I am a black American Muslim.
These four identities each carry their own privileges, responsibilities and stigmas. Together, for better or for worse, they make people like me stand out no matter where we go in the world. In America, being black American, black of non-Christian faith, or Muslim with an American dialect has a lot in common. They all tend to make it exotic enough to keep the majority intrigued, yet weird enough to be kept at bay, if not outright hated.
Yet, as a business owner, I still find myself stereotyping job applicants based on their names and identities if I’m not intentional. I lean more conservative in how I interpret the tenets of my faith, which leads me to be more conservative in how I lead and teach my family and community. But I’ve learned to check myself when it comes to how I apply my own beliefs in the business world.
I was wondering: why does this man want to be a medical assistant and work with all women? Will this new mom be able to get to work on time every day? What lifestyle does this person with these tattoos and piercings lead?
Prejudices and stereotypes are part of the built-in fight or flight mechanisms that humans have developed over thousands of years. But discrimination doesn’t have to be. It comes back to our intention.
Thousands of years ago, our ancestors had to make quick decisions about a different-looking human because it could be a matter of life or death. Thus, our brain has developed the ability to quickly label others as friendly or unfriendly based on their physical characteristics and behaviors. Even today, as we often see in the news, locking a door or calling the police can save dozens of lives as a result of a hunch.
However, as leaders, we must intend to hone those instincts and not simply allow our damaging shortcomings to inform our decisions where we hold authority. It is imperative that we hone these instincts by committing to stepping out of our respective bubbles and learning more about people who are nothing like us. To do this, we must consume various media and attend functions that we might be the only one of our tribe to attend. For me, that might be visiting the State Capitol and talking to elected officials. For you, it may take your family to a June 16th celebration.
In his book titled Principles, Bridgewater and Associates founder Ray Dalio describes how he created the world’s most successful hedge fund. Some of the book’s less conventional principles, such as “look for people who shine” and “be prepared to shoot the people you love,” are another way of saying look for the qualities that make your business run more efficiently. in any form. They are coming. Be radically transparent about your practices. Do you only hire or promote candidates who look like someone you’d like to have a beer with?
Today, I can proudly say that some of my best employees are younger, more drilled, and more tattooed than I ever imagined when I started my business. Based on our satisfaction ratings, we’re much better because guess what? Our clientele is younger, more pierced and more tattooed.
Masood Abdul-Haqq is co-owner and COO of Peace of Mind Pediatrics (POMP), a group of primary health care clinics for families with children.