you first

This magazine was launched to surface narratives reflecting real, lived experiences and targeted at a professional black male demographic—narratives that aren’t typically found elsewhere. We’ve since published more than 250 articles, poems, interviews and profiles that have reached hundreds of thousands of people, and no one has benefited more from the content than me. But what comes next?

As many of you know, I’ve recently been spending more time with audiences that are looking to grapple with many of the topics that we cover here. The difference between the impact you can have when writing someone a letter as compared to looking them in the eye and sharing an uncomfortable truth can scarcely be quantified.

It’s easy to rail against the system while comfortably ensconced in my office, amplifying the work of brave souls who seek to change the world in which we live for the better. It is a completely different thing to stand in front of a sea of strangers and say the kinds of things that you’d avoid saying if you’re there to be liked and make friends. And the more I do it, the more convinced I am that waiting on other people to change is a losing strategy.

In one of my recent sessions, I was asked how someone who “doesn’t see” race or gender can help. He knew he wasn’t a part of the problem, but someone obviously was. Before I responded, one of his colleagues patiently introduced him to the concept of unconscious bias, and how his perspective might be blinding him to bias of which he’s unaware.

This is not an uncommon reaction to conversations about equality. The notion that other people have an issue that needs to be resolved is prevalent. In other words, the people most in need of a live intervention are utterly oblivious of this fact. They’re sure they get the joke already.

Abernathy plays a small part in identifying and amplifying this truth by making it personal and relevant and accessible. But the more we all step up to the proverbial microphone of opportunity and state our truth with conviction—even if that truth is, “I have no idea what to do.”—the better.

Abernathy is the leading online magazine for professional black men, and this is an excerpt from a recent newsletter. Subscribe for full and early access.

By willie jackson

willie jackson is an inclusion strategist who empowers thoughtful organizations and the leaders who run them.