10 Ways My White Friends Can Help Fight Racism


Racism is shitty. It’s painful. Whether reinforcing stereotypes, tropes, or systems of inequality, it permeates American culture.  It affects us all. However, America has a problem with denial which causes a schism in dynamics. The Black reality of American racism is never far from discussion and it does not comport to the current Post-Racial Narrative. Our history and realities simply don’t reflect the view that many of our White colorblind counterparts wish we shared. And though argued in practice, form, and intensity, racism is still part of the American standard. This I assert as Person of Color, and a Black man in America.

Fortunately, social media has exposed many of you to the unfair hand of policing and you’ve endeavored to understand the terms bias, prejudice, and systematic racism. And within the context of our current political discourse, the cause and impact of Mass-Incarceration and “For Profit” Prisons systems, have affixed themselves to national dialog.

Yet, you’re finding it difficult to break through to your friends or family who can’t see what you now find as blatantly obvious. Or, you want to be a better ally, but struggle in place, tone, and visibility, where you are not the center of attention or focus. How do you make a difference when so much seems stacked against you? Small voice, big world. Although I don’t purport to know it all, these are a few small actionable steps I share with my diverse, interracial family and friends who are just becoming aware of these realities. It will not dismantle the system of inequality that drives this country apart while upholding a racial hierarchy, although that’s the harder conversation we must eventually endure. These are very small things that have impact as we navigate to that place in our history that will drive change.

1. Grow Thicker Skin

It doesn’t have to be brown like mine, but since childhood, many of us have become desensitized to American racism and coded racial attacks. I hear the whistles and take the barbs. I’ve been called a nigger by racists, profiled by police, stopped for driving the wrong car in the wrong neighborhood in the wrong part of town with the wrong colored woman. Lazy, dumb, criminal, thugs, and “not a cultural fit” are all terms I’ve learned to deflect or swallow. Many of you will never know that feeling and struggle with the effacement of pride to develop these callouses. Realize that verbal attacks have evolved. The term nigger-lover is no longer vogue. Even racists, don’t like being called racists anymore. Get comfortable with hearing that anti-cop or anti-racist is now anti-white (the new race traitor). Gone is sympathizer, replaced for the pejorative insult for all “SJW”.  You will be cajoled to do nothing, with appeals to suppress your White guilt, a term rooted in regression, not progress.  It is a term once used to protect post-war abolitionists from predation, now evolved to protect a majority controlled status quo. We resist change. That’s human. We do so by developing self-defense mechanisms to maintain this homeostatic environment. Expect resistance.

2. Empathize, check in, but don’t Always seek validation

Yes, you feel the pain. I accept that and don’t expect you to be cold and disconnected from our realities. White family members struggle with this in particular, when dealing with new Black relatives. How do you relate? We appreciate genuine concern, but understand that many of us get behind the wheel of a car and don’t know if that next “routine stop” is our last. The constant news of a terrorizing force is burdensome, yet its often the messenger that gets the blame. With that said, just as we’ve maintained or developed self-regulating systems to keep our own mental health in check, you have to develop yours. Check in at the counter, but don’t make a deposit. I’m carrying enough.

3. Try not to unfriend your racist friends and family

I can’t reach them. To maintain our selves from the effects of ignorant of bigoted babble, we often dismiss our opponents or minimize their voices. It’s frustrating. But how are you going to change their minds, even if just a little, if you’ve cut ties. And no, you don’t have to win them over, but I’ve seen change. A year ago people discussing police brutality as an aberration, are close to acknowledging that their “might” be a problem. That’s a step in a journey. Watch them take it. If they’re truly toxic, bump ’em. Don’t let them bring you down.

4. Don’t let it Stand

Casual racism keeps the ghost of Jim Crow alive. The jokes, comments, and attacks that hide cowardly behind the Second Amendment, should not stand unchallenged. It is your right to address them, just as it was their right to make the statement. Your accuser will call you PC, but I implore that understand that society self-regulates bad ideas. Your voice matters. It is the defense mechanism, work around it. And be careful with your language if you care. Yes, privilege checking works, but as a reminder and way to raise consciousness. “Checking” has become so reactionary, that it is often perceived just as dismissively as the offending comment.

5. Stop Sharing Fight Videos Depicting Black Violence

That is not our norm. Yes, it happens, just like it happens in any culture, but the current narrative we’re fighting is against the justification of killing a violent race. When you share those images with people that don’t have any other exposure to Black people, that’s what they’ll remember.

Shut that down.

6. Limit Graphic Videos Unnecessarily Depicting Black Death

Facebook is becoming the largest purveyor of Black Snuff films. I haven’t found a credible study yet showing the effect of these videos on Black self-imagery or the long term desensitizing effect on attitudes, but already I hear the casual dismissal of life. Don’t let that happen. When sharing be conscious of those you impact.

7. Buy Local (and buy Black)

This is a hard one for most Americans, including most Black people to do. Black owned businesses are not prevalent and their names can be deceptive. BET is no longer Black owned, so watching the HIP HOP or Lifetime Achievement Awards does NOT COUNT. The idea of buying from a specific race may seem inherently racist. However, when the argument of modern day racism comes up, we’re told it’s a “Class” thing or an “economic” thing and that racism itself does not exist. Well, if that’s true, then you’re just making an informed decision on where you invest to improve the living conditions of a specific hyper regional locale. Instead of only buying fair trade items from and overseas market, find ways of putting money back into those local communities. That helps revitalize depressed standards, increases opportunities which in turn decreases crime, which increases investment, which reciprocally provides those communities with power in the pursuit of self-determination. This has the biggest impact in generating financial leverage required for a political voice.  America will not remove money from politics. We need financially viable Empowerment. Republicans should love this strategy – its not a handout. Now, if you have a desire to give money instead of buying, there are charities that focus on Black education, first time family support and youth counseling, mentoring of Black youth, and great community outreach. You might have to partner with a church (due to limited access), but ensure transparency. Know where your dollar’s going.

Note:  Giving local can sometimes go further than monolithic national organizations that are subject to attack, deal with higher overhead, or have broad scope. Understand its a long game and success often grows slowly, plant your dollar locally. BLM is not the only group out there, and there are long standing locally managed community endeavors that need support.

8. Vote Local

Remember that if you want to change the policing policies and systems, you have to vote local. Becoming a low level police officer, doesn’t really do it. And by the time you’ve ascended, you’ve changed. Your Sheriffs, District Attorneys, etc., are locally elected. They answer to Mayors and Governors, the legislative branches. The demand for accountability of police BY police does not work. Holding police accountable, starts with first holding their bosses accountable. If you want to change the laws and exert the pressure required to change their inaction, it happens with the legislature.

Riding While Black:

9. Phone at the Ready

If you see something, don’t just say something, VIDEO and upload immediately. ,This might save a life. It’s becoming increasing likely that police may immediately come after your phone. We’ve let legislation slip regulating citizen help. Don’t let that happen. I love to see allies on the lines during protest, however I can’t ask you to take the bullet. You can be loud and visible. Making your presence known is ok in some instances. Be cautioned that some officers or statutes may hit you with an interference charge. Know your law.

10. Carpool

Offer your friend a ride. After the Terrence Cruthcer shooting my wife came to me in tears stating:

“As a woman living in America, I know fear. However, my biggest fear now is watching you, a Black man, walk out that door and never returning because a police officer decided it was your time. An expired registration she be a ticket, not a death sentence.

If your Black friend is shielded from police, this may assist in deescalating any particular situations or at least fuck with police aim. Also, make sure they chip in for gas. They wouldn’t get away with that with any of their Black friends.

Now, of course this is a very short list which only scratches the surface. There are hundreds of things you can do to help address racism. Whites make up nearly 70% of the population Blacks only 13%. In terms of visibility, you’ve got more access to change minds. Which brings me to stats, know your stats, but don’t get distracted by misleading ones that imply causation, when there is none. America hates math with a secondary disdain for science, but let a Black person get wrongfully shot by a police officer and everyone’s a data scientist correlating race and criminality, with no deference to context. Its a separate issue.

In addition, keep reading. Understand that school integration, happened within the lifetime of most of our parents. That’s Jim Crow’s age. Acting like it happened hundreds of years ago, is dishonest. Keep working, chipping, and when you’re ready to level up on the revolution, check back for more.


10 Ways My White Friends Can Help Fight Racism

VIDEO: The Frustrating Discussion on Race Everyone’s Having

Fiery exchange on CNN. Frustrating to watch, yet socially relevant to the discussion on race in America. It embodies nearly every recent conversation on race and policing that I’ve seen since the emergence of the #BLM vs #anythingBUTBLM movements. It centers on the issue of Black Crime. There is usually an appeal to inherent Black criminality, hero worship, debasement of anyone that decries police brutality or authority, coupled with facts oft bereft of context to justify belief. This discussion plays out repeatedly in social media circles from the well-educated to the Google-informed.

Readers should note, that members on the CNN panel almost scream past each other with an inability to find the common ground, assuming they were looking for it. However, they were locked in America’s racial dance of blame, which exposed the real culprits behind some of the myopic statements in the video; pride, lack of context or evasion, and questionable motives.

(Image via Screen Capture)

I won’t do a full analysis of the video (link below), since it’s worth seeing yourself. However, as a Black man in America, I’d like to respond to the attack of inherent or biological Black criminality, which the video fails to address:

Yes, Blacks kill Blacks, just as Whites kill Whites, although at a higher rate, and intra-racial crime is a problem for everyone, though its trending downward. Unfortunately, sometimes race plays a factor in sentencing, use of force, freedom,  etc.., a la the swimming rapist guy. It’s unreasonable to believe a Black person, regardless of the color of the victim, would experience the same treatment when we have strong evidence to the contrary, hence the outcry of unequal justice. What is also true, is that Black and Brown neighborhoods have higher crime rates, except when controlled for income (the missing piece in the sketchy narrative the panelist paints). For example, though both are heavily populated by Blacks, Windsor Hills, CA’s crime stats don’t mirror Compton’s. If biology were the primary factor, we should expect to see similar stats, yet we do not. Humans are resilient and given opportunity and displacement, behaviors change. That’s why despite his colorful criminal past, Jay-Z is no longer slinging on a corner. Perhaps, crime might be a byproduct of socioeconomic status and lack of opportunity, rather than a function of race. Consider that when our species suffers from a lack of resources, not unlike other organisms, we become defensive and territorial, taking more aggressive postures. Humans, like other animals, do this as a challenge response that elicits an expected observable response, especially in young males. 

Race is not the causative factor, it is a confounding one.

Now, there is a conversation to be had about reducing crime to the point where police are no longer needed in Black communities. Sure. I’d welcome that, but first we might have to create organizations that focus on the Advancement of Colored People, reaching into Black communities getting them employed, educated, empowered, addressing some of the aforementioned socioeconomic ills, and the lingering racism, etc.. Except, that’s usually met with accusations of REVERSE racism or outright destruction, such as Rosewood or Black Wall Street. A conundrum.

Which brings us back to the issue of motivation. Without acknowledging or defining proper context, the argument can’t be fully examined for honest responses or solutions. However, what I’ve found is that many of the people we argue with, especially online, aren’t always interested in change. They’re just interested in being right.

Maybe those are additional facts might help you with your discussions. Regardless, remember there is always more to the story than just the numbers .

Context matters. Great Book Recommendation: “How to Lie with Statistics.”


VIDEO: The Frustrating Discussion on Race Everyone’s Having

Liberty’s Burden, When Can We Set The Statue Free?

The Statue of Liberty is stunning. As an engineer and an artist, I marvel. However, as a Person of Color and an immigrant, it holds an extraordinarily duplicitous distinction for me.

She is America’s grand chef,  adding diverse ingredients to her melting pot, dishing out a bowl of “welcome” to those who would brave her shores.  However, as a Person of Color in America, experiencing a clouded confluence of historical and racial factors, and divergent realities, this beautifully aged  sculpture shifts form, from the cooper embodiment of freedom to a garish specter of political expedience. A tool opposing the freedom she once represented.

Her sight produces a tumultuous and unsettling feeling in me.

Every politician gets a piece, pimping her out to sell their message. ‘Merica. They’ve turned her out for political gain. When does her servitude end? How far is her release?

On my last trip to NYC, I got a chance to visit her and pen the following:

Liberty’s Burden

Cemented on an island of slaves,
Where she learned to behave,
Trading silence for a Green Card,
Walled Streets keep her etched message at bay.
Cries of freedom from asphalt fields,
Where my brokered ancestors were lost in trade,
Behind the concrete mountainside,
Where Garner died,
He choked on freedom, her Blue defenders say.

When my shrouded azure eyes,
Expressed themselves in my daughters’ DNA,
Revealed a shared story of violation, that we hide,
an unspoken secret of the modern slave.
The promises I make to her in trade,
for coinage and salvation
Stained Greenbacks from a lying nation,
Celestial acres and a mule,
Trumpet a metaphorical revelation,
that the Verdigris master who we idealize,
is herself, a slave.

Unspoken endorsement of sacred text sustaining our oppression,
Imposing the artificial borders that restrict our connection,
Unable to scream about our lives’ intersection,
She enforces her master’s series of “distinguished” restrictions.
From constitutional fallacies to dogmatic lies,
Eliciting fear of the commonality we call humanity.
While othering the nonconforming profiles of anyone not White,
Cis-Gendered, and Christian,
Success that is mostly chattel driven,
As the Overseer binding free speech to inaction, restriction.

“Give me your tired”, they’ve been here I say,
But address the innocence you’ve allowed slain in His name.
Torching morality, telling me I am complicit,
because I do not listen,
Lying by omission,
That we are a Nation that always refuses,
from civil war to civil rights,
we have died undoing your Master’s Restrictions.

Can we set free the one slave that America’s Beast would save to maintain the unraveling shroud of progress, she once represented to “some”?
Evidence her crown’s debasement into talking points for politicians,
Now a galvanized symbol of our accepted restriction,
Then strip away rays from her pluralistic benediction,
Until the day, we all bear the torch of her lost mission.

Marie, one day you shall be free.

Note: Marie Bartholdi is the person the Statue was modeled.

Liberty’s Burden, When Can We Set The Statue Free?

The Controversial Duckling

Fourth with Zach (3 of 16)

Sometimes it feels like I just don’t belong. I can talk to colleagues that are Black, White, Hispanic, Asian, etc., and except for that whole atheist thing, they understand me. Controversy free. We are separated by language, but on issues of equality, they usually find a way to understand. They may not agree, but on occasion they get it, even the church folk. However, that whole atheist thing can be a problem. Its a big hurdle for many of them to overcome, so I’m usually dismissed, then dammed on issues of morality, even though we seek similar strides in freedoms. That one controversial thing, oblongs me into the clichéd peg that just won’t fit.

Then when I find myself in a sea of atheists, I experience a similar phenomenon. I can talk using a shared language of exonerated godlessness, and except for that whole black thing, they understand me. Controversy free. Yet, in the same vein, part of who I am is denied, leaving me less than whole, and somehow, that one controversial thing, makes me again, not fit.

Circumnavigating those repellant poles makes it hard to find the right crew to flock with, especially when I really still am a duck. My identity overlaps, intersects, and is unique, but what I share with both I can not bridge. Hence, it is my hold on both, that takes flight.

What I learned during my initial hazing into atheism is that being Black really wasn’t an issue. Not entirely. It helps. And as long as you’re willing to graduate from Invisible to Token, it shows others that the community is inclusive, somehow diverse, and better than the gaggle that we so desperately fail to not reflect.

But when I consciously ‘state’ that I am Black, then the problem appears, ruffling every stunted, malformed YouTube jockey’s quill. I’m indicted, labeled as complicit in America’s racism, even though in honesty, I am a mere second and a-half party observer.  My legacy isn’t rooted in America’s Slave trade, its rooted in the French. I am an immigrant, who’s port of entry was by way of America’s financial slave hub, New York City, not the urban plantation.  I am Sowell’s mythic model minority realized.

My family escaped the preexisting narrative of the American Negro, having missed decades of Black devaluation, medical experimentation, forced segregation, and concrete housing reservations, where hunger continues to be used as a political tool to feed voting booths. I have not land, nor direct ancestral loss in this nation, nor am I a recurring generational victim as some suggest. Of those that would be thankful for the sacrifice of the fallen I am one. But again, I’m different, because I would not silence myself from the observable injustices. And my pride is not at stake, neither is my hypersensitive nationalism.  In retrospect, perhaps it is the fear from those injustices befalling me, that propelled my own successes. It is that unspoken choking hand that provides the muted responses of the voices of the millions like me, who say nothing against evil. Or worse, it lends itself to the megaphone of those that tout their own rugged independent successes as proof that no other disadvantages exist. Evidence be damned. Their dissonance fed by the same watering hole that gluts the other’s faith.

“If you’re a white, evangelical, Republican, you are less likely to think race is a problem, but more likely to think you are a victim of reverse racism. You are also less convinced that people of color are socially disadvantaged… This dilemma demonstrates that those supposedly most equipped for reconciliation do not see the need for it. – Barna

I sully my hands delivering a truth that I do not own, as a social justice sojourner, gifting in good faith responses that should’ve bridged understanding. And for  my remuneration, I’m called a sell out, again.  Damn, they sure as hell can make it clear that my kind really isn’t wanted here, yet in the same sputtering breath, stand as dumfounded cocks wondering why they can’t seem to attract a stray feather. You can’t say you want diversity, then do everything in your power to prevent it.

I recently did an interview with Seth Andrews, The Thinking Atheist (link below). We covered everything from race, religion, and other things in the year of the Trump. Nothing too controversial, except for the community that amusingly hijacks Seth’s moniker as their own. It took less than 24 hours for the comment section and my inbox to show me why so many Atheists of Color don’t feel welcomed in “this” community. I’ve spent 5 years of my life traveling the country giving talks addressing the recurring question “How can we make the Atheist community more diverse?”

And I think I’m ready to append that talk with a bit of  show and tell. You may not agree with my observations, everyone brings biases when examining social problems. But read the comments section (with caution) and understand that for many Atheist of Color, when branching out for the first time, these online resources are their first exposures.

You can call this duckling controversial all you want, but its the ugly in the comments section that should concern you.

The Controversial Duckling

My Ménage with a Startup: 10 tips on Protecting Yourself from the wrong Venture

Self Care Sex and Love

Sex and relationships can be far less complicated than the back bending, tantric positions in which you’ll find yourself when trying to launch a successful startup.  Between managing egos, balancing life, and the countless meetings,  the experience can leave you – raw. Add the constant pressure of securing funding, and you’ll feel like you’re on the wrong side of the casting couch. So be prepared, especially if you plan on trading your nights of Netflix and Chill for Caffeine and Code.

My NE heartbreak came just days ago, after a part-time love affair with a small tech boutique, left me blue and no happy ending. My dreams of changing an industry and seeing my name on every mobile phone, gone before I could buy it a second drink.  I poured my heart into it, leaving little reserve for myself, while ignoring the obvious signs of a bad relationship.  I didn’t protect myself and subsequently, I got burned.

Nonetheless, there will certainly be a better-fated, less emotionally driven rebound, but until then, here are a few rules for safe play I should’ve remembered from my last grind session with that “Startup Life”. Hopefully, they’ll help you determine whether you should swipe left.

1.’So, we’re just friends now?’ Hey, don’t get stuck on Titles.

Devoid of the traditional missionary corporate structure, most startups are now flat and agile. The titles are nice, but they represent nothing substantive. “CEO” doesn’t  impress a savvy investor that gets hit on daily. Product, passion, and the drive to succeed do. So unless you’ve got a good route to market, your title’s irrelevant

You see it on Shark Tank, mom and pop shops pull in thousands in investments, sporting nothing more than the bareback title of “the love of my life”, not Chief Officer. It’s about that “Ride or Die” life, not that forced contorted reach around. Too many players get caught missing the actual connection with their customers and partners, while neglecting the dialog with their investors.

The big “O” happens where you find the positive friction of team dynamics. An obsession with titles is about you, not the other person. Working teams go farther than any executive-labelled fictions.  Let the dynamic speak for themselves, keep pushing forward, and decide on titles later.

2. Awkward Moments in Intimacy – is your new reality.

Sucks if you’re an introvert like me, but you’re going to get close (Cooties be damned) so be warned. Late nights, sleep deprivation, and the passion that drives your innovation, will drive you closer. It can forge great long term relationships with the right people, if you’re all in healthy places. My first product launch happened nearly twenty years ago and I’m still friends with some of those colleagues. You learn things about each other that you never wanted to know,  sometimes building a nearly unbreakable bond.

Otherwise, set boundaries or you’ll have that “did they just fart on the first date” look plastered on your face for the duration of the project.  Even worse, if they’re toxic, it’ll poison the project. Lean back, enjoy the ride, and protect yourself.

3. FWB is risky business, in business. 

Navigating a friends with benefits relationship has it’s perks. You’re comfortable, you know each other, an its easy to get to rousing non-committal bliss.  More often than not though, people’s “feels” get in the way, damaging otherwise great friendships. As a result, sometimes you really should be “just friends”.

Building relationships during the startup process is one thing, but bringing in preexisting friendships is risky. Working together with egos, power, big decisions, and money, introduces a new kind of volatility that tests boundaries. If you’re looking at maintaining these relationships beyond flirtation and foreplay, plan a long term exit strategy that leaves you whole. Talk about it and prioritize. Determine what’s most important, the business or the friendship. You may be forced to choose.

5. Poly isn’t for everyone.

You can love one or many in various forms, and they can love you right back – just fine. However, when you treat partners or your startup like a side piece, you’re setting one up for failure.

Part One
: There are tales detailing meteoritic rises of pseudo-part-time business IPOs. That’s the exception. Maintaining your day job, while trying to engage in a startup on the side, is hard work. They’ll both suffer if you don’t balance. If this startup is your passion, it can consume you, taking you away from other relationships, including family. You may have to let something go.

Whereas, if you’ve gotten to the point where your startup is making money, even if its not quite enough, you may consider abandoning your other gig to cultivate that particular passion. Do what’s right for you and don’t feel trapped. It’s hard if you’re dependent on a steady paycheck, but if you’ve got an option for extended paid leave to explore possibilities  – take it.

Part Two: In business you unquestionably need to know how many partners are in play, because it impacts the value of shares and the valuation of the company. I had seven partners of which I knew, amongst countless others the CEO kept courting. The more partners or distributed shares, the less paper for you. As part owner of that relationship, you have a voice. Speak up even if it means walking away.

My situation was a result of a partner gone wild, where regardless of the horrendous implication, the person with the biggest checkbook won. Yes, size matters even in business.

5. ‘where were you last night?’ Expect honesty.

If you happen to find inconsistencies in your partners’ stories, reports, or behaviors, sometimes its predictive of an impending problem.  When you find compounding lies building, even if you try to address them, only to find seemingly pathological denial or avoidance, be forewarned.

If your partner needs to stop every 4 hours for another blue pill, that’s ok. What’s not acceptable is them running to the bathroom instead to text another partner in between your session, then  lying about it to you both. Realize you deserve better. And if its a short term fling for you, be up front. If you’re in for long haul,  IPO or relationship, be honest. Talk about the future, setting real expectations.

6. Testing and Transparency are key.

Know your Status. From bedroom satin to financial ledgers, honest communications about what you can’t see between the sheets can make or break relationships. If you’re in a startup prospecting for funds, your finances are often tested and scrutinized. Your tax returns – fair game. LLC’s give you protection when multiple partners are incorporated, however, if you’re dealing with a single owner as the primary filer, they may hesitate disclosing their financial little black book.

That wouldn’t be the end of the world except, bad investments, questionable spending, judgements, liens, and legal actions all come up during due diligence. Think divorce court and lingerie receipts. If you’re betting on someone’s clean bill of health for your future, they should be willing to share documentation with you. You’re entitled to see balance sheets, budget, P&L, and for lovers, an STD report.

7. Keep those naughty text close. 

Sexy text promising what’s to come, build excitement and can get you off, but sometimes those promises have implications. In business that translates into unethical behavior and legal disputes.

When it comes to payment terms, “get it in writing” is standard. However, what we fail to chronicle is our creative contributions, which help in legal cases, where patents, trademarks, or copyrights are subject to scrutiny and swayable juries.

Startups lend themselves to these kinds of infractions regardless of what you signed.

(Also, get a lawyer to review your docs before you join ESPECIALLY if shares are promised, and if applicable, get them checked BEFORE you leave).

8. Remember how you met? Awe… No, really!

This triviality is more Important than it seems. Picture this: You’re in a room, or on the phone doing an investor pitch and your fiscal inquisitor asks a question so simple, you smile assuming your presenter’s got it handled.

Where’d you meet?”

Simple right? Yet my partner stumbled all over the place trying to come up with something he “thought” would work, when the truth was right there. It was a miss, and whether he was hiding something or not, the appearance of unpreparedness or deception, was introduced. Neither good when you’re requesting near half a million dollars. He played fluffer for the rest of the meeting.

Sure, if you met on a shady online site you’re not comfortable sharing, have a “truthful enough” story at the ready.

We worked together on previous projects on our day jobs, in a very difficult. Then over the last two year we found an opportunity to make something great happen, so we pooled our resources and here were are trying to change an industry.”

Or, in relationships,

“I met my spouse in Round Rock, TX. She wore a black leather coat, it was raining and we were off to the Hairy Man Festival, which we’d not yet know was cancelled due to the unseasonable torrential rains. I drove a white Maxima at the time, with an expired tag, which she noticed right away, but didn’t comment. When I saw her, I knew she was the one, I still remember her smile when I introduced myself and said – Hi. I’m Alix.”

That goes further in selling relationships than, “she was hot and I was horny, so damn I had to have that” or “We’re a team of successful professionals that stumbled across each other, here’s our credentials, give us money.” WTF?

Remember that the dynamics during investor presentations isn’t only about the product or service, its also about you. Ideas build brands that are delivered by people and if an investor makes an emotional connection with you, they will help sell that intangible, or use it for positioning. Its about the dynamic of showing you can deliver. You don’t need all the answers, but your team should be able to demonstrate proficiency in problem solving or at least show a modicum cohesion. Build a team that showcases that.

Hint: Good porn – is well, porn you like. Great porn is still porn you like, but made by people that appear to know how to work together, regardless of the number of participants (no judging).

9. ‘What do you mean I’m just alright?’ manage your value.

Don’t sell yourself short and don’t let your partner belittle your contributions. For some of us, our time is our greatest investment. If I broke down my hours to a pay rate, I’d argue that I invested significantly more than most other partners. And when you take into account ideation, obsessive whiteboard sessions, conversations at all hours of the day/night, and opportunity costs, it was a pretty penny.

However, when your partner continuously brings up your “soft investment” verses his raging hard, nearly purple “financial investment”- it wears on you. Losing money never hurt as much as hearing your contributions devalued or called worthless. You can get the ring back, but never the time.

The words “I never really loved you”, have an unparalleled lasting, and recurring sting. Work with partners that appreciate or at least compensate you well. And if you’re working on the promise of shares for payment or deferred payment, understand that shares of a company that has no valuation, have no value. (That’s rash worthy lesson).

Financially, the ‘hard’ investors get the benefits of losses (taxes), you get uncompensated risks. If you can work on a contract basis, with agreed terms for binding payment (deferred or not), then you at least have a vehicle for recourse later should things go awry. Worse case scenario, you too, can reap the benefit of loss.
Don’t let them treat you like a recurring disposable one-night stand, (unless, of course you want).

10. Excuse bad ideas, but not bad behavior.

Lastly, you can recover from bad ideas, but bad behavior can’t be dismissed.  Choosing a direction, then applying course correction is standard. A prevailing concept in innovation management  is “failing quickly, ” finding out what works, then if it does, do, if it doesn’t, get it out of the way. It shows you’re trying to accelerate something to market. But if you’ve got someone Hell bent on being right, even though all evidence suggest contrary, or when their ego gets in the way, or they consistently lie or change their stories, or they refuse to acknowledge mistakes, or worse, repeat the same ones, while impacting your credibility as a professional – run.

That’s good advice for life, because you may like sex, but no one likes getting “screwed”.

Look, these are eyes wide shut precautionary tips and I don’t want readers to stay clear of startups. If your passion is there – feed it, strike out on your own. Find a way to self fund, angel investors exist. Change the world your way. You can compromise, without being compromised. Its a good time to be out. Female founders are outperforming male-only teams financially by 63%. One out of five startups looking for VC funding has a female co-founder!  And according to the Kaufman index:

In 2015, 41% of first-time, new entrepreneurs were non-white, a growing national trend. In 2016, the majority of entrepreneurs seeking venture will be minorities–either non-white, female, or both.

That’s exciting. So go out there, have fun, but please use protection.

On another note, I now have more time to get back to writing…

– Alix

My Ménage with a Startup: 10 tips on Protecting Yourself from the wrong Venture

Zootopia, An Inspiring Story of Acceptance, Stereotypes, and Tropes

DeviantArt by DexFenik
DeviantArt by DexFenik

I decided to take both my 5 and 10 year olds to see Zootopia, a Disney movie about cross cultural acceptance and diversity. On the movie’s surface, it was kind of stellar. It addressed uncomfortable topics, racism, privilege, otherism, etc. For a Disney movie, I was surprised. But in trying to paint the narrative of acceptance, it introduces many equally uncomfortable stereotypes and problematic representations. I only address a few here, because I’m not going back searching for more.

The primary theme of the story is about change and overcoming adversity, you can be more than what people say you are. It’s a story I could endorse, if that were the only premise. It begins with Judy Hopps, whose character, after being attacked by a predator, is told she couldn’t pursue her dream of being a police officer. Bunnies don’t do that.

She’s belittled and bullied, overcomes all odds and succeeds in her lifelong dream of passionately delivering Law and Order. After overcoming rejection, hurdles, and institutions of social norms, she finally makes it in the big  world, Zootopia. It’s a utopian metropolis where diversity is abound and creatures big and small, predator and prey, fall into natural tribal cliques, where despite their differences, have adapted over time to accommodate each other.

Its a medley of zoological ghettos.

The movie isn’t even subtle about reinforcing stereotypes and class systems, which almost detracts from Officer Hopps message of personal success we’d buy into if we didn’t subsequently learn that she only got her position through – an affirmative action initiative. In fact, Judy rightfully objects to her tokenization and sets out to, like many of us who gel labeled as such, prove everyone wrong. She puts everything on the line, including her job, and sets out to solve the biggest case of her life:  What’s happening to missing animals?

Enter More Stereotypes

The story progresses to the next embracement of stereotypes, when the aforementioned fluffy-tailed, innocent, country, bunny meets a shifty fox, low life predator, who for the most part, spends his life hustling. This character too, is quite problematic as his whole being is defined by what his environment has shaped him to be, and regardless of his own desires, is rejected by society. Fox lives on the margins, but uses his “street wit” to survive. The only things missing from this stereotype was a criminal record. I must admit, however, they did use more restraint for this character than I to anticipated while watching . I kept waiting to see him slinging herb or poppy seed (really not subtle) on the corner.

Both the bunny and the fox are forced into a relationship of necessity, where said kind hearted officer bunny finds it necessary to extort said fox! And fox finds it necessary to comply to stay out of jail! Though sometimes humorous, the nature of a police officer leveraging evidence against her unwilling criminal partner, bugged me.  Growing up in big cities, we often see or hear about crooked cops shaking down the guy on the corner for money, his stash, or information. Well played Disney, lets dispel those right away, and by dispel, I mean introduce. With that said, however, it does facilitate a needed moral discussion on who we call heroes. In deed, Officer Hopps used her intelligence to gain advantage, but the duplicitous nature as to how she achieved the upper hand isn’t to be lauded.

Drugs and Predators

Which brings me to the most contentious parts of the movie for me, 1) the shady reference to war on drugs, and, 2) the question of biological determination.

Warning: A little bit of a spoiler, but not too much.

The city is sent into a frenzy when animals go missing and its determined that they’ve fallen inexplicably ill, regressing to violent predatory-like behavior, then, for the sake of the city, those ill fated animals are held at an asylum for observation through their mental and psychological deterioration. The story is exposed to the public and during a press conference, without any conclusive answers, when pressed on causation, Officer Hopps responds with an answer that is often too easily dismissed by the most benign racism denier, maybe it’s just “in their nature.” 

Wait, what?

That repeated reference would be completely glossed over by my youngest, but my socially conscious ten year old shot me the “look”. Given the modern parallels, its difficult NOT to address it. With the controversy about current American dialog AND behavior, how is it the movie could miscalculate the message? Its almost as if they started with a color blind approach, then sprinkled some social theory here and there, then gave Roger Ailes’ distant “angry-at-the family” cousin a shot at final edit.  

How is it that an obvious reference like predator, which is used in vilifying Black men and children, is ok to introduce before ever substantiating the label without the act? Its leading and introduces a bias, that may not be there or will require attention after the fact. If we’re judging people based on character and not labels, don’t tell them the worst to expect, then congratulate them for doing better. That’s upside down. “At least you’re not that kind of Fox. At least you’re not that kind of Predator. You’re not like the other Black people I know… both of them.”

Even with all of that, go see the movie. It gets a lot of other things right, including accessibility. My criticisms don’t invalidate the entire movie nor its intended message. It has great intentions, however, fails in some spots. Its like having to correct your socially conscious friend that only says slightly racist things, but doesn’t know it. Nice try though.


Zootopia, An Inspiring Story of Acceptance, Stereotypes, and Tropes

Alix Jules on the Orbit

I am an atheist.

However, that’s just a fraction of who I am. Even within my activist persona, my atheism is an erg in the motivational energy that creates Alix “Jules”.

It’s only part of my identity, it guides many of my decisions, makes for awesome t-shirts, and other interesting written pieces you can find on other networks (which I’ll still maintain); however, my atheism is not my totality.

I am secular dad of five, the son of an activist and immigrant single parent, a displaced New Yorker in the heart of Texas, who finds this state entirely too hot for human habitation during the summer months of March through November.

And though you’ll find me on stage, on-air, or too often in front of a mirror or a crowd, I am a nerve racked introvert that struggles to manage “all my feels” in the balance of the discourse I invite.

As a father, I wrestle with the ideas of secular parenting, like many, and do my best in helping my children find their voices, providing them support in affirming, defending, or declaring their mosaic of identity.

Whether its sketch, poetry, or photography, art plays as much of a part in my world as do the sciences.

I am a secular activist who cares about justice for marginalized, seeks attention for the discarded, and looks for platforms to amplify diverse secular voices that reflect the totality of the individuals who make up our communities, not just within our movements.  I’m not abandoning movement atheism, however, I am more. And even with my shared experiences of atheist persecution, disenfranchisement, humanism, etc., I’ve yet to be pulled over, or feared for my life (at least in this country), because of my belief.

That’s a reality of who I am, because in addition to all that I am, I’m also a Black man with a platform, Baldwin’s Negro, living in these fine States of a an inequitable America.

Regardless of my “all lives matter humanism”, I know that we, like our world, are complicated. And at the bottom of that dairy-free tofu rainbow frozen yogurt filled bowl of life that we call individuality, the indistinguishable melted mix we discard, is the intersectional forensic case for our decisions.

That slurry is the ink I’ll use to pen my discussions with you, you, and maybe even you.

Yes you, the other movement and that other-other movement. And even that movement that understands or wants to learn about the other movement or merely feigns interest in the remaining censored pieces that define us. That’s why I’m here.

Yes, I am an atheist, but you can read about that elsewhere.
This is where you can find more of me, no walls, just me.

–          Alix.

Alix Jules on the Orbit