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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I wrote these words for everyone who struggles in their youth.

Who won’t accept deception instead of what is truth.

It seems we lose the game, before we even start to play.

Who made these rules? We’re so confused. Easily led astray.

—Lauryn Hill, “Everything Is Everything”

Not Getting Trumped: Randal’s Nationally Televised
“Black Faces in White Places” Moment

It had all come down to this moment: Onstage at New York’s Lincoln Center, on live television with millions of people watching the possibility of me, Randal Pinkett, being chosen as real estate mogul Donald Trump’s next Apprentice.

It was the fourth season of the NBC hit reality show The Apprentice, and Trump would ultimately choose one person, out of eighteen candidates—selected from more than one million applicants—to work for The Trump Organization. At stake: the $250,000 prize and the opportunity to be part of a renowned company that runs—in addition to real estate—gaming, entertainment, media, and educational enterprises.

The competition was whittled down to Rebecca Jarvis—a financial journalist who had previously worked for a short time in investment banking and trading—and me.

I believe Trump’s choice should have been clear. Each week on The Apprentice, teams were charged with tasks under the direction of the team member selected as project manager. As project manager, I was undefeated, while Rebecca had a record of one win and two losses. When other project managers had a chance to choose team members, I was picked far more often. Rebecca was twenty-three years old at the time, and just beginning a career in business journalism. Ten years her senior, I was running BCT Partners, a multimillion-dollar consulting firm, and had already founded four other companies. Rebecca did have great education credentials, having earned an undergraduate degree from the prestigious University of Chicago. Still, my academic experience included five degrees, including an MBA and PhD from MIT, and a Rhodes Scholarship to attend Oxford University.

But this was reality television, and things turned on the unpredictable, so I was prepared for almost anything to happen. The final show of the season was a two-hour live event. Our final tasks, the outcome, the boardroom evaluations, and the debriefing of our team members had been taped and aired. It was time for Trump’s choice.

For those of you who missed it, or need a refresher, here’s how those final seconds went down:

Trump said, “Randal you’re an amazing leader. Amazing. Rarely on this...(Applause) Rarely have I seen a leader as good as you, and you lead through niceness. I mean, you really lead through example, and I think you’d be the first to admit that, Rebecca. People follow Randal whenever there’s a choice—we want Randal—I mean it just happened four or five times. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.”

Then he declared, “Rebecca, you’re outstanding. Randal, you’re hired.”

I leaped out of my chair, did a bit of an end-zone-esque celebratory move, and was embraced by several of the previously “fired” Apprentice candidates. My family and friends in the Lincoln Center audience and a group at a party in Newark, New Jersey, cheered my victory.

Then, the “moment.”

My celebration was stopped short when Trump’s voice called over the applause and well-wishes.

“Randal. Randal. Randal. Randal. Randal,” Trump said. “Sit down for a second. I want to ask your opinion.”

I took a seat at the “boardroom” table next to Rebecca.

Trump continued: “You two were so good, I have to ask your opinion. What do you think of Rebecca? If you were me, would you hire Rebecca also?”

I thought, Is he serious? Apparently he was, and I was insulted and angered. No previous winner had ever been asked that question before. That marked my nationally televised “Black Faces in White Places” moment.

—Randal Pinkett

w   w   w

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 are the only Black in your predominantly white high school and have been asked to speak to the student body, as if you represent the entire Black community. Perhaps you serve as the founder and CEO of a Black-owned business that constantly has to prove and re-prove itself to the marketplace while larger firms are allowed to fail without any repercussions. Perhaps you work for a corporation with little to no minority representation and, for some reason, your opinion seems to fall on deaf ears, while the opinions of your colleagues somehow always carry weight. 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. You’re worried that if you’re late, all Black people are considered tardy. 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 as 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. We are Protestants, Catholics, Muslims, Buddhists, atheists, and agnostics. Though small in number, there are even Black Jews. Some of us have dropped out of school and some of us have earned 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—whether it’s early in life or late, we all will have our “moment” when we are confronted with a challenge related to our race.

Coach C. Vivian Stringer and the women of the Rutgers University women’s basketball team had their moment when radio personality Don Imus decided to refer to them as “nappy-headed hos” the morning after they played in the championship game of the NCAA Tournament. But they spoke back with dignity and held their heads high as they graced the cover of Newsweek magazine and received the Wilma Rudolph Courage Award from the Women’s Sports Foundation—awarded to female athletes who exhibit extraordinary courage and surmount adversity. Coach Stringer and her team “redefined the game.”

Olympic speed skater Shani Davis had a moment when he was unfairly criticized by a white skater (who had previously lost a race to Davis) for not being a “team player” when he chose to participate in an individual competition over the team event: an educated decision that was actually as much (if not more) for the benefit of the team than for himself, since Davis had never practiced or participated in the team event. But rather than submit, Davis stood by his decision and redefined the game when he became the first Black athlete to win a gold medal in an individual sport at the Winter Olympics.

Cathy Hughes had her moment when she realized the inherent limitations of remaining at a white-owned radio station, WYCB. Though she had faced thirty-two rejections before a bank granted her husband and her a loan, she persevered and redefined the game by creating Radio One, the largest radio broadcasting company targeting African American and urban listeners.

And perhaps the most stunning “Black Faces in White Places” moment of our time: Barack Obama making the bold decision to run for the presidency of the United States when many, including prominent Civil Rights leaders, said America wasn’t ready. But not only did he win the Democratic nomination, he redefined the game by becoming the first African-American president of the United States in the face of millions of naysayers—a Black man in the White House.

What all these people have in common is that they learned the game, played the game, mastered the game, and, at that “Black Faces in White Places” moment, found themselves in a position to redefine the game.

So how did Randal perform in his moment? Read on.. .

w   w   w

Randal: Mr. Trump, Mr. Trump, Mr. Trump. I firmly believe that this is The Apprentice—that there is one and only one Apprentice, and if you’re going to hire someone tonight it should be one.

Trump: Okay.

Randal: It’s not “The Apprenti”!

Trump: Okay.

Randal: It’s “The Apprentice.”

Trump: All right, I’m going to leave it at that, then. I think I could have been convinced, but if you feel that’s the way it should be.

Randal: I think that’s the way it should be.

Trump: I’m going to leave it that way, then. Congratulations.

Randal earned the right to be named the soleApprentice and refused to be one of two apprentices. (The plural form is, of course, “apprentices,” not “apprenti”—but, hey, it made for a great one-liner!) He asserted himself and did not allow the rules of the game to change at the last minute. In front of millions of Americans, in his own modest way, he redefined the game. And Trump never asked that question of any winner on The Apprentice again.

But you don’t have to be a college basketball player, a world-class Olympic athlete, a radio titan, a presidential candidate, or a reality TV star to have such a moment. Many others have overcome their moments, too. This book is designed to help you transcend your own “Black Faces in White Places” moments, redefine the game, and make it easier for the next generation to do the same.

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