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Negotiating While Black
Michael Z. Green
Editors’ Note: With America’s increasingly multicultural population, the ability to recognize that race still matters is an important factor in negotiations. This chapter attempts to capture an important chunk of the literature that identifies the unique experience for black persons in negotiation, and makes some suggestions to address these challenges. Because of its focus on cultural impacts of negotiating while being black, this chapter can usefully be read in conjunction with Bee Chen Goh’s chapter on Cultural Errors, Gale Miller’s on Codes of Culture, and Kaufman & Blanchot’s chapter on Theory Meets Reality.
A Post-Racial Negotiating Society, or, Does Race Still Matter for Black Persons Negotiating?
With the 2008 ascendancy by a black man, Barack Obama, to the position of President of the United States, Marc Fisher noted in a Washington Post article on January 21, 2013 that some believed that America had finally become a post-racial society where concerns of racism no longer matter, or have been transcended (Fisher 2013). As an example, Fisher referred to a Gallup Poll immediately after President Obama’s election that indicated that 70 percent of Americans believed that “race relations would improve during an Obama presidency.” (Fisher 2013) Black persons have also now held the following high-level, government positions: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Colin Powell); National Security Advisor (Condoleezza Rice); Secretary of State (both Powell and Rice); Supreme Court Justice (Thurgood Marshall and Clarence Thomas); and Attorney General (Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch).
Despite such lofty notions of a colorblind reality in post-racial times, race still matters in our society. As of 2015, “[p]olls show that large numbers of Americans from all racial backgrounds are dejected about the racial situation today.” (Kennedy 2015) Even President Obama acknowledged this concern a year after becoming President when he joked that any steps that his presidency had moved race relations ahead in our society beyond standard discrimination had only “lasted about a day.” (Fisher 2013) Further, the same poll about race relations that was so positive when he was elected resulted in a drastic change three years later with “64 percent of Americans” believing that “having a black president had either made no difference or had made race relations worse than before.” (Fisher 2015) Also, a study from 2011-12, capturing and analyzing Facebook photos and pages that focused on President Obama and First Lady, Michelle Obama, found that stereotypical narratives of black persons were being extended into social networks by hate groups to portray the President and his wife negatively (Moody 2012b).
The reality for a black person in America is that the world can sometimes look like a bleak place. As of 2010, “nearly one-third of black men are likely to spend time in prison.” (New York Times 2012)1 There are more black children under 18 living in poverty than any other racial group (National Poverty Center 2016). Black workers face the highest unemployment of any racial group (BLS Reports 2015). Black men’s wages are 75% of white men’s wages (Infoplease 2016) and black women’s wages are 64% of white men’s wages (The Huffington Post 2013). Black workers are frustrated in being subjected to discrimination based upon their names2 and likely will not find an attorney to bring the claim.3
As a result, the concept of performing certain activities “while black” has been used in a number of instances to capture the ongoing and unique experiences of black people in our society. One of the more prevalent uses was to highlight unique interactions under the concept of “driving while black” when being stopped by a police officer.4 The concept has been expanded to “working while black”5 and “shopping while black”6 and even to “learning mathematics while black.”7 This chapter provides an explanation from much of the existing literature regarding the unique aspects of what it means to be “negotiating while black” and suggests how negotiations with black persons can achieve positive results without discrimination being involved.
Black and Negotiating: What the Studies Tell Us ...
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