I know we’ve talked about this before, but it bears repeating. Here’s some Monday Motivation for you:
A friend of mine contacted me over the weekend because she really wanted to apply for a position in a field that she’s been interested in for years. She has lots of theoretical knowledge in said field, but no practical experience. After going over the job description in further detail, she became more and more hesitant about applying and eventually grew despondent.
“I really want to work for this organization,” she said, “but I’m afraid to. I think I’m doing this thing that women do – that unless we tick ALL the boxes, we count ourselves out before we give ourselves a chance.”
I agreed with her.
“You are exactly right. And you know what? You shouldn’t. You should apply for the position whether you are qualified or not.”
She laughed out loud.
“I’m dead ass serious and for several reasons,” I pressed. “I’ll tell you why.”
I didn’t apply for the first salaried job I’d ever worked. In desperation for any work I could find, I faxed my resume to every job in the classified section in AJC. I was literally flinging stuff at the wall and waiting to see what stuck. In those days, employers would send you physical rejection letters and for weeks my mailbox was full of pieces of paper telling me why I sucked and why I couldn’t come work at ACME Paper Ltd.
Then one day, I got a call from Marlene who told me to come interview at her company in Roswell. Turns out my resume had ended up in her husband’s company’s resume pile, he passed it on to her because she needed to fill a position and the rest is history.
The second reason is because this advice – to approach work with the confidence and audacity of a mediocre white male – is something my sister began implementing in her own life a few years ago.
“I can’t tell you how much easier work has been for me, Malaka,” she confessed.
I have worked with and for many white men, so yes, I knew how much easier work was. They always had time for golf, a jog and a shower during working hours and travel to exciting places no matter how hectic our department’s workload was.
The third reason is because of the example that white men have shown us themselves. If you were on GH/NG Twitter a week or so ago, you may have seen tweets from @drydenwtbrown, an account owned by Dryden Wilson Tate Brown, expressing a desire to build a city. (The account has since been locked; and with good reason. Imagine the whole continent roasting you like plantain.) He waxed poetic about how he and Charlie, a fellow 20-something year old college grad with no money, resources, training or experience in city planning:
“…wanted an adventure. We wanted to build something on the frontier. We wanted to do something heroic.”
To accomplish this, they would rely on “savage research”.
Somehow, (mainly by cold emailing their way around LinkedIn – and I wish I was kidding) they finagled their way into the upper echelons of Nigerian and Ghanaian society including scoring a meeting with Ghana’s sitting Vice President, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia. For the record, Dr. Bawumia is an economist and a banker, and so how two white boys with no capital or credentials were able to get a meeting with him to discuss an urban planning project is anyone’s best guess. Perhaps Dr. Bawumia harbors a secret obsession with Minecraft that the nation is of unaware of.
Given the difficulty (read near impossibility) of qualified Ghanaians gaining similar access to leadership to express similar ideas/plans, it’s no mystery why these boys were whisked away to the Jubilee House in a motorcade to talk about their neo-colonial hopes and dreams. They’re white and our leaders live to bootlick and dance for the white gaze and approval.
As you’re reading this, you may be feeling discouraged. Don’t be. You can’t change your race, but you CAN adopt some of the peculiar aspects of whiteness that will increase your chances of success in all you put your hand to.
1. Always assume you are the SME/expert
As Dryden showed us, (and virtually every white dude in the financial, fashion, medical, you name it space) it’s not so important to be an expert in any given field as it is to assume that your opinion is an expert one. You’re thoughts on process and procedure are what everyone ought to default to. All you need is the confidence to convince your colleagues (and that’s a polite term for folk whom you will soon recognize as subordinates) of the same.
2. Show up whether you belong there or not
My advice to my friend over the weekend was to apply for jobs, whether she was qualified or not. You have to be present in order for your presence to be felt. This is not limited to online applications. No, no! You must assume – like the average audacious white guy – that your physical presence is going to add spice and interest to any event. You’re a general expert remember?
3. Sprinkle your conversation with exciting verbs and adjectives
This is my favorite white boy hack of all time. Dryden Tate Brown said he wanted to come to Africa to do something “heroic” using “savage” research. You see, when you are an apex white male, every element/environment/other human being is beneath you and needs taming. How can you master your chosen your endeavors if you don’t speak like a MASSA?
4. Be disagreeable, but not so much as to be disliked
But nobody likes a disagreeable douchebag, do they? It’s human nature to want to overthrow masters. They are the ultimate douchebags. The same was as true as it was in Nat Turner’s day as it was in Westeros. The key is to find balance. Be a 50% douchebag – unapologetic about it, but defiantly entitled. It’s endearing.
5. Talk incessantly about your experiences/past wins, whether they are relevant in the moment or not
Everyone likes a winner. We all want to be associated with success. This is why white men are always talking about their feats, whether they have significance to the subject at hand or not. Winning demonstrates the capacity for leadership, even when it’s clear that you possess none. The point is, this is a strategy for convincing folk that you COULD lead should the situation or need arise…and it would behoove them all to consider you first.
6. Fully embrace the principle of “failing up”
You are not qualified for the undertaking that you have undertaken. You know this, and smart people around you know it too. But remember, you’re approaching your endeavor with no ordinary confidence. This is the Confidence of a Mediocre White Man ™, which is a different beast altogether. You will make mistakes, but so what? Some of them will have negative generational impacts. And? It’s called failing up. You don’t have to take ultimate responsibility for any of this. Every endeavor you engage in is a learning opportunity. How else are you going to become the default subject matter expert on everything?
7. Practice your throwing technique, especially under the bus
This is pretty self-explanatory. Failing up means you don’t have to personally deal with consequences of your mistakes and choices. That’s what your co-workers and collaborators are for. Simply position them to take the brunt of all the penalties of your unfortunate decisions.
*Bonus: Never show up dressed for the part.
Now that you’ve embraced the ethos of an under qualified white man, it’s essential that you dress the part. Meeting the leader of an autonomous nation? Pshaw! Be casual. Show up in that jeans, blazer and sneaker combo that distinguishes you from the thoughtful saps who prepared for the meeting. Your attitude says, “wing it”. Your attire should say the same. Acting like you don’t care projects that you care a lot. (No one will ever guess that you really don’t care about outcomes. You are just here for the rewards, but that’s our little secret!)
Whether you’re reading this from the job you hate or the job you wish you had, chin up. You can literally create the reality of your dreams if you embrace the audacity of Caucasity. You can literally take other the world!