Statement on the Black Lives Matter movement

While it’s true that “all lives matter,” the way this phrase is being used in our public discourse is to distract attention from the voices of our Black and Brown brothers and sisters who are subject to daily fear and random acts of brutality.

No white person needs to fear that they will be stopped for getting into their own car in their own driveway because they “look wrong” for their neighborhood. The Black Lives Matter movement is a way of trying to end the mistreatment of black and brown people that began in this country from its founding and has continued through acts too countless to mention here – ranging from omissions to micro-aggressions to redlining to murder. Too often “All Lives Matter” is a way of dodging the guilt that white people own, not because we are white, but for every moment we have failed to speak out against oppression.

If you are blameless, have you never told a “black” joke? Have you always made sure that your colleague who’s a person of color gets to speak in a discussion? Have you never averted your eyes and scuttled past a black man as you pass him on the street? Have you never failed to cross the room to welcome someone to the party, the cafeteria, the boardroom? It’s not that we should feel BAD because we are white. It’s that BEING white comes with certain responsibilities, including to try to eliminate racism every chance we get. Our black and brown brothers and sisters can NOT duck racism. Ever.

It’s not just the “one” act towards George Floyd (which to be clear, was murder) that spawned the protests. It’s the failure of our nation to prevent all these acts – including dozens of unarmed black men, women, and children who have been killed by police just in the last few months. The protests have largely been peaceful and there is evidence that the looting and violence was started by right-wing sympathizers and egged on by our president.

It’s almost time for my older grandson to have “The Talk” from his parents about how to behave to reduce the chance of getting murdered. I pray that my younger grandson, now a babe in my stepdaughter’s arms, can grow up in a world that is a bit safer. I thank the organizers of the Black Lives Matter movement, and their non-Black allies, for lifting up their voices.

Here’s another way of looking at it – when it’s Mother’s Day, and your child says to you: “Why isn’t there a Children’s Day?” The standard response is “Every day is ‘Children’s Day.'” Well – every day, every week, every decade has been “White People’s Day” since the founding of this country. Now it’s time to focus our positive attention on black people. The first step is to try to get our heads around what they’ve endured. “All lives” or “blue lives” shuts down this dialog rather than opening it up. It’s a way of covering over our guilt with layers of anger.

As a white person I have been able to live in the “Whiteness Protection Program” and I can duck back into it any time I like. Not saying anything, missing dozens of opportunities to listen to my brothers and sisters about what their lives are like. The Black Lives Matter movement gives all white people a chance to listen.

Sincerely yours,
Naomi Stringfield

An app called “Gratitude”

Most self-improvement apps don’t work on me – the commercial for “Calm” makes me think a pipe’s burst, and weight-loss apps make me hungry. However, I decided to try “Gratitude” because I understand the spiritual benefits of saying thank-you. 

“Gratitude” is really fun! You can download and install it for free. It provides writing prompts and reminders to focus one time per day on something you’re grateful for. If this kind of thing is your jam, I highly recommend it. In the App Store, search for “Gratitude.” 

Making the recency bias work for you

Google “recency bias” and you’ll find a bunch of articles by investment professionals. The most amusing title I saw was “Recency bias and how it fools our money brains.” I didn’t know “money brains” was a “thing,” which may explain…but I digress.

Recency bias is our tendency to judge an entire experience (a PowerPoint presentation, your childhood, a job, a marriage, a working relationship) by the time period you remember most vividly – which is usually the most recent.

A few of us have lost our jobs in the past few days – and I’m noticing kinder and more meaningful connections emerging out of the fog. People are going out of their way to say a kind word, write a recommendation on LinkedIn, and even help each other land new jobs. Exiting a job is hard – being “exited” is even harder. And yet, as I experience all the kindness from colleagues and learn a little more about everyone’s stories, my outlook on life has improved and the uncertainty doesn’t bother me so much.

To all my work-friends, I encourage you to spend a little extra time in the office these next few days. Get in on the kindness and camaraderie that you find here – and imprint yourself and your awesome personality on the rest of us, so that all of our “recency bias” works in your favor down the road. The last slide of the deck that is “you here” is going to be beautiful.

Of barbers and plants

On Saturday, I went to a different hairdresser than usual. I had tired of all the time and expensive extras at my regular salon. I wanted $20 to be the cost of the haircut, not the amount of the tip. I used Yelp to search “cheap walk-in haircuts” and found my paradise at (name of salon redacted). 

There was no shampoo and no blow-drying; no offer of an extra $25 keratin treatment and no curling iron. Just the quiet snick of perfectly sharpened scissors and the soft voice of the stylist, Lac, who told me she owned the salon with her sister and had been working there for thirty years. The only visible “extra” was foliage – a tiny room had been transformed by the addition of dozens of well-maintained green plants, from potted plants to vines. The obligatory picture of a glamorous woman with an unusual haircut peeked out from the plants, but mostly, the salon was an understated oasis.

After ascertaining how much hair I wanted to shed, Lac said something rather formal and almost overly sober for the setting. “We are very fortunate that you chose our salon today,” Lac said. “We’re very happy that you are here.” The scissors went snick and a Fleetwood Mac tune from someone’s playlist spread itself out underneath the other background sounds. A sense of peace slowly spread out below my collarbone. In this simple sentence, Lac had expressed respect and gratitude. I felt appreciated way out of proportion to my deeds. I had no idea whether I’d be pleased with the haircut, but because Lac had thanked me so carefully, I knew it would be fine.

The haircut took about 15 minutes and netted Lac $30 including the ten-dollar tip I added. She didn’t ask me for my email address or phone number. No one suggested I download an app. Lac and her sister have no way of tracking me – and yet I will return.

This is the essence of good sales – to show your customer that you care about their business at every step of the way. If you greet with gratitude every interaction with your customer – and you are ruthlessly sincere in your gratitude – your customer will be delighted at every turn.

On my way out, I told Lac that I liked the plants in her salon. She replied: “I’m glad you like the plants. Most of them have been given to us by customers. We’re very grateful that you came to see us today.”