Posted on

Ahlaya Reed

Podcast Description

“My mom said, ‘Be happy you have a job, if they just tell you to clean up just do it. And I was like Mom you’re missing the point: nobody else is cleaning up after someone else’s dog. Nobody else in this company has cleaned up someone else’s shit.”

Ahlaya Reed is an Office Manger turned Full Time Entrepreneur. Black Activist, Old Oakland California Native. “I say what you want to say but cant”. Pro – Dont Fuck with Black Women. 

Transcription

00:30

Kim Crayton: Hello, everyone. Welcome to today’s episode of the #CauseAScene Podcast. As I told you last week, I am supposed to be on vacation. But you know, when there’s some shit that happens, I need to figure out what the fuck’s going on. And so I actually have the Black woman on the show today that Shannon talked about last week. You ‘member, the one that was there for a week and figured out the bullshit shenanigans that were going on at Mirror, I mean at—the fuck is the name of the company?

Ahlaya Reed: Matter.

Kim: Matter. Yeah, that’s it. [Laughs] So I have Ahlaya here, and their pronouns are she/ her, and I’m gonna start, as always, I’m gonna have you introduce yourself, and then I’m gonna ask you your two questions. So introduce yourself to the audience.

Ahlaya: Sure. What’s up, guys? My name is Ahlaya Reed. I am a office manager turned entrepreneur—shout out to COVID, low key—and I’m here to…

01:23

Kim: Oh, girl, COVID has—it’s unfortunate that our community has been hit—but I keep telling Black folx, if you can’t make no money in COVID, I don’t know what… because this white guilt is payin’.

Ahlaya: It is paying literally; I… it’s the time to get hired ’cause everybody wanna have a Black face now; it’s the time to get money, OK? They wanna be friends with Black people, this, that, and the third; OK, open your fucking purse. I don’t wanna hear no apologies, I don’t wanna hear your bullshit; open your purse and get on the front lines. That’s what y’all can do. But yeah…

Kim: Alright, well… OK, well, let’s just jump the fuck in there. OK, we always start start the show wit’ two questions: why is it important to cause a scene? And how are you causin’ a scene? And then we’ll get started on you telling your story.

02:09

Ahlaya: OK, perfect. So, why am I causing a scene? It’s pretty obvious. Racism in the workplace, specifically with Black women. Out of all my years of working in corporate America—I’ll just go ahead and throw it out there: I’m 27 years old; I’ve been working in corporate America since I was 20 years old—and the amount of racism that I’ve experienced is bullshit. And the reason why it is important for me today to give my honest opinion and to really be 100% transparent is so that number one: we can call out these bullshit-ass companies, because you’re not gonna be hiding anymore. We’re gonna fucking drag you. And number two: this is also to validate other Black women’s experience because for the longest time, I felt like I’m… OK, am I trippin’? And I was like, no, fuck that! Y’all are fuckin’ fulla shit; you’re racist as fuck; you’re passive aggressive; your microaggressions is gonna fuckin’ stop. And I’m putting you on blast today.

Kim: And so I want to talk about—first of all, I no longer call ’em microaggressions. I call ’em what they are. And this is one of the things that I did get from Kendi’s book. This is abuse. This is not fuckin’ microaggressions; there’s nothing micro about this shit. This is ongoing long term abuse. And yes, this shit has to stop. So I’m gonna… you know what? Well, first of all—I stopped you when we were getting started, because I wanted to let you know—well, first of all, I’m really tired. And so I… my friend said, “Are you gonna…” ’cause again, I’m on vacation. I’m supposed to be on vacation, not supposed to be recording new episodes until… shit, August. And she’s like, “Are you gonna reschedule?” I was like, “Oh no, this is a Black woman. I’m not gonna reschedule because when I talk to Black women, y’all bring me life.” So that was the one thing. And then you started saying you had to do research on me to see who I was and when you recognized, found out I was a Black woman, you was like, “Oh, OK. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.” [Laughs]

04:06

Ahlaya: I was like, “Absolutely!” I was onboard. I was like, “Baby…” look, listen, I was packin’ orders at like 3:00 this morning, and I was like, “I’m not missing this.” Like, this is a Black woman. This is a Black platform. We not missin’ this. Get your Red Bull—we had two Red Bulls, cuppa coffee—we’re getting it done today. OK, we gonna have a cute sleep after this, but we’re getting it done right now, period.

Kim: There ya go. And I knew that from when you sent that email, when you confirmed, you was like, “Oh, yeah, I’m ready to talk about this shit.” So I’m gonna be quiet and I’m gonna let you tell your story, and I’ll interject or add stuff as we go. But yeah, let’s hear about Matter from a Black woman’s perspective.

Ahlaya: OK, so first thing, let’s start off with the bullshit. Obviously, I killed the interview. It was supposed to be three days worth of interviews; they crammed it into one. When I was offered the position, I accepted, of course. She… Victoria Williams—we’re gonna use names today—Victoria Stein Williams was the HR manager.

05:03

Kim: [Delighted scream] Sorry! Sorry, I love this. She’s like, “We about to use names.” That’s what I say. Let’s call the thing the thing.

Ahlaya: Oh no, we’re name dropping today.

Kim: We keep skirtin’ around, we keep doin’ these whisper networks, and these harmful-ass people continue to be passed around to other organisations. People don’t know. Let’s call a thing a thing. So let’s… OK, I’m here for this. Go ‘head.

Ahlaya: Period. Like especially Indeed and all these platforms, they don’t want you to use names. Baby, we’re using names today. So like I said, when I was at Matter, HR—and the recruiting manager, Victoria Williams Stein—called me back, told me I had the position; called back again after I accepted, after I kicked three other offers, just to tell me that the role was a contract position, as in I’m an independent contractor. Rule number one: you’re supposed to mention that in the beginning of the entire interview process, but little Miss Thing clearly didn’t know what the hell she was doing. So, boop! I went ahead and accepted anyways.

So, first day, I meet Brett Hellman, who is the CEO of Matter.

06:01

Kim: OK, so I’ma stop you right there. So now this really helps me, because you didn’t come in as an employee, you came in… and so, in a week as an independent contractor… OK, there you go. I just wanna put some context, because I want—because my audience is white folx—so I want to make sure we name all the shit, so they can’t say they didn’t know. All right? ‘Cause you know white folx good at like, “What? I didn’t know.” Mm mm mm mm, no.

Ahlaya: We’re not playin’ that shit today. You’re gonna know today, so pay attention.

Kim: There ya go. There ya go.

Ahlaya: So, Brett Hellman—also that—you know, I was raised at a handshake says a lot about a person, so I always have a strong handshake. This big-ass 200 and maybe 75 pound white man gave me the weakest fucking hand shake of my life. An’ it’s embarrassing, ’cause it’s like, you’re a man number one, and you have the weakest handshake. And like, you can tell; as a man, you know how to shake a hand when it’s a woman versus a man. And it was just weak off the bat, and I just was like, “OK, hmm.” That kinda gave me a really weird feeling, ’cause, like I said, even in the business aspect, anyone can say this: a handshake [clap] says [clap] a [clap] lot [clap] about who [clap] you [clap] are [clap] and how you present yourself. So…

07:07

Kim: OK, before you go on, I wanna make sure what you just said is—we put it in the right framework—because I don’t want anybody to think that we’re being exclusionary or we’re judging men based on masculinity, femininity, or whatever, or based on handshake.

What I get that you’re saying is, let me put it this way, as a Black woman, I have been taught to—a Black professional woman—I have been taught to assimilate. That is my—I have been taught that to get into corporate America, I have to assimilate to this thing that we now know is white supremacy.

Ahlaya: Right.

Kim: What I get—now again, I’m not tryna cover your ass or anything else, I just wanna make sure we do it because I have a lot of trans and non binary folx who follow me, and I wanna make sure we’re not saying, we’re not falling into the stereotypes of what masculinity and femininity is.

Ahlaya: Right.

Kim: And what you’re sayin’ though is, as a CEO of a organization, when the handshake did not present itself as this person in this role.

08:15

Ahlaya: It did not; and exactly, and thank you for calling me out on that, ’cause this has nothing to do with gender or anything like that, and I apologize for wording it that way. It had to do with his energy as a CEO, male or female, I expected that [clap] presence to be a whole [clap] lot [clap] stronger. [clap] It’s like, are you excited that you have an office manager, or you do not give a fuck? ‘Cause clearly that handshake is like you could give two shits. There was zero eye connection; he acted as if he barely wanted to shake my hand, like I had a disease or something. So, that was the second thing that was completely off.

So, go into my first day; I’m an office manager, I dress down—I don’t mean I dress down—I dress to tha T. I’m talking a two piece corporate suit, heels, Hermès bag; I’m not gonna cap, I do it really big when I go to corporate America. Even when I dress up, period. That’s just me. And this woman had me cleaning toilets on my first day. Had me cleaning toilets and cleaning their oven on my first day in a damn power suit. Mind you, she did not mention these duties as an office manager. I’ve been an office manager for years. I have never in my life ever had to clean toilets or clean an oven as an office manager. Ever. You have commercial janitorial services for that. When I asked Victoria, “Do you have janitorial commercial services?” She said no. I later found out that that was a lie.

09:39

Kim: OK, so as a contractor, what was… I don’t play devil’s advocate, but I know there’s some people in this audience who’re like, “Well di-di-di, that’s what the di-di-di,” so I wanna clear some shit up.

Ahlaya: Absolutely.

Kim: What did you believe your role to be when you went through the interview process? Was cleaning a part of anything that you were told you were gonna be doing?

Ahlaya: Absolutely not. I have my job description. I have the posting from LinkedIn. I have my communications with Victoria. Cleaning was not a part of my duties. My duties as a office manager was to maintain recruiting, order snacks, and coordinate meetings between the VP and all of C suite. Those are my duties. Cleaning was not ever mentioned at all.

10:22

Kim: So how did you find out about that there was a cleaning crew?

Ahlaya: So, I obviously do the vendor management aspect for the company. And when I was going through all the company contacts, I looked and saw NS Janitorial, I pulled up a current contract, and that’s where I found out there was a janitorial contract. And to confirm, I made sure I asked other employees, and they also confirmed that information as well.

Kim: So, I’m pausing here because I’m kind of… my mind is like shot, because you put somebody in a role who has access to information and you did not expect them to go look at that information? [Scoffs]

Ahlaya: I really think they thought I was like dumb as hell or some shit, but I’m very observant.

Kim: But they interviewed you. But they interviewed you.

Ahlaya: Exactly.

Kim: OK. OK, keep going. So you cleanin’ toilets and ovens.

11:15

Ahlaya: Cleaning toilets and ovens. And you know, apparently there was some trash laying around, some boxes—there were literally cardboard boxes neatly put up from a desk that had been taken down. Victoria told me, “Hey, can you put a sign letting everybody know that it’s gonna be taken away because it’s an eyesore.” No problem. I literally typed up a sign that literally just said, “Trash will be removed Friday. Thank you.” She pulls me into the fucking office to tell me, “This is aggressive. This doesn’t seem nice.” And I swear to you guys…

Kim: Hold on, what did the sign say? [Laughs]

Ahlaya: The sign said, “Trash will be removed on Friday. Thank you.” And in regular font on a white piece of paper.

Kim: OK, so you don’t need to go through all that, because I already talked extensively on this show how much effort Black folx, particularly Black women, have to go through to communicate wit’ white people so that their feelings don’t get fuckin’ hurt. And so this… [sighs] OK, keep goin’. Just keep goin’. [Laughs]

12:12

Ahlaya: So, when the toilet thing happened—now mind you—so the toilet overflew one day. Someone took a shit, and I had to clean it up. I had to go in the bathroom and clean it up.

Kim: [Yells] Oh!

Ahlaya: Yup. Yeah guys, I hope you didn’t eat breakfast, because that’s the kicker. That’s the kicker; there’s more. So I was told…

Kim: OK. This is a week. You was only there a week.

Ahlaya: Only there a week. Cleaning toilets, cleaning ovens, and cleaning up shit. So when I saw that there was literal feces in the bathroom, I called a janitorial—I called Task Rabbit to come and resolve the plumbing issue and etcetera, right? So they come in, there’s a white guy that comes in, and I’m explainin’ to him, “Hey, you know, I’ma need you to have gloves because there’s feces in there.” This white man, this white man said to me, “Why do they have the only Black girl cleaning toilets?”

Mind you, the fact that I’ve noticed this as well and I didn’t say anything goes to show that somebody else thought that this was a fuckin’ problem. Nobody else in this company has ever cleaned a fucking toilet. I aksed everyone else, “So what do you guys typically do?” “Well, we just let janitorial handle it.” “Oh, but I thought you guys didn’t have janitorial services?”

It was just a whole bunch of lies being uncovered, and the fact that this man called that out—and he even apologized. He said, “I’m sorry on behalf of white people. This is not right, and I apologize that you have to go through that.” And that meant a lot because it validated that this is bullshit. Why am I being treated this way? I’m not a fucking slave. I’m not a housekeeper. Why am I cleaning up someone else’s feces?

13:46

Kim: Mmm. Whew. OK, good fuckin’ god, go ‘head. Keep goin’. Keep… [laughs]

Ahlaya: And so, of course I told you about the whole sign thing, about the sign being aggressive, but I have to come back to that. So the last thing that made me reach out to my other sources for another role was that there was this man, I think his name was Mark, ’cause there’s… yup, his name is Mark, ’cause he worked with Brett at a previous company. So Mark had his little fucking dog that he brings to work every day. And Victoria thought it was cute to tell me—the dog left some dirt from his feet on the floor—Victoria comes up to me and is like, “Hey, can you get that up?” And I’m like, “Get what up?” She takes her foot and points to the dirt on the ground and says, “This.”

Now, I think anybody understands how demeaning that was to me; she coulda easily said, “Hey,” pointed to it, “This right here.” But you’re using your foot to point to something and telling me to clean it up after someone else’s goddamn fucking dog? And on top of that, she pulls me aside again to tell me, “Hey, you know, Reese,”—which is the name of the dog—”This dog is scrubbing his ass on the carpet. Could you scrub the carpet?”

14:50

Kim: Oh, fuck me. OK, so I’m gonna stop right here, ’cause I just want to interject: Matter is a feedback app.

Ahlaya: Fuckin’ shitshow.

Kim: It’s a feedback app, people. This app, companies are using to provide feedback to their employees, as well as people are using it personally to gain feedback to help them improve professionally. This is the culture of the people who companies are using a tool to evaluate other people with. So I just want to put that in there, because tech is not neutral, people. Or is it apolitical. We need to stop acting as if the behavior of the people designing shit does not impact the shit they design. All right, go ‘head. And I just… I’m gonna be honest, I need ta take a fuckin’ break from what the hell you just said. but go ‘head.

15:44

Ahlaya: I know, I know. And when she told me that, all I could do was look at her. I hopped on my connects, set up something. So, the day that she told me that the handwriting was aggressive, I completely and respectfully let her know, “You know, this is a very attacking language, and this is very triggering because you’re saying that I’m aggressive when this is just literally words on a piece of paper. I need you to explain to me so I can understand how this is aggressive.”

Then all of a sudden she starts saying, “Hey, hey, hey, listen, I just want to see you do better. And I’m not…” And it’s just like she started playing this like, “Oh, it’s OK.” Like, “You don’t need to be defensive,” kind of thing. And it’s like, “No, you’re sitting here telling me that this piece of paper that I wrote is aggressive.” She was upset ’cause I didn’t put happy faces on it. She made me rewrite the goddamn paper, the goddamn sign, and added a fucking smiley face on there. Are we adults? Or are we in fucking high school?

[Interlude]

17:40

Ahlaya: …and added a fucking smiley face on there. Are we adults? Or are we in fucking high school? So after I called her ass on that, I already knew she did not like that, because that next day I was terminated.

Kim: And what was the reason?

Ahlaya: She said that it wasn’t a good fit and I aksed her, “So could you explain? Elaborate what’s not a good fit, because I’ve done everything you aksed me to do; I’ve gone above and beyond. I’m doing things that aren’t in my job description. I’m scrubbing floors, I’m cleaning toilets, I’m cleaning up after dogs that aren’t mine.” She said it wasn’t a culture fit. “We don’t think culturally it’s a fit.” So to me in my opinion, that whole “culture fit” shit is just sayin’—especially me bein’ the only Black person outta all these white people—you’re telling me my Black ass don’t fit in your white-ass corporation. That’s what the fuck you are telling me because if you could not specifically [clap] tell me [clap] what exactly was done that made you feel like I wasn’t a culture fit, you’re fulla shit.

Kim: Yeah, “culture fit” is the default for some… yup, for bullshit. It’s absolutely a default for bullshit.

18:42

Ahlaya: It’s a default. And the thing is, with all the people at Matter—especially with Brett, who is a sorry-ass excuse for a leader, and so is Matt, and so is Mark—you can’t hold these motherfuckers accountable for shit. You can’t point out things that they do wrong because they get defensive.

Kim: But again, this is a feedback company. So you have a leader…

Ahlaya: This is a feedback company!

Kim: You have a leadership of a company that’s creating the feedback app that other companies are using to vet and feedback other people, and they cannot take feedback. There’s something inherently—if you don’t see the problem in that, then that’s on y’all fuckin’ asses. That’s just you…

Ahlaya: You’re part of the problem if you don’t see that.

Kim: Exactly. That’s you refusin’ to see the fuckin’ issue and see why we continue to create products and services that fuckin’ harms people whether we intend it to or not!

19:28

Ahlaya: And what’s even more fucked up too is that when she couldn’t give me a straight answer as to why I was terminated, she told me she would follow up in a few days to give me the feedback, ’cause she just kept mentioning, as if I didn’t fucking know, “Hey, we’re a feedback company and we really pride ourselves on feedback.” Two days later, I followed up for that feedback, didn’t get that feedback. Victoria? Hi. If you’re watching this, you blocked me. Yeah sweetie, ya blocked me on Google, you blocked me from LinkedIn, you blocked me from text messaging, after you told me that you would give me the feedback, you would give me exact feedback on why I did not fit what the company—besides being a culture fit—that never happened.

Kim: So is Victoria still with the company?

Ahlaya: I was told that she was laid off, but, you know, I don’t know the validity of that claim, but yeah.

Kim: [Sighs] OK. So, I wanna do this, ’cause I… when did this happen?

Ahlaya: Oh, my god, this was last year… November? November / September.

20:31

Kim: OK, so let’s back up a bit, because you say you’re 27, right?

Ahlaya: Yes.

Kim: OK, lemme tell you something. So, Black people are not my target audience for any of my work. But I could tell you that I have an affinity for Black women your age because you are at the age, and this is what I tell folx, you are, first of all, the generation that was told, “Don’t see color,” you know, “Everybody’s equal.”

Ahlaya: [Sadly] “Everybody’s equal.”

Kim: Yeah, and you know, “If you show up, everybody gets a prize.” So you’re that generation. And I said it takes—particularly my Black women your age, between 25 an’ 30—to start seeing—who are now in in their professional roles, who, you know, maybe just finishing school if they went and got an advanced degree or seeking that first promotion—and this is when you’re first realizing, “Wait a minute, this shit, wait a minute. Hold on, wait a minute. Summin’ going on here. This is some shit ain’t nobody told me about. Because I came in wit’ Becky and Chad, and they’re advancing, but for some reason, I’m not. So OK, wait a minute. What’s goin’ on here? And I helped Chad with that that project, but I didn’t get credit for it. And Becky came to me and asked my opinion about somethin’, an’ she just pitched the fuckin’ idea that we talked through. OK, so wait, what the fuck is goin’ on here? It’s the first time y’all have that experience of, “Whooooa! This shit ain’t fair at all!” [Laughs]

22:19

Ahlaya: At all. At all. And what sucks is that, you know, I tried to communicate this to my mom… it’s weird, ’cause my mom and dad, they don’t understand the Black activists, you feel me? And they don’t understand speaking up. When I told her that—when I told my mother—that I spoke up to her and told her, “Hey, don’t use ‘aggressive’ to describe words. If there’s no attacking language in this piece of paper, why’re you using the terms ‘aggressive’ to describe some writing?” And my mom was tellin’ me, “You shoulda just been quiet. Just be happy you have a job. If they just tell you to clean up, just do it,” and I’m like, “Mom, you’re missing the point. Nobody else is cleaning up after someone else’s dog. Nobody else in this company has cleaned up someone else’s shit!”

Kim: OK, so let me—because I know white folx are listening to this—so let me back this up, and this is why I say I don’t… so, my audience is white people, and I haven’t said this in a while, and I have a whole bunch of new followers, so let me make this clear. My audience is white people because I have great classroom management, and it’s easy for me to set boundaries wi’ white people. White people ain’t useta havin’ boundaries. They not used to bein’ told no, and what the fuck they can’t do, and what the fuck they ain’ gonna do wit’ you.

So it’s easy to draw those boundaries wi’ white people because I understand that I am educating the oppressor while also processing my own oppression. What I do not have the bandwidth for is to process the oppression of other Black people while I’m also processing my oppression.

23:49

So what your parents are is what my parents are, and my aunts. This is a generation of, they believed that civil rights was gonna get them somewhere. And if they did what everybody else was doin’ they would advance. So they have assimilated. I have no desire to assimilate. And neither does this new generation of people have a desire to assimilate. And this is the first generation to have the technology and the community to openly express their desire never to assimilate.

So, I get where your mom’s coming from, ’cause my aunt to this day keeps asking me about, you know, she keeps talking about benefits. I’m like, “Lady, come…” There’s a whole buncha people who were in these jobs for benefits and are gettin’ shit on right now, so that’s not what I’m looking for. I’m lookin’ to change how an industry happens, and I’m not, I can’t do that with a job. I cannot change an industry if I’m in a job.

Ahlaya: Right.

Kim: So this is what I’m on, and the reason I’m breakin’ this down is because I need white folx to understand this: not only do we have to put up with your bullshit, but we have the bullshit in our community from people who love us, who want to protect us, because all your mom was probably thinking that you speakin’ up got you fired. Or you speakin’ up is jeopardizing your job? No. It is the bullshit stuff that we have to deal with on a everyday basis. And your mom, if you broke it down, she would tell you, she would say she was not gaslighting you. But that’s what the fuck it is!

25:34

Ahlaya: That’s what it is, and call a thing a thing. You’re gaslighting me.

Kim: Because…

Ahlaya: You’re enabling that behavior.

Kim: Yes!

Ahlaya: You’re justifying that behavior. I’m trying to explain to her, if you don’t stand for something, you will fall for fucking anything, and that’s what I refuse. I know my ancestors right now are like, “Absolutely I couldn’t do it. But you can do it.” And that’s what…

Kim: And I don’t shit on my—I don’t shit on people like your mom and my aunt and my mom and those people because they did what they had to do. They put their heads down and got the work done so that we could say what fuck we need to say. Right?

Ahlaya: Period.

26:07

Kim: So I get that. And so, in all honesty, there some conversations I just don’t have with certain people in my community. Because again, it’s processing their oppression while processing my oppression, and that just takes up a lot. To talk to a Black professional, a older Black—and I don’t even wanna call ’em Baby Boomers, because then you get into “OK, Boomer.” No, that’s not it.

Ahlaya: Right.

Kim: Black people who have survived—this is the first generation of Black professionals. These Boomers were the first generation of Black—en masse—of Black professionals. Before that, we weren’t—we were housekeepers, we were… it was rare to see us in any corporate America structure. So they had to assimilate to get to wherever they were. We’re the next generation, that’s like, “Yeah, thank you for that. We gonna retire that and move on to summin’ else. We need to be doing something else.”

Ahlaya: Absolutely. Absolutely.

Kim: So I want to talk to you about—and just tell me how safely you feel about this, ’cause I don’t if you don’t want to talk about it—but I really want people to unpack, I want you to spend some time to talk about if, and if so, how that experience that week impacted your life outside of that that week. Because I need people… yup, so I don’t wanna feed you, I just want you to answer: how did this experience impact your personal life?

27:37

Ahlaya: It honestly made me second-guess anybody that treated me like shit. That was anybody. It made me feel that everything that came out of my mouth was an attack to people. It made me feel that everything and anything that I did was gonna be perceived as aggressive, like I’m just some fuckin’ animal. And it really made me paranoid when I went to my next job. It’s so fucking exhausting to have to micromanage essentially everything that you do for yourself, from every fucking email that you send to you walking around the office as a Black woman in all white company? I don’t get to fucking walk around the office wit’out a smile on my face because someone is gonna feel like, “Oh, you you’re having a bad day,” or “You’re mad,” or “You’re angry.”

It really made me so paranoid of everything, I could not live. I couldn’t—I would go to work with so much fuckin’ anxiety. I will be in work for eight hours a goddamn fucking day with anxiety. I would be in meetings with anxiety. It was just nonstop that it eventually led to me having a slight depression because I just felt like there was nothing I could do that was right. Nothing I could do. Someone could say this exact same thing that I said and it’s fine, but when I say it, it’s like, “You don’t have to be hostile. Whoa whoa whoa, we’re just asking you a question.” And it’s like, “I’m literally responding.” And if anybody knows having to go through that every single day of your life, it’s fucking draining. It’s emotionally and physically and spiritually draining.

29:01

Kim: And this is what I want—and I thank you for sharin’ that, because I need folx to understand—this is why I don’t call them “microaggressions.” It’s fuckin’ abuse, because it does not stay at that job, it does not stay in even in that moment; it permeates all the decisions we make and they compound. And then you wanna wonder, you wonder, “Well, why are people having such high incidences of hypertension and diabetes, and why are they succumbing to COVID? They must… something’s wrong with them.” No. Think about what it’s like to be abused and have experienced anxiety all fuckin’ day long.

Ahlaya: Nonstop. Nonstop. Dreams about getting fired from jobs I’ve never had, just dreams about… I would not wish this on anybody. And it’s just like, when I look at non-Black people in the workplace, I’m thinkin’, “Oh, they get to do whatever they want. They don’t ever have to worry about sending a wrong email,” or they don’t have to worry about these kinds of fuckin’ things, and they really don’t fucking get it. You get what I’m saying? They truly don’t.

30:16

Kim: So this is why I say fuck equality. This is not about equality, this is about equity. ‘Cause you think about you and Becky doing the same thing, same job, right? You walk in the door with a brick tied around your ankle that you gotta lug around all damn day long for eight hours. Becky comes in wit’ wings. She gets to fly all day long. That is not equality. I need equity. I need that chain off, that brick off my ankle. I need some wings. I need all the things that… all of that.

Ahlaya: All that.

Kim: ‘Cause I just… and so I’m happy that you’re on here, because again, people understand, I don’t know where these conversations are goin’ when I start them. What I’m so happy to unpack how traumatizing it is for Black folx to fuckin’ show up to work every damn day. No one has shit they have to do—I wanna get paid, go to work, get paid for the job, and go the fuck home.

Ahlaya: That’s it. Like everything else.

KimI don’t want to be traumatized all day, every day. These are bad, awfully bad, abusive relationships.

31:26

Ahlaya: It is, and to be completely frank with you, knowing what I know now, I just wish that I wouldn’t have signed severance—well, I didn’t get severance with this last job, but this is the first of a thousand incidents that I’ve been through—knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t have signed severance, I would have fucking sued, and I would have got the emotional counseling that I needed, because what we’re going through is fucking trauma. It’s trauma, people. It transcends into our lives. It doesn’t stop there. And that affects our health, it affects how we think. And that…

Kim: It affects our relationships, our marriages, our relationships with our kids. It affects all of that shit because we’re always on edge.

Ahlaya: And I feel like Black people—I mean, I know you said your target audience is white people—well, white people if you’re finding—I know you’re finding value in this conversation—you should be suggesting to your Black colleagues, asking these questions and getting insight on their experiences, and suggesting that they get therapy. This is not something that—we shouldn’t have to just wipe it off of our shoulders and keep it pushing. No, we’re fucking human, too. We should not have to process this on our own. Everybody should be encouraging Black people who have experienced any level of racism in corporate America to be getting some kind of therapy. Because, I can tell you right now, if I would have done that, I wouldn’t be the fucking way I am right now. You get what I’m sayin’? I wouldn’t have such a disdain for corporate America.

32:49

Kim: Mhm. Mhm. And so I’m gonna back up a bit, because what I do not want is white folx to tell Black people to go get counselin’.

Ahlaya: Oh yeah, not like that, but like encourage…

Kim: Oh, no, no, no. No, no, no. I’m sayin’ that not to you, but I’m sayin’ it to my audience because that’s some bullshit they will go do, and that only makes it fuckin’ worse. [Ahlaya laughs] My thing, so this is what I see: what you’re talkin’ about is an effect; I want to get it at the cause. I need white folx to manage their own fuckin’ feelings. Y’all ass go get fucking counselin’ and leave us the fuck alone. That’s what I need y’all to do. Don’t tell me to go get therapy. If you upset because I put a goddamn sign on a thing of garbage, then that’s yo’ fuckin’—that’s a you fuckin’ problem. That’s not a me problem.

And so that’s why I wanted to come back at you, because what you’re doing is making their shit your shit. And so now you’re trying to get counseling to deal with shit that they… no, no, no, no, no, no. I want them to deal with they shit and leave you tha fuck alone so you can do the job that you was fuckin’ hired for. And that’s it.

Ahlaya: I’m here for that. I’m here for that.

33:53

Kim: Now you getting counselin’? That’s on you. But not to manage—I don’t… I do not want to suggest that Black people get counselin’ to manage the bullshit that we have to do on the job. I need white folx to take care of their own shit to go get whatever counsellin’, manage your only fuckin’ feelin’s, and leave us the fuck alone. That’s what I want.

Ahlaya: Oh, OK. And I’m totally here for that. My thing…

Kim: Because how you position it—I have this phrase and I say, “Whiteness always gets to cast itself as the hero or victim and never the villain.” I need these mo’fuckers to understand that they villains. By telling you to go get counseling, that makes them a hero and a victim, and no no no no no.

Ahlaya: No white savior. No white savior. Absolutely not what I want. Not at all.

Kim: Exactly. And I know that’s not what you wanted, but I have to be very clear with a white audience because they would take an “A” and turn it into a “Q”, and we ain’t doin’ that shit here.

34:48

Ahlaya: Period. Absolutely. Absolutely. And I think, like you said, I need you guys to get y’all shit together. I just need them to step the fuck up in corporate America; y’all are part of the problem. Silence is violence. You think not saying anything is OK?

Kim: Or comin’ to you after the meeting an’ be like, “Man, that was… I hate that that happened. I’m so sorry that happened.” Motherfuckers, you didn’t say shit when it was happening, don’t come to my ass after the fact tellin’ me you sorry some shit happened.

Ahlaya: Exactly. Don’t try to be…

Kim: ‘Cause you complicit.

Ahlaya: …sorry behind the doors. Be sorry in the fucking moment. Call that shit out!

Kim: You complicit. Yes. Yes.

Ahlaya: Period.

Kim: So I take it that you… so… mmm. So you get fired, you get another job, and yet you’re still dealing with the shit that happened, and you were only there a week.

Ahlaya: A week. Five days.

Kim: Damn, that’s fucked up.

35:42

Ahlaya: And here’s the thing too. So, at the next job, that I got literally two days after I got fired, there is this young man who would constantly say—this white man who was in accounting—you know, obviously being a office manager, I deal with finance. Hello. I work with the chief of operations, the chief of finance. I think I know what I’m talking about. And he would constantly in meetings say things like, “Oh, Ahlaya, this is gonna be hard for you. So if you mess it up, it’s OK.” Or if he didn’t get something when he wanted it, it was like, “Oh, you must be behind.” And he would say this in front of fucking everybody. No one said anything.

And it was literally like PTSD. It was just like, damn, this shit fucking happened at this last goddamn job, now I have to deal wit’ it again. Which brings me to this being—what I was saying earlier—COVID has been a blessing, because I’m self-employed now.

Kim: Yep.

Ahlaya: I am making my own—I have been able to pay all my bills, two rents, for my shop and my home, because of this whole COVID situation. And I feel like I don’t never have to look back at corporate America ever again. I don’t have to put myself through that anymore. And it’s sad, again, that I have this view on corporate America. You get what I’m saying? It sucks that I have to feel dread or even have extreme anxiety even the thought of having to go back. You get what I’m saying?

36:58

Kim: So I want to unpack that, because—I want to unpack this “helpful”, because I’m sure he felt he was being helpful to you.

Ahlaya: “I just want the best for you.” Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Kim: So let’s unpack that a bit, because—and the reason I’m doin’ this, white folx, is ’cause y’all do this shit every day, and so since it’s coming up, let’s unpack this shit. So, if I have not told you that I’m confused, don’t fuckin’ assume that I don’t know what the hell you talkin’ about. And if I don’t know what the hell you talkin’ about, just like yo ass can use Google? I can do Google too.

Ahlaya: We’re not fuckin’ idiots.

Kim: That’s some condescending shit.

Ahlaya: Obviously I know what I’m doing if I’m here sitting talking to you—obviously not to you—but I obviously know what I’m doing if I’m here; if you really felt that I wasn’t educated about something or I didn’t know, there’s a way you go about it. You wouldn’t talk to anybody—any of these white people—like that, any of your white colleagues like that. Don’t talk to the only Black person like that. Don’t talk down to me like I’m a idiot, and don’t talk at me. You could talk with me, we can have that discussion. Aks me, “Hey, do you need help?” It’s as simple as that. But assuming I’m a dumbass, or assuming I don’t get something, or assuming I’m just fucking up, is not OK.

[Interlude]

38:42

Ahlaya: …or assuming I’m just fucking up, is not OK.

Kim: Yes. Exactly. And also, there’s some conversations that you can have with me not in front of otha motherfuckin’ people.

Ahlaya: Exactly.

Kim: So, OK, so let me talk about this, because my research is on successful strategies for scaling organizational knowledge. So as I tell people all the time, we are no longer building widgets; this is not the industrial economy where you give somebody a manual, you put ’em on a assembly line and I have to make the exact same widget all day long, and it needs to match everybody else’s, ’cause this one widget is a piece that goes into a thousand different things. We’re not doing that anymore. We’re in the information economy, but information means nothing unless it’s turned into knowledge, ’cause the Internet is… we’re inundated wi’ information, but it has no value unless I can do something with that information. Right?

And so in a knowledge economy—well, in a industrial economy—that manual they gave you was explicit knowledge. It was something that somebody could document, write down, and easily share. “Hey, the manual’s here. Go online and get the manual,” right? Tacit knowledge is the knowledge that I gain as a person doing a job on how to do my job more effectively and efficiently. And I need to be able to scale—for the organization to benefit from my knowledge—I need to be able to communicate this to organization leaders so they can come up with a strategy, because this is the knowledge that helps us innovate, differentiate, and have a competitive advantage.

Ahlaya: Right.

40:23

Kim: What they’re missing, though, is while explicit knowledge in a binder is—the word that’s comin’ in my head is “benign”—it has no emotion, it’s just a manual, right? Mmm, I take that back. It could be written in ways that are very discriminatory, racist, or whatever, but it’s a manual. I can read it on the piece of paper. Explicit for you to get tacit knowledge, I need to fuckin’ care; I need to feel safe; and I need to feel welcome. That what I share with you is a benefit and you value it.

This is where we’re fuckin’ up now, in a knowledge economy, because we’re still acting as if someone… hell, “Follow this manual.” We don’t do that. And so for a company to get my value, I have to feel safe. But what happens is—and this is why Black women are the highest rates of business owners right now—is the fact that we don’t feel safe; we get shit on; we get abused; and we go… I’ma tell you, there’s many companies that’s about to burn the fuck up right now. And there’s a Black woman in the corner gathering all her documents, takin’ shit home she can… ain’t sayin’ shit, like, “I done told yo ass, but fuck, you won’t listen to me. Let this shit burn down.”

And so she insulatin’ herself, she doin’ interviews when you don’t know about it, or she’s puttin’ together her business plan. She’s doing all kinds of shit, because she does not have to deal with this bullshit. Our parents had to. We don’t. And see, this is a thing that—goin’ back to your mom—we have different choices than they did. They didn’t have these choices. So for them, this is how they had to pay pay the bills, take care of family. We have choices. We have access to platforms, tools and shit, that would be so cost-prohibitive for us to do these—I mean, just how I’m doin’ this podcast. Right now. This podcast is being done with Zoom, I’m recordin’ on Zoom, there’s somebody who uses his tools to produce it, I put it on WordPress, and hook it into a podcast plugin, and I have a podcast.

42:43

This costs me monthly. Just this part right here. I’m not even talkin’ about hosting, ’cause—hosting a website—this—I mean, I’ll even include hostin’ a website, because I get so many visitors now, my goddamn website fees are astronomical, but—to me, they are—but I spent maybe $200 a month to get this done. Ain’t no way in hell—and the bulk of that is because my hosting on my, like I said, on my website had to go up because of how many visitors I get—but $200 a month to do four podcasts a week? No, ‘xcuse me, as many podcasts—’cause once I get the stuff, it’s just a matter of me having—the only things that are harder to scale are actually the interviews and the production.

But we got a cadence for that. My person has as much of this shit automated as possible. So I can scale this shit. Our people, the generation before us, didn’t have this. They couldn’t create careers like we do. Like you said, you have created a whole thing during a pandemic, and I can tell you, my business has taken off and it wasn’t—the pandemic was the first sign—but it was George Floyd that was when white folx woke up, and all of a sudden, folx callin’ me out of the woodwork. People who talked shit about me, people who wanted…

44:11

Ahlaya: Companies who were disrespectin’ me are reachin’ out all of a sudden.

Kim: Yes. Yes.

Ahlaya: “What can I do? How can I help?” And here’s one thing that I have to say, I have to get it off of my chest: white people, stop asking Black people what can you do. Stop asking us that. What I need you to do is simply put yourself in our shoes. Then figure out what you’re gonna do.

Kim: OK, so I’m gonna stop you there because they can’t…

Ahlaya: We don’t need [inaudible]…

Kim: I’ma stop you, ’cause I don’t want them… there’s no way in fuck that they can do that. So I’m gonna—they ain’t gonna win, and they gonna fuck it up and harm us. This is what I need them to do. This is what the fuck…

Ahlaya: Google search. Google search. The information is out there.

44:49

Kim: Your information is out there. That is the default. Fuck that. If you can’t Google, kiss my ass. [Ahlaya laughs] What I need you to do, I need you to open up your networks so that leverage y’all networks for me, I need to you pay, and get the fuck out of my way.

Ahlaya: Open your purse. And open your networks.

Kim: I need you to open up your networks, pay me—open your networks so I can amplify this, ’cause I need to scale my message. I need to get paid because, huh, wow! The IRS [US tax authority] want they fucking money. Oh, wow. My car, my mortgage company wants their fucking money. I don’t know why folx think that money—Robin Diangelo, who wrote “White Fragility,” is making hands ova fist off a fucking experience she don’t even fucking have! Her work is not antiracist work. It is white studies. Right now she is fucking cleaning the fuck up. But yet you want to call me a grifter when I say, “Hey, don’t come in my fucking DMs asking me for shit if you ain’t talkin’ about money.” No, bitch. Don’t come in my goddamn DMs asking me for shit if you ain’t talkin’ about no money.

Ahlaya: Everybody else can make money, why can’t Black people? Why does everybody have…

46:07

Kim: No, no, no; I’ma clarify dat. Uh-uh. No, no, no. No, no. I’ma clarify dat. Everybody else making money off the Black experience; that’s what the fuck I’m talkin’ about.

Ahlaya: Oh my god!

Kim: Y’all can make money. Y’all can make money off y’all white shit all day long. But the fact that you feel entitled and an expert on the Black experience; everything—if you ain’t Black—everything you’ve learned about Black Lives Matter came from Black folx. Ain’t none ‘a this yo goddamn experience. And the fact that you take money for this shit, and then you seen as an authority? I’m at this point right now, outside of—I can’t think of her name… uh… the older white woman; I can’t think ‘a her name right now. [Jane] Elliott. Yes.

Outside ‘a her, don’t no white folx need to be listening to nobody else.

Ahlaya: Oh, Jane Elliott?

Kim: Outside of—’cause she has put in the research; she has done the qualitative and the quantitative experience; she has been in this shit forever. She will cuss y’all asses out, she will hold y’all fuckin’ accountable. Everybody else’s kissing y’all asses. E’ybody else tryin’ to make this shit palatable for you. I don’t want it to be palatable for you. I want you to be as uncomfortable and as in pain as possible, just by listening to this story how this young woman is in pain and traumatized from fucking going to work. I need y’all asses fuckin’ traumatized.

47:32

Ahlaya: And your privilege to even have to just listen. You don’t understand experiencing it. So count ya’self as blessed and lucky and privileged to the fact that you can turn this off. You could close this fucking laptop and be done with it and never visit it again. This is our fucking reality. This is our every fucking day.

Kim: Oh, that’s one of the reasons I say that if Black people ain’t gettin’ they money right now, I don’t know what’s the best time, because very soon white folx gonna realize, “Do Black lives really matter? ‘Cause it really ain’t impactin’ me, riiiight noooow. So I think I’m gonna go watch this football game that just started coming on. ‘Cause now my distractions are comin’ back.” You know, “Now the things that make my life comfortable and normal,” or you know, “Our sports are comin’ back.” You know, like, “‘Bold and the Beautiful’ just started wit’ new episodes again,” you know? “So we get back to our life.”

This is where—and you made that point—we don’t get to walk away from that. We don’t get to check out. We don’t get to walk away from this. And I know some white folx think I’m exaggeratin’, but y’all know. I’m lookin’ at my groups; there’re very few people right now still talking about Black Lives Matter, you know, veeery few people on Twitter still talking about Black Lives Matter. So it’s gonna be, very soon it’s gonna be like, “Well, you know, something’s gonna happen,” all they lookin’ for was one good win in something, and it’s, “Oh that problem solved. Now we can go back ta…”

49:11

But I’ma warn you, people, the cycles are gettin’ smaller, comin’ quicker. And if you walk away from Black Lives Matter now, come November 3rd, you gonna have a rude awakening, because two options: either he loses and he wreaks havoc from November to January; or he wins and he only wins ’cause it’s white folx’s fault. In 2016, y’all were able to use that bullshit “economic anxiety” as well as, “Let him prove himself.” He’s proven who he is. So if he is elected again, I’m not arguin’ wi’ people about the 53% white women or the 50, 70-somethin’ percent of white men. This is on y’all, and as I say, white supremacy is the parasite that’s now eatin’ its host. And y’all, this shit is finally comin’, these chickens finally comin’ home to roost to y’all ass. Four more years, unfortunately, will be hell for marginalised people, but I can tell ya it’s gonna be hell for white folx too.

50:15

Ahlaya: Exactly. Nothin’ but facts, you say the facts.

Kim: It’s gonna be heeell for y’all. Y’all think y’all got rights? Y’all got rights that white supremacy says y’all have rights to. And y’all gon’ start seein’ what we’ve been talking about for soooo looong.

Ahlaya: If you only gonna see it now, that’s, like you said, that’s where you can kiss my ass.

Kim: And this is where I tell folx to kiss my ass and they talkin’ about, “Oh, slavery is over. Get over it.” How the fuck do you get over generational trauma?

Ahlaya: And shit, that’s still happening! How do you get over that? How?

Kim: Exactly. Yeah, exactly.

Ahlaya: I mean, this is in no way, shape, or form relatable, but get over 9/11. Since we should just be getting over shit, get over 9/11. Shut the fuck up. It happened so many fucking years ago, you know, an’ he was probably playin’ anyway. Get over it. No! This is, again, this is in no way, shape, or form comparable to slavery whatsoever. But get over it, right? Get over it. Y’all get over that shit…

Kim: And you wanna tell other people who have dealt with genocide to get over it. But for us, “Y’all niggas get ova’ dat. What y’all still talkin’ about?”

Ahlaya: “It happened so long ago. You’re living in the past.” Well, bitch, you keep repeating the present, so, mmm…

51:33

Kim: We’re livin’ this every single day. We’re living this every single day in our personal and professional lives. Every single day. This the very reason I am self-quarantined. It is less about COVID than it is about white folx and they inability to deal with anything that has to do with anxiety or the unknown. What y’all do is create chaos and destruction. I’m not tryna be a victim of y’all bullshit. I’m gon’ stay in my house.

Ahlaya: Exactly.

Kim: And think about that; as a Black woman, a “free” quote Black woman in the United States…

Ahlaya: In quotations.

Kim: It is in my best interests to stay in the fucking house. Not because of a pandemic, but because of how white people are responding to a pandemic.

Ahlaya: And that’s fuckin’ sad.

Kim: Whew! All right, lady, what would you like to say in your closing statements?

52:25

Ahlaya: Closing statements. White people: do better. Do better. Do fucking better. Do fucking better. If you’re offended by anything that we’ve said in this podcast, you’re the fucking problem. [Kim claps] Take a look in the mirror; you’re the fucking problem. You wanna help? Open your networks and open your purse, period. And that’s it. Point blank.

Kim: And that goes with why we fail so often in these industries, because we talk about diversity; diversity is only recruitment. Inclusion is about retention. You may be able to get us in the door wit’ yo bullshit lies in the interviews, because we don’t see behind the veil until we get there. But our ability to stay and function and be happy? There’s no guarantee to that. There is no guarantee that I can go into any company and be happy. And this is why I say kiss my ass when y’all talkin’ about, “Oh, you need passion.” Fuck, I’m puttin’—why the fuck would I have passion for places that actively harm me? Where the fuck does that come from?

Ahlaya: That don’t value me as a fucking human.

Kim: Thank you so much.

AhlayaThank you for havin’ me. This was great. I really, really appreciate you havin’ me on.

Kim: Have a wonderful day.

Ahlaya: You too, thank you so much.

Kim: Bye bye.

Ahlaya: Bye.

Image of Ahlaya Reed

Ahlaya Reed

Become a #causeascene Podcast sponsor because disruption and innovation are products of individuals who take bold steps in order to shift the collective and challenge the status quo.

Learn more >

All music for the #causeascene podcast is composed and produced by Chaos, Chao Pack, and Listen on SoundCloud.

Listen to more great #causeascene podcasts