've used a few different terms.
Walter: Yeah, hair is hair, hair is hair. But this is also not a dumb question because when I first started my lock journey, I referred to them as dreadlocks. I think for the most part, most of the people I knew, called them dreadlocks. They may have also called them locs, but I always started them as dreadlocks.
A lot of people do. In fact locs. When people say locs, they usually spell it. L O C S. Um, I titled Boss Locks, L O C K S just like dreadlocks is cause when I first started out in most of my life, I referred to them as dreadlocks and many people do. And I'm not wanting to tell someone what to call it, per se, if you asked me, I'd say it's locs, but I'm not going to be like, you have to call it locs, you can't dreadlocks. And that's only because um, the first time I heard someone say that it shouldn't be called dreadlocks is my grandfather who shared that dreadlocks was something that white people called them when they first saw them, because there was fear. They saw these men and women with locs and they were afraid. They like, they dreaded it. It was dreadful. So it was like fear and in disgust at the same time and.
Rosie: So literally like, I dread seeing those locs. Kind of that dread.
Walter: I dread seeing locs, yeah. Yeah. So, and that's why a lot of people, when they're on their lock journey, they will transition into calling them locs and there's other reasons as well. And it's kind of like a little debate depending on who you ask, like where it came from, who's calling it what, but, um, I think locs is the new kind of general term, but I was going to keep it L O C K S just to stay true to where, you know, where it all started and also the K now stands for knowledge itself.
So, um, I guess for anyone listening, if you're not sure what to call it, just refer to a locs. L O C S. And, um, don't enter me into a spelling bee, but,L O C S and and you'll be straight.
Rosie: Okay. And is that different? So it braids with, is it different between men and women? Like would women have
Walter: Oh, um, so now locs is gender neutral. So it's all about the different hairstyles. So the reason why it's called locs, cause it's almost like the hair itself, like locks together. Braids are literally intertwined. There's other hairstyles called twists. It all depends on how your growing and caring for your hair. But locs are something special because it's a natural thing. Like I choose to kind of guide it into special forms. You know, some people like if you go down to Florida, you'll see people with free form locs, in abundance and in different styles and everything. Like it's, it's really cool. I think for a lot of people, you know, people have kind of looked at free form locs with a little disgust, but I see, you know, everyone coming to terms with embracing and really appreciating free form locs, cause it truly is, your hair just naturally growing in different forms, standing up, going to the side, um, just three locs bunched together. And it's actually really beautiful.
Walter: Yeah. So there's a lot of different hairstyles and it's really just about the intention with what you want it to look like and how you want to care for it. So yeah. I, I could like take this whole interview to talk about the different hairstyles, but yeah, it's really cool.
We'll have to, um, maybe do like a special. Sometimes just to really talk about the origins behind each of them. Cause there's a lot of beautiful stories, like back to like our ancestors in Africa, like the reasons behind different hairstyles as well. It's, it's pretty cool.
Rosie: Oh, okay. So yeah, that does sound like a whole other episode I'd love to dive into, but I think what saying here actually raises a really important point we need to keep in mind because as I'm listening to you, it sounds like it's all about choice. And that whether you have locs or not, or free form locs and all these other types of hairstyles that you haven't even dove into yet that it is style. And maybe I could compare a little bit to people who are not Black, who we want to perm their hair, or straighten their hair, or color their hair, like there's a million different ways that people can think about hairstyle as commonly accepted ways to style your hair. But if someone's telling you to either cut your locs or don't do locs or do something else other than locs with your hair. It's not a choice. I don't coming to me now, but I'm feeling like when you said you started your loc journey at a certain point in time, that was a choice for you. And for people to say, well, maybe you shouldn't do that. That's disempowering. That's trying to take away your choice.
Walter: Yeah, that's exactly it. It's all about choice. You know, when I started, I literally didn't even plan to get locs. So one of my friend, uh, I was at his house and his dad came home and I don't even know what inspired him to ask, but he kind of went to his room, came back. He like popped his head back in and say, Hey Walt.
And I said, Hey, and he's like, you want to try on locs? So I was like, okay. Yeah, sure, sure. And he's like, cool. And he went back and got some stuff and like, boom did my hair. And he's not like a hair specialist. Loctician. I actually don't even know why he had all that stuff with him.
Rosie: Oh, that's so awesome. That's also a great family story. Like I, I wish I had parents who could, they would have saved me a lot of time and money at the hair salon, if they could have done my hair.
Walter: Oh man. Yeah. Yeah. Shout to all the hairstylists. Cause y'all definitely deserve the money, but at the same time, it's like, oof. Yeah, doing that at home is not easy.
Rosie: No kidding. Oh, okay. So I could see, and here's a basic questions that might be out there. But I wonder if people might be thinking, oh, you know, it's only really, really old school or like the really old racist white people who'd be like, cut your hair. Start looking professional. What is your personal experience? Has your hair been a detriment to you in your career?
Walter: Yeah. Yeah. Old people or other people from like different times. They definitely are, you know very upfront, you know, they like the way it should be. Like, you know, this is the way it should be. This is professional. So they definitely, you know, leading in the way, but nah. It definitely comes from all generations. I think the first time it had to do with my career, I was at a career fair. It was in high school. And it was like a culinary type of position. And I remember the person and I was speaking to her for a while and she, you know, it was a great conversation. It's like, okay, cool. And then she was like, looking at my hair and was like is hair going to be a problem? Like you cool with cutting it? And I do remember at the time just saying, yeah, you know, it's just hair, but I also remember just saying that to say it, just cause it was like, I mean, interviews going well, I'm just going to say what she wants to hear. Deal with that stuff later, but, um,
Rosie: Sorry, what type of job was this you're interviewing for?
Walter: It was like a catering business. It was a catering business. Yeah. And the culinary world is like a whole different stories, like just about hair and hygiene and food, but locs aren't a problem. Like they don't inhibit you from cutting food. Even if it was, you know, they have a thing called hairnets that you're supposed to wear anyways so um, I don't even see that being a problem, but yeah that was like the main kind of deciding factor whether or not I was going to get it or not. Was if I was okay with cutting my locs. And, um, I think later on I ended up getting a job at Jimmy John's in the food industry. Well, they loved me. They were going to make me a manager, but I was going away to college. But everything was fine except when the corporate inspection people came down to grade the restaurant and everything, and, you know, our store actually did really well, but we always got marked off for like grooming.
And at first we weren't really sure what it was, but there was me and one other person with locs, and then we kind of realized that, oh, their talking about us. So um, like the managers really could have fired us and they didn't. So at the time I felt like they were supporting us, but really they would just ask me to come in later after they left or not come in that day.
And later on, like this isn't like a huge form of hair discrimination, but it does show how, you know, a lot of people don't actually support Black people in the workplace. Cause, um, that could have been something where you're like, Hey, no, this is our star employee. His locs do not inhibit him from performance or the satisfaction of the customer.
They decided to be like, oh yeah, no, just go on the corner real quick and then come back. So it's like a minor form of it. Well, maybe not minor. I'm learning to really stop downplaying. Still in process for me. But people have had all different forms of hair discrimination.
Like there's plenty of situations where, you know, a lot of Black people, you know, you get this feeling like this isn't going the way it should be, but it isn't someone being outright racist, you know, there's a lot of different microaggressions. Sometimes there's unconscious bias as well.
So sometimes it's hard to pinpoint it to here, pinpoint it to complexion, culture, um, it's a very, challenging thing to navigate, understand and pinpoint.
Rosie: Yeah. And this is also where they talk about micro, but not micro. When you were describing your experience at Jimmy Johns. And I'm going to add my interpretation to this, but it feels like the explanation you gave is almost your way of surviving the encounter. Where it's like, well, I guess they didn't fire me so that was them trying to be supportive. And I mean, it wasn't outright racism. They just told us to hide ourselves away in the corner whenever the bosses came in. Wow, like that is not okay. And that is. That is overt. I don't think that employers necessarily realize this, and this is where I really hope that they're listening and can clue into how things that can get justified.
It's not justifiable, but it has been that way so far. And we really need to wrap our heads around the fact that it's not okay to tell anybody to go and hide themselves away because the CEO or whoever's coming in and they're not presentable. Like what about it? What about your hair did they somehow justify as you're not groomed properly? Do you even know?
Walter: I feel like they had something in their policies about hair specifically for men. It might've been a length thing, um, but they, they had something in their policies that allow them to basically take points away from the company and before I go on there, you mentioned something about surviving and I think a lot of Black people are taught to survive.
A lot of people from all different marginalized communities are taught to survive. And it sounds awful, but it's also been, you know, great. A lot of people have thrived from surviving. And survive for so long that they associated with thriving when it's not really. It's just surviving. It's literally below the bare minimum of what, um, it is to live peacefully and happily. And that's part of my ambition, is really get people to thrive. But yeah, I think at Jimmy John's, it may have been a length policy for men. And often times when men end up experiencing hair discrimination is when it comes to the length, um, women have so many different ways that they experience hair discrimination, but for men, like there was a student at school in Texas who was suspended. Not because of grades or behavior or anything, but just because his locs were longer than the required length for men. And that's a whole different type of standard. And really it kind of inhibits people from really exploring themselves as well, because um, I think a lot of people think their men should not have long hair and that's kind of ridiculous as well kind of just forces you to be in this very perfect box of what it is to be a man as well. Like a lot of kids get teased and get called a girl because they have long hair and everything, but it's kind of ridiculous. And then they have laws that kind of back that up as well. So it's like, oh, your hair's longer than that. No that's not okay, you know, you acting like a girl or something like that, and then they're suspending you. Um, So, you know, hair discrimination comes with so many different forms and attacks a lot of different parts of what it is to be a human being.
Rosie: This is also why I'm so glad you're here today and why you have a podcast about this because yeah, there's, there are definitely a lot of biases and ways that women are put down about their hair, but we don't talk about the men's side of things and particularly for Black men. Okay. Here's something I'm wondering about. I've heard stories from the diversity and inclusion community about Black women who have their hair touched, or people asked to touch their hair, or don't even ask to touch their hair. Like white people doing that, I don't think any Black woman would touch another Black woman's hair, just because. How about for you as a man? Like has anyone ever tried to just touch your hair or do something like that for you?
Walter: Oh, yeah. All the time really. Um, a lot when I was younger. And when I was younger, I didn't have the same perspective as I do now. So sometimes I'll be like yeah, it's fine. And then other times I felt like I didn't have really the words, you didn't really know how to navigate it. Just a lot of insecurities there. So, yeah, I couldn't even count the number of times it happened, but yeah I've had people touch my hair and be like, oh, it's just like carpet or just like all these different like reactions. But, um, yeah, people feel really comfortable just walking up to you like it's an exhibit or a petting zoo or something like that. And just like digging their hands in. For a lot of people, it's kind of a tricky thing to navigate. And there was this video floated around Twitter last year, and I'll never forget it because like the look in this woman's eyes, um, she was at work. She had a fro, and there was someone. You could tell, she was like a powerful figure in the office, a tall white woman who started like touching her hair and she was like, oh wow, she's looking around the office. Like everyone, come check this out, look at this. And she's just kind of sitting there like, ugh. And yeah, it was like someone just found this exotic animal in the wild and wanted to pet it and, you know, pick it up and care for it. And it's like, it's really disgusting. And just shows like, you know, at that moment, they didn't really treat her like a person. She was just an object.
Rosie: Right. Okay. What do you think about this? I don't believe in this, but playing devil's advocate because I've also heard some stories from actually white women who have gone to a different country. Sometimes a country in Africa, sometimes a country, it's in South America where they might be the first white woman that in that location has seen and, you know, a blonde woman who is like, oh, I know I've gone somewhere and then the children just like, oh, they were so amazed by my hair and they just want to touch it and kind of pet it. And that's okay. That's just because it's new and it's novel. So what's the big deal kind of thing. It's not because you're Black. It's not because I'm white. It's just that people find it interesting so that's okay, right? What do you think about that as a justification?
Walter: I like that. Um, it is interesting. That's, that's been part of the reason why I in the past I let people touch it because it was new and no one ever really experienced that before. And I was like, yeah, you know, I like to teach people and share, you know, things about me I guess. And people have questions always, usually cause the answering them. But I'll say for me or, or a Black people in America, oftentimes it feels like a power dynamic. And that's really where a lot of discrimination and racism takes place. It's really like a control. Removing choice and power. And like back to the example of the woman in the video. She looks super uncomfortable and didn't feel like she could say no. So for me it's not even about the question, like I'm not necessarily offended if someone asks to touch my hair, um, I don't want them to now, and that's my choice, but it's all about like, think the choice that you mentioned before. If that's someone's choice. It's like for a white woman in Africa, you know, it sounds like that that could be their choice. But, um, yeah, I think across the board, I wouldn't recommend anybody just go up to someone and put their hands on somebody. That's an invasion of someone's space.
Rosie: Yeah, when I heard the stories about people who had their hair touched with, or without permission, and I say permission in air quotes, because I don't think there is always a choice to say no, I don't know the law on this, but I feel like that is harassment. Like if someone came up to me, it's like, I'm going to touch any part of your body, including your hair. And I don't really have free choice to say no. That is not okay. That is not okay. And I don't understand why people would think it's okay. Just because it's oh, it's I'm not hurting anything. It's a spectacle. Therefore, I want to enjoy the spectacle.
Walter: You know, I always like to say, I like talking about hair because I feel like it's a gateway or a door to really talk about a lot of different things like harassment. Like, I don't know why, but a lot of people don't really talk about hair discrimination or don't specifically say hair discrimination is harassment, you know, especially cause like, besides just putting someone's hands on you, there's a lot of additional comments that come with it that are direct harassment to like other things basically with women.
Well, for men too actually. For men too. Across the board, um, yeah, it's, you know, when people see me, whether it's fear or any other type of emotion, it's, um, amplified when I have locs. Compared to, if I didn't have locs, you know, they just see me as a Black person with natural hair. It just brings out a lot of different inner thoughts and biases and perspectives along with it.
Rosie: Yeah, that's an interesting point too, because I think you raised that very poignant issue before about where the term dreadlocks even came from. And whether or not it was started that way, having the word dread in there is already enough to raise some pretty negative connotations, right, about the hair.
But I'm trying to think back to this idea of, well, it's not professional to have dreadlocks or braids, or like long, natural Black hair. Where might that have come from? And I was really trying to think about this before we started recording this episode of what I've seen from Black people in positions of executive power, like people at the heads of corporations or just in some kind of leadership role. And there aren't very many, first of all, which is the problem and therefore there's not a lot of examples, but even on TV shows now. Okay. I'm old. So I grew up with the Cosby Show. I know that's a very bad example nowadays, but I don't recall very much natural Black hair or certainly not dreadlocks for the people who held professional roles. And maybe that's also like the people with dreadlocks on TV or in movies tended to be the gang members or rappers or things that I guess in a corporate setting would not be considered professional, which is probably contributing to the problem and the bias against well, that hair is not professional.
So you started with explaining that you didn't see a lot of examples yourself, but growing up or now that you've been doing this work. Who are your role models for this? Are there any role models for other young Black people who are like you and wanting to do something and fully capable, but might be actually held back by their hair.
Walter: Yeah, that's a good question. Um, because you're right. A lot of people, what they see is kind of what they believe know? So like, cops was a humongous show in America. I don't know if it reach other countries.
Rosie: Yeah. I remember cops.
Walter: Oh, you did? Yeah. Yeah. So like a lot of people, you know, they base their idea of what it is to be Black on that show or you're right. Even on a lot of like prominent Black shows, you know, you don't always see natural hair. You do see it, but not always as much, um, there's one show in particular, actually that I think did a really good job. It was a Living Single. And there were two people with locs in that show and they actually had an episode where they touch on hair discrimination. Um, it was actually really interesting the way they did it, right. So, um, he was looking for a promotion and everything. And you know, he had a great presentation, he killed it, but he didn't really get the reaction that he anticipated and get that direct promotion. And there's another Black person who is a little higher up was like, yeah, man, you know, your hair is going to be a problem and everything. And um, he kind of sat with that and he really did consider cutting it. But then what was really interesting is that he kind of just stayed true to himself, did not cut it. And he ended up getting the promotion and the white people who were in charge actually didn't have a problem with his locs; it was the other Black person there. So it's not always, oh, white things. Sometimes like the fear that Black people have that, oh, you know, I know what it's like here, you know, you may not make it. You really have to kind of follow this past, got to keep surviving. Sometimes we keep ourselves back as well.
So there's a lot of different just like role models that show you to go after what you want to do and like grow your hair the way you want to. And then there's a lot of other role models were like, oh, you know what, you know, keep it safe, play it safe as well. So there's a lot of different, uh, contradicting lessons.
And that's actually why, you know, I wanted to start Boss Locks cause you know, a lot of people who I do see who are successful locs all over the media are entertainers, athletes, you know, Jay Z I think is one of the best role models, but still at the same time, he got to where he is because of music and entertainment.
And sometimes we don't always see the people who are thriving without going through the entertainment path first. That's where I wanted to highlight so my very first goal with Boss Locks was to find all the Black CEOs with locs and highlight them, celebrate them, apply them. And that's, you know, most of my guests are specifically people, Black people with locs, men and women, because I wanted to show, not only to, you know, hiring managers, the world, but specifically the Black people, like yo, we really are out there. We really are here just living the life we want to live, you know, redefining professionalism and showing that we could do this and more, you know, with locs, without locs. Whatever we choose to uh, portray ourselves, it could be done.
Rosie: That is awesome. Like fist bump. Absolutely. Uh, What's a memorable moment or story for you from, from one of these people that you found that have been on your podcast, but someone who's making it with locs
Walter: That's a good question. Um, I think the first memorable one is one of the first interviews I did with Dr. Abbassi Bomani the second episode in the episode queue on Boss Locks and each interview is not just about me highlighting people, but I'm on a journey myself to really discover, you know, how to navigate settings and really to be yourself unapologetically.
And he shared something that was kind of new to me that, you know, a lot of people react negatively to your hair or really to you being Black in general, but that's not a you problem. That's a them problem. That's their own insecurities coming out. And that was a really beautiful message. And I really, really loved that.
And that really stuck with me at that time as well. Because a lot of times we feel like we have to change ourselves to make other people feel comfortable. We're taught that as part of surviving But that's, that's literally just surviving. You could do that and you know, you'll, you'll, you may be successful, but also at the same time, you're still Black.
So if they have a problem with your hair, they're more than likely going to have a problem with you being Black as well. But that's not your problem. You can't just go above and beyond to change that you can, but that's your choice. And so he's really sharing. He was really sharing that, um, if it comes to that and you really feel like that's the way they are. That's their perception of you. Then you don't have to work there, you know, find somewhere else to work. And that's really stuck with me. I think we, we oftentimes feel like, you know, where we are, it's a place that we have to be, you know, we made it there. Let's just stick it out, keep your head down and keep moving.
But I'm a big fan of quitting your job. You know, if that setting isn't right for you, you need to leave because we spend most of our lives at work or at school. And, um, to deal with that negativity. We may think we can handle it, but it's going to negatively affect us the way we perceive ourselves and others as well.
You don't even know how it's going to come out, maybe not immediately, but if you decide to have children, you may end up impacting them and how they perceive themselves so it's really is like a hair. It's a, it's a small thing that has a humongous impact.
Rosie: That is such an important message. And honestly Walt this is the one of the ways that you are a role model for me, cause we found each other through LinkedIn, but one of the things that really drew me to wanting to know you better was the authenticity that was shining through. And I hear it now and what you're saying too.
And it was totally recognizing that again, because we live in such a broken world. People may just be in a position of truly surviving. It is literal day to day survival, and I totally respect and honor that and you gotta do what you got to do. I hope that with Black Lives Matters starting to take a hold and messages like yours coming through; that there will be more choices than we maybe realize, or that we've had in the past for people to be able to leave a bad situation and may not feel that bad because we're just so used to it, but it's not acceptable. And what you said there too, about if they're not okay with your hair, they're not okay with you being Black. That is powerful. Employers, I hope you're hearing that too, because you may think it's just about their hair and they can take care of that and then everything else is okay.
If you're not okay with their hair, you're not okay with them. And so it isn't going to be okay ever, cause there'll be something else. And this, I'd love to hear more from you on this, like what you said before too about maybe not what you said before, but kind of even what you hinted at around, hair's just the beginning.
There's so much more that is wrapped up in working while Black. Yeah, there's too much to talk about, but just some, maybe some advice. Cause I do think you're a role model for people like the fact that you're saying this. Do you have any advice you'd like to share for other people coming through and working while Black? Like from your journey, what you've learned? What might you want to give as advice?
Walter: You know, um, the first thing that popped into my mind was that, you know, you're, you're not alone. And that sounds, you know, corny and all this stuff, but truly like I started asking questions cause I didn't know how to navigate my own professional journey. And it was recommended that I start documenting it. And I was like, why? No, one's going to care about this. And um, as I continued on, I realized just how much people care. And that it's not just a me thing, people experienced this literally all over the world. And I think one thing that the Black Lives Matter movement did for me was actually seeing that people are facing very similar obstacles all over the place, the UK, Africa, Asia, literally all over the place. And that was like really cool cause I got to see everyone from all of the world kind of talking about some similar issues and it made me feel a bit more okay with what I was experiencing as well.
So my advice after kind of sharing, you're not alone is to really go out and speak to people about the things you're experiencing, because sometimes we don't, we kind of carry it within ourselves. We may mention it to some people, but you know, if you're dealing with a negative situation, that's not okay. And I think for a lot of people, we don't have the support, you know, we don't know how to leave and go after another job, or we don't know how to uh, create a work environment for ourselves that actually matters. Like how do we address our managers or coworkers to deal with these things. But I think the biggest thing is that you're, you're not alone. You really don't have to do it yourself. There's literal professionals like I interviewed someone named Mac Alonge, and he has a business based in the UK where he goes to companies to really, um, helps to reduce any unconscious bias and hiring decisions. And he's someone who can go to CEOs and be like, Hey, yeah, this is racist, you know, you're discriminating and you're excluding people or like I think we connected based on something you did with the winners group or the inclusion solution and that that organization, that's what they do as well you know. Helping companies kind of change their work environment and you yourself, you know, you're someone who kind of helps to create actual inclusive environments as well. So you're not alone and there's people who are out there doing the work and you don't have to solve racism at your company. In fact, if you feel like you do, or people are asking you to. They need to pay you because that's a lot of work. It's challenging. It's not in your job description and it's a little disrespectful as well.
So you're not alone and support systems and community are definitely the way forward. And that's part of what I want to create with my show and the working while Black community coming into LinkedIn.
Rosie: A hundred percent. I could imagine this whole, you're not alone, I'm picturing people listening to you right now, be like, yes. And how can I talk to you more about this Walt? What is the best way for people to get in touch with you if they want to follow up with you?
Walter: Good question. So I recently got the opportunity to join LinkedIn's creator accelerator program. And so I'm actually going to be living on LinkedIn for like forever now. And, um, so find me on, I guess, LinkedIn by searching Walter Gainer II with you know, two I's at the end of Gainer. So I'll be there. Message me. I love meeting new people. So even if it's just like a stupid message, like, Hey, just say, hello. You know, I love, I love meeting people. You know, there I have a community, a working while Black group on Facebook. So if you searched Boss Locks, working while black you'll find us there, it's just, you know, LinkedIn is open for anyone, everyone, but the Facebook group is specifically for black people. It's a kind of a safe space for us just be ourselves. And, um, yeah, literally anywhere you find me, whether it's on Instagram, Twitter, just say hello, say hello. I love meeting new people. You don't have to say anything impressive or hilarious. If you have a joke that's cool. But you know I just. Just say, Hi, Say Hi.
And folks, if you couldn't quite catch all that through just listening, don't worry. We have everything in the show notes for you, and you can find that on changing lenses.ca/podcasts. So you'll be able to get in touch with Walt and that Facebook community sounds amazing. It is so important to have a place for your own people where you can talk about the stuff that you don't have to explain to others because they don't get it.
You just instantly get it. I'm so glad that you have that offering for people; another way that I think you're just leading the way and sharing and giving of yourself. Walt, this has been amazing. Before we wrap up, I wonder if there is something you could leave with us especially for people who are not Black, me included. A way that you'd really like us to change our lens on how we see. Black hair and people working while Black.
That's a good question. I think it's like stop expecting Black people to be; just whatever your expectations of them are to know everything about Black Lives Matter to be able to just immediately like, share why what's wrong with the world. What should we do as white people to fix the world? We don't all have the answers. We're for the most part, just living and get discriminated against us while, you know, walking into the gas station or just trying to apply for a job. So not all Black people have the answers and that's okay. And if someone is kind of standoffish, you know, that doesn't mean they're aggressive or anything like that either. Sometimes they may be kind of intimidated by you and the way you're approaching them. So I think kind of checking the way you're approaching Black people, speaking of Black people and your expectations, you know, that that's your expectation and that's okay that you have them, but that's your own and is not required for Black people to meet those uh, thoughts and perspectives. So that's, what's kind of popped in my head, you know, I think that's the lining message. We oftentimes kind of project our own thoughts onto others, but we need to start to, acknowledge our own projections and it's just unhealthy all across the board for yourself and for that person as well.
Rosie: Walter, thank you. I'm just sitting with that for a minute because it links to something you said earlier for me around are people really hearing and seeing you, or are they just hearing what they're projecting onto you, but it's their issue. It's not your issue. So, wow. Just yet another amazing golden nugget that you've left us with today in this episode. We could probably do 50 more of these and you would have something new and wonderful to say each time. So folks, if you can't get enough of all, just like, I can't get of him. Please go and subscribe and listen to his podcast, Boss Locks. It is fantastic. And again, full of more, not just his stories, but many, many more stories. If you thought that this is just a few incidents, it is not, you're going to be surprised. And hopefully be inspired to change because of the stories that you hear. So definitely check that out. Walt, thank you so much for being you today; so giving of yourself so openly and being willing to share these stories that is not only opening my eyes and changing my lens, but hopefully inspiring other people and just encouraging people that there is hope. That working while Black is not the same today as it was yesterday. And hopefully it will be different as well tomorrow in a much better way. Thank you for coming.
Walter: Thank you so much. I just got to say like, you, you really are a great podcast host and I really thank you for just bringing everything out of me as well. And thank you all to the listeners as well. I really appreciate you taking the time to listen and can't wait to hear from y'all.
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Rosie: That’s a wrap! This episode of Changing Lenses was produced and hosted by me, Rosie Yeung, with associate production by William Loo, on land that was taken from many Indigenous nations, including the Anishinaabe, the Huron-Wendat, the Mississaugas of the Credit, and the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. Today it is still the home of many diverse First Nations, Inuit and Métis people, with whom I seek to reconcile by learning the true history of colonization, including things that seemed legal and honourable – like treaties – but were often marked by fraud and coercion. I’m Changing my Lens by learning to see land, creation, even business and economy through Indigenous worldviews. And I’m making new friends and building relationships with Indigenous neighbours, cousins, aunties and uncles, in a genuine desire to know, love, and honour them, and live together in peace.
This podcast is one way I’m sharing what I learn to help settler-immigrant folks decolonize our thinking, and respond to the Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Miigwetch, 多謝, 謝謝, Merci, and Thank You.
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