i had lunch with an intern and two other brown girls yesterday from my office. the poor little intern had no clue how to go about grad school, finding a job - totally lost.
we were talking about how she needs to create a network for herself and i found myself saying, 'you need to widen your circle of friends. and it wouldn't be a bad idea to make sure one of them is white. some white folk can be very helpful.'
'i don't know any white people.'
'you need to. at least one.'
'really. but find a good brown mentor, too. you'll need both. cover all your bases.'
the other two women nodded. 'we didn't think this was important when we graduated college, but after working for a while, yes. ding is right. you need a white friend. at least one.'
i said, 'first, it's always good to be friends with everyone, but it's especially good to have a bridge to white folk. it's about strategy. i've grown up around white people; i've always had white friends. but it was still an eye-opener to see how white guys i worked with made connections, met one another, promoted one another, got up that ladder. they're bold, assertive, they do their homework and they think ahead. i learned a lot observing them and my roommate's way of thinking about work and management has actually helped me. our friends and family back in the neighborhood - they're about safety. as long as you find a good job, baby, you'll do ok. nice advice, but not really gonna help you be anything more than safe. you need someone to show you how to get your foot in the door and keep it there until you get what you need. white folk know how to do that.'
(the white guys at the table next to us fell silent.)
the other two brown girls nodded.
one of them said, ' my dad worked his way up the ladder to a senior executive position at the post office. he has a great job but all he wanted was for me to get a good job at the post office. i didn't want to work for the post office.'
i said, 'and my mom wanted me to get my teacher's certification and be a high school teacher back in california. she thought grad school was risky.'
the intern asked, 'does everyone know about this?'
'well, you won't find it in a black MBA book, but we think it's useful.'