Black Faces in White Places

10 Game-Changing Strategies to Achieve Success and Find Greatness

 Black Faces in White Places

Authors: Randal Pinkett, Jeffrey Robinson, Philana Patterson
Pub Date: October 2010
Print Edition: $24.95
Print ISBN: 9780814416808
Page Count: 288
Format: Hardback
e-Book ISBN: 9780814416815

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A Conversation with Randal Pinkett

As you admit, you were insulted when Donald Trump asked you to share your hard-won victory on The Apprentice with a clearly less deserving white woman. Why do you believe every Black or African American can relate to your experience?

Randal Pinkett: “What happened on The Apprentice marked my nationally televised ‘Black Faces in White Places’ moment. Your ‘moment’ may not have been viewed on-air by millions of people, but if you’re Black, it’s likely you’ve had one. Perhaps you serve as the founder and CEO of a Black-owned business that constantly has to prove and reprove itself to the marketplace while larger firms are allowed to fail without any repercussion. Perhaps you are one of the few, if not the only person of color in your department, division, or even company, and feel the weight of your race with regard to basic performance. If you fail, all Black people are considered failures. But if you succeed, you’re the exception! The range of such moments is as varied as we are a people. While the larger society often views Blacks as a monolithic group, we know better. We are liberals and conservatives. We are rich, poor, working, and middle class. We are laborers, blue-collar and white-collar workers. Some of us have dropped out of school and some of us have achieved multiple degrees. We are diverse—but at the beginning of the day, in the middle of the day, and at the end of the day, we are Black. And at some point, we all will have our ‘moment’ when we are confronted with a challenge related to our race.”

Why did you write BLACK FACES IN WHITE PLACES (AMACOM; October 28, 2010)?

Randal Pinkett: “African Americans represent 12 percent of the U.S. workforce. Yet, according to some sources, African Americans only hold between 3 percent and 4 percent of senior-level positions in Fortune 1000 companies today, a scant increase from 2.5 percent in 1995. I wrote this book with Dr. Jeffrey Robinson, respected business thought leader and member of my inner circle, and inspiration from the examples of many successful Black men and women, to share strategies found to be most effective for African Americans to compete, win, and ultimately change for the better an ever-changing game.”

Would you explain what you mean by “ever-changing game”?

Randal Pinkett: “As a metaphor for the challenges facing minorities, the glass ceiling is outdated. It suggests unseen and impenetrable barriers, and it applied when we were still new to professional environments, had yet to understand their inner workings, and when minorities were not represented at all at the executive levels. But those days are now gone. Today, it’s time for a new metaphor—‘the ever-changing game.’ We define ‘the game’ as any activity undertaken to pursue personal and professional pathways to success involving rivalry, strategy, or struggle, and that are governed by a collection of spoken and, more often, unspoken rules. The ever-changing game applies to any competitive environment where the rules are differentially applied and subject to change. Unlike the glass ceiling, the ever-changing game is something we encounter from grade school to graduate school and from the classroom to the boardroom. It applies to employees, entrepreneurs, and students on the cusp of entering the workforce, as well as professionals, politicians, and professors.”

Why must Black Americans redefine the game now?

Randal Pinkett: “For years, African Americans have passed down conventional wisdom that they must work twice as hard as their white counterparts and they must go to school—preferably to a good college—and make good grades. The advice isn’t completely off the mark, but if that’s all it takes, certainly many of us should be much further along. Working hard and getting an education or training are cornerstones of success for any race of people. But today these strategies simply aren’t enough. African Americans who cling to strategies that worked in the past, without taking into account how the world is shifting, will likely feel frustrated as they progress at a snail’s pace or, worse, lose ground in the future. We must redefine the game now because while we have made tremendous progress, we still face tremendous challenges, and tremendous work remains to be done. Our communities and our country cannot afford to wait.”

Is the answer bringing more “Black faces” into traditionally “white places”?

Randal Pinkett: “No. It is more than just a numbers game and being the only person of color in a predominantly white environment. It is even more than being a ‘Black first.’ It is, in fact, about pursuing greatness in ways that leverage your culture and ethnicity as assets, not as liabilities. For every Black American, the path begins with having a strong identity and a well-defined purpose—a sense of self-determination. Self-determination is a state of being that is achieved when you have accepted who you are and embraced why you were placed on earth.”

Is the goal of BLACK FACES IN WHITE PLACES to create a colorblind America?

Randal Pinkett: “We do not desire a world that is colorblind. Quite to the contrary, we desire a world that fully acknowledges color and embraces difference, but does not discriminate based on race, ethnicity, religion, sex, disability, or sexual orientation. In this kind of environment people can enjoy learning from, connecting with, and working with people who are different from them on the issues that collectively affect them. African Americans can help move society forward by building solid relationships with diverse people across the globe, but the work needed to realize this kind of world starts within each of us.”

So, what is your goal for readers and all Black Americans?

Randal Pinkett: “Black Americans should not focus on winning the game in any arena—business, professional, social, or political. The ultimate goal is to redefine the game sufficiently to end the game itself. So, until the playing field is completely level, don’t hate the player, hate the game! As it relates to our tremendous legacy as African Americans, success is not our standard, but rather, greatness is our goal! The great figures among us have been ordinary people who have achieved extraordinary things. Honoring the legacy of the great African-American and American trailblazers who came before us means remembering that just as they walked along their path and did great things, you must walk along your path, knowing that you can also do great things.”

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