Momentum Podcast: 630

Becoming An Ally

by Alex Charfen

Episode Description

Over the past few weeks I’ve been vocal about what’s going on in the United States and my support for the Black Lives Matter.

As a result I’ve had a lot of people reach out to me and ask me what they could or should do in this situation.

I know this may come as a surprise but I’ve had many people reach out who had no idea things were this bad and are shocked at what’s going on. Rather than beat people up for their lack of understanding or exposure, I have been helping them move towards a greater understanding of what is happening.

In most cases, people have been looking for a checklist, or a to do item that they can add to the list for the next day so that they can take care of this and move on.

That’s not how this works.

Just like systemic racism is not an event, neither is understanding it and becoming an ally.

This is a process and a journey that will change your life for the better, open doors for you, and make you a more compassionate and empathetic human being if you allow it.

Full Audio Transcript

This is The Momentum Podcast.

This is one of the most important moments in history. Current events have pushed systemic racism into the forefront of thought and conversation globally. One of the most important places to put your focus right now is to become an ally. The answer is not a checklist or a box to check or a to do list item that can be done once and move past. That's not how this works. It's not an event. It's a journey.

Becoming an ally is a process that will change your life for the better, open doors for you, and make a more compassionate and empathetic human being out of you if you allow it. I hope you enjoy this very special episode of The Momentum Podcast.

I'm Alex Charfen. And this is The Momentum Podcast made for empire builders, game changers, trailblazers, shot takers, record breakers, world makers, and creators of all kinds. Those among us who can't turn it off and don't know why anyone would want to. We challenge complacency, destroy apathy, and we are obsessed with creating momentum so we can roll over bureaucracy and make our greatest contribution.

Sure, we pay attention to their rules, but only so that we can bend them, break them, then rewrite them around our own will. We don't accept our destiny. We define it. We don't understand defeat because you only lose if you stop and we don't know how. While the rest of the world strives for average and clings desperately to the status quo, we are the minority, the few who are willing to hallucinate there could be a better future. And instead of just daydreaming of what could be, we endure the vulnerability and exposure it takes to make it real. We are the evolutionary hunters, clearly the most important people in the world because entrepreneurs are the only source of consistent, positive human evolution and we always will be.

So over the past few weeks, I've been really vocal about my support for the Black Lives Matter Movement and for change in the United States and for the radical change of systemic racism in the United States. And as a result, I've had quite a few people reach out to me and ask me questions like, "Hey, what can I do? And how can I make posts like you're making? And how can I understand more about this?" And a lot of the people who've reached out, I've gotten the impression that what they're looking for is a checklist or a to-do item or something that they can just do, and then understand what's happening and get past this and become an ally and be part of what's going on.

And I wanted to make this to help everyone understand, to help you understand if you are having those same questions, like how do I become an ally? How do I become part of this? How do I support? How do I make sure that I am not contributing to systemic racism? How do I make sure that I'm not part of the problem, and how do I get all the way over to the other side of being part of the solution? And I appreciate these questions like crazy. Like I've wanted my whole life for people to ask those questions. I wanted this to be a topic of conversation.

I grew up in Southern California. I didn't always look like I do now. I wasn't always tall as I am now. I looked a lot more Latin American, a lot more Arab when I was younger. I had an accent when I was younger. I was always the darkest kid in my class, except for the black kids. And so I always felt different. I always felt unique and singular and alone. And as a result of being the kid that was different, I went to a school in Orange County where I ended up being friends with the kids who were black because we were all different. And that's kind of where my journey started is understanding this stuff, understanding that we were different and seeing that we were different. And then seeing that we ended up hanging out together because we were different.

And it wasn't until my 20s and really until my early 30s that I started really understanding systemic racism. It wasn't until that time that I really started understanding just how difficult things were and how different things were for Black Americans than just Americans and even how different they were for me and Black Americans.

I share this story often. More than once I've been around my friends who are Black and I've been treated completely differently than when I'm by myself or with my family who is white or with my friends who are white. And when you're aware enough, if you go through that, you can actually feel the difference.

I joke about one time we were doing an event here in Austin and I was speaking and I would go back out the back door, through the hotel, through the back corridors of the hotel to get around the hotel so that while I was speaking, people wouldn't stop me and slow me down and I could go back and speak. And when I did it by myself, I went through the back of the hotel 15 times by myself. When I would do it with Louis, who was on our team, who happens to be Black, we got stopped every time. I remember we even talked about it one day, I said, "Can you believe we get stopped every time that I'm with you? I don't get to stop when I'm back here by myself." That's the systemic racism that we're all talking about, that's the subtle issues and challenges that Black people deal with and that people of color deal with, that minorities deal with.

And if you want to become an ally, if you want to move in this direction, I want you to understand something. This is not a checklist item. This is not a to-do list item. This is a journey. This is a process. This is a commitment. I would say a lifelong commitment to empathy, compassion, and understanding the feelings on the other side. And I get a little emotional when I talk about this because let me share my journey with you.

When I was in my 20s and my whole life, I've studied successful people. It's part of my origin story, it's kind of who I am. I always felt like I would not be successful and I would not ever attain this thing called success. So my life has been committed to reading about successful people, inventorying successful people, understanding successful people.

And there was this point in my 20s, where I got around to reading some of the most successful and amazing human beings that ever walked the face of the earth. When I got to read the work and the life and times of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, just those two men, they were flawed. They were not perfect humans, but they stepped through their flaws and overcame those flaws and got an entire nation and I would say the entire world to listen. And when I started reading about them, I got addicted. I wanted to read more. I wanted to understand more of what was going on.

I read the incredible stories of human beings like Harriet Tubman, who pre-technology, pre-fax machine, I mean, pre-anything, set up the Underground Railroad to get people from the South to the North and help people survive and live, risking her life on a daily basis. Blew me away.

When I read about Madam CJ Walker, who is probably my all time entrepreneurial hero. This was a black woman who was born into a family where she was the first sibling that was free. Just take a moment right now and imagine that if you have siblings, you're the only free sibling. Your brothers, your sisters, they're slaves. You have an entirely different reality than your own family. When she was 14 years old, her mother died. Or sorry, when she was a kid, her mother died. When she was 14 years old, she was married to an older man to escape a abusive relationship in her family.

Madam CJ Walker went on to at 20 years old with a two year old child start a business selling haircare products for women just like her for other black women, to help them. There's a special on Netflix about this that does a good job of telling her later a part of her story, but it doesn't tell a lot at the beginning. And what it doesn't highlight is that Madam CJ Walker became the first millionaire in the United States during the time of segregation. She couldn't even go into the same buildings as white people and she still became the first. She didn't just become the first African American or Black female millionaire. She became the first female millionaire. Talk about a story of overcoming.

So if you want to become an ally, if you want to understand more, I have some suggestions for you.

Change this in your life. You want to become an ally, build relationships, build friendships with Black people, become friends with someone who has lived this experience. Talk to them, understand them. When you talk to your friends who are black, here's what you'll understand: being in a corporation or being in a company is totally different for them than most people that you know. Talk to your black friends about the HR department and how often they are there compared to the other people there. Talk to your black friends about going into job interviews where they're the only Black person and they know unless there's some type of affirmative action quota, they're feeling like they're not going to get the position. Talk to your Black friends about going to masterminds and conferences and events where they are the only Black person in the room. Let them share or their experience with you so you can gain empathy and understanding from the other side of this coin, that that's what's really going on.

I'll share some more of what we've done in our lives. I have two daughters. Reagan is 13 and Kennedy is 10. And I believe the future is a revolution. So Cadey and I committed early to raising revolutionaries. We made sure that from the time they were small, that they were read books by white authors and books by Black authors. And one of my daughter's favorite books in the world is actually by a Black author. And she talks about it all the time. When we were looking at homeschooling options for them, we actually have had help here, teachers here homeschooling our kids more than once. We made sure that we had a Black teacher for a long period of time who was kind of an activist. And we wanted her to come and talk to our kids and give the Black perspective and let my daughters know what it's like for her and what it was like for her. And it was incredible.

My kids have spent like the last week making Black Lives Matter signs because they are emotional about this. They're upset about this. They're frustrated by this because they started from a very young age with an understanding of what white privilege is and what Black people go through. They understand their own privilege in comparison to other people, as much as a 10 or 13 year old can. And for us as adults, that's the key.

See, this is a journey. This is a journey of reading. This is a journey of relationships. This is a journey of understanding. This is a journey of compassion. This is a journey of actually making becoming an ally part of your life. And it's not just about watching movies and documentaries, but that's a good idea too. There's incredible movies out right now. An Uncomfortable Truth is amazing. Brand new, just really, really extraordinary. Or the movie 13th is one that you can go watch on Netflix and will show you this systemic racism in the prison industrial complex. Understanding these things will start helping you become empathetic, become an ally, start understanding.

Here's something you shouldn't do. You should not go out and start pretending like you're an ally. You shouldn't not go change the homepage on your website to put the sign up that says Black Lives Matters unless you know what that means and you know the ramifications of being someone who says it. See, I know I'm judged for saying it. I know that we will lose clients for saying it. I know that when we send out our Black Lives Matter email this week, I knew there would be unsubscribes. It was the single largest unsubscribed we've had it. It wasn't huge. We have about 8,000 on our database. We lost about 70. I was actually proud that the number was small. We don't lose that many subscribers on any given email. 70 was significant for us, but it wasn't a huge percentage of our database. It wasn't even a huge percentage of the people who opened it.

Why? Because this is who I am. I'd be shocked if anybody in our database was surprised to see that email from me. And they probably just unsubscribed because they didn't agree, and they didn't want it to be that overtly stated. But for me, this is a way of life. And so if you want to become an ally, here's my suggestion for you. Do the work first. Start reading about white privilege and white supremacy and systemic racism and how absolutely real it is in the United States and how every Black person you know, anyone you have a relationship deals with it on a daily basis, and doesn't have a choice whether they can deal with it or not.

A friend of mine posted, "It is a privilege to not understand racial privilege." That's part of privilege, not even understanding it. And so start understanding it, get into this world, understand what's really happening or get into our world to understand what's really happening and then start making an announcement and then start telling people that you're an ally and then start posting Black Lives Matter. Because here's something that is crucial: if you're going to make these statements, if you're going to go out there and share this with people, back them up.

I'm ready to have the discussion with anybody. I've been working on this for over 20 years. I, it took me a long time to deconstruct and to move past the racism that I grew up with when I was a child. Even though I was a minority, I still experienced systemic racism. I still felt it. I was still part of the system. I still am part of this system on a daily basis. I am realizing more and more that I can let go of, that I can become more empathetic, that can understand more, that I can be more of a positive influence in this world.

And so if this is important to you, which I believe that for any business owner, it shouldn't be, put more time into this because here's the reward, here is the reward of studying and understanding and becoming more empathetic and becoming more compassionate. The reward is that when there's more diversity on a team, when there's more diversity in an organization, when you attract people with different perspectives, that's when magic happens. When there is people from all different walks of life, from different thought process, from different histories, from different backgrounds, from different social economic groups, from different areas of the world, that is when problem solving happens. And it's like turbocharged.

And as a business owner, here's what you do not want. You do not want everyone in the room who looks the same way, thinks the same way, talks the same way. And does things the same way. You won't solve anything. The reward for becoming ally, the reward for understanding systemic racism, the reward for doing this as an entrepreneur is that you will build stronger teams by far.

I can tell you right now I've had teams in my early days that were not very diverse. In fact, at one point I had an all male Latin American team. It was brutal. And I've had teams where there's a ton of diversity and differences between people and the problems we solve on those teams were game-changing. In fact, they were world changing. We solved to the foreclosure crisis, one homeowner at a time from 2007 to about 2013 and the team that did that was all over the place. And I'm proud of it. And I think the reason we were able to do that is because of the perspectives, the intelligence, the collective experience that we had on our team was so diverse that it all added up to us literally changing the world.

And so if you've been thinking for the past few weeks about becoming an ally, here's my suggestion: if you're an entrepreneur, it starts with you. Not with your announcement, not with an email to everybody telling them the checklist of things you and your company are going to do, not with the declaration that you are going to do better, but with the work. With you getting real and getting centered and starting to read about white privilege and starting to read about what really happens in our culture today and starting to read about systemic racism and how ingrained it is in how we think, how we act and what we do, and starting to understand it for yourself. Then you can start to put it into your organization in a congruent and real way that means something to you. Then you can put it into the way that you sell your organization in a congruent and real way that works for you. And then you can go out and make the announcements and make the declarations and back them up with what you really believe and what you really think.

Because here's what's important when it comes to this: if you're going to make the declarative statements, if you're going to go out there and be an ally, if you're going to go out there and talk to people about this, they need to feel it from your heart. It's about the energy you do it with, not the words you say, not how you show up necessarily. See, you can say all the right words, you can do all the right things and still look like you don't really mean it.

This is about the energy. This is about who you are. This is about becoming someone who is an ally, not checking the boxes to get there. And if you're willing to do this, it will change your life for the better, make it far more rich and meaningful. It will give you empathy and compassion you didn't know was possible. And if you're an entrepreneur, it'll make you a hell of a better one.

The more we understand the world around us, the more we understand the people around us, the more we support and help those around us, the more energy I believe flows to us and moves us forward. And so if you're willing to take this journey, I want you to know something. I support you. I'm with you. Reach out to me if you feel like you need help. We all go forward faster together. And right now, it feels like a magical time in history where momentum is already going in the right direction. Let's keep it going there because we may be right on the cusp of real lasting permanent change, but it's going to take all of us.

So I challenge you take the personal journey, read the books, watch the documentaries, talk to Black friends of yours, make Black friends, build relationships so that you have an understanding of what's happening. And that is how you don't write about becoming part of the solution. That's how you actually become a part of the solution. And if you are growing a business and you want help growing that business, I want you to know my team and I are here for you. And if you've ever felt marginalized or like you didn't count in another mastermind, or if you've ever walked into a room, looked around and realized you were the only minority or the only Black person, that won't happen to you in our group. You will not be marginalized. You'll end up on stage in our group.

I work like crazy to fill my room with minority members because here's what I want you to know about our business: See, I believe that entrepreneurs are the most consistent source of positive human evolution, and we always will be. And here's my belief when minorities, when Blacks make more money, when we build empires, when we build our companies, that is when we will truly and permanently change the world because we need to stop asking for permission and just go take it. And we can do that by building the organizations that changed the world for the better.

Right now, it's arguable that businesses are having just as much an impact on the economy and the world as governments are. And so if you're an entrepreneur, you have an opportunity not just to build a company. You have an opportunity to build a company that becomes a community, that becomes an organization, that becomes an empire that goes out and changes things.

So if you're ready, reach out to me, we would love to help you. Or you can go do and jump in. I can't wait to see you in our membership. And thanks for listening. Appreciate all of you who are listening live. Love you, Molly. Thank you. Talk to you all soon.

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