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Black communities are celebrated for their work to uphold cultural values, share cherished traditions among family and community members and remind upcoming generations of what their sacred duty is: pass it down, too.
What happens then when the opposite is in the effect of hoarding information close to the chest within said community so that only one group has better chances than others?
Gatekeeping, the name of the game, then, is at play.
While all communities have gatekeepers, which can be a form of a safety net of protection against harm, negative impacts are felt when people are more concerned about themselves than those who they are trying to keep safe.
Black employees looking to climb the corporate ladder may experience envy from other coworkers who feel threatened by their very presence. Families and communities at large can gatekeep and exclude, too.
Crab mentality is ingrained in a community’s culture. Successful people are viewed as a threat to those who want to maintain their position and power in societies with this mentality. Another formulation proposes that those who attempt to step forward and disrupt the relationship of integrity are punished to preserve the social order and the perception of equality in society
“Because it’s more than, ‘You not taking my spot,’ rather than uplifting each other and guiding one another,” he said.
Herbert Taylor, a multimedia producer at Experiential Marketing, told the Michigan Chronicle that gatekeeping does happen internally in some circles but he feels like when used for good, it can, “Preserve our history and vast contributions to American culture.”
TeQuion Brookins, a self-described “philanthrepreneur” who helps mission-driven organizations thrive, feels that gatekeeping in the Black community happens for many reasons all stemming from chattel slavery and capitalism.
“We know that all skin folk ain’t kin folk but a lot of it has to do with the morphing/code-switching many are forced to do in order to assimilate and reach certain heights,” Brookins said. “It permeates all industries including the nonprofit sector and requires radical healing and justice to correct. It’s not in ‘us’ to be this way.”
Nisah Tahara, an area project executive, feels otherwise and says that many people who had resources or knowledge shared them with her as she was on her way up.
“I will be eternally grateful for the folk that gave me a start and an opportunity to learn and grow. Sam Logan (past Michigan Chronicle publisher) being one who was so helpful,” she said. “So many people hard to name them all.”
Mental Health professional Dr. Tiffany Quinn said that there is some truth to Black gatekeepers, which she says many factors exacerbate this problem “by allowing a vicious cycle of inequality in society.”
“For example, some BIPOC people have less access to education and less money than others,” she said due to a long history of employment discrimination and other discriminatory practices that the system has developed. “Over time, Black communities have become more divided and more like crabs in the bucket and this was instilled in us.”
Give back when you can, and know, you have the opportunity, which some live out as values every day.
Pam Perry, an award-winning communications professional, told the Michigan Chronicle previously why she believes in pooling resources and support toward mentoring young Black women as business-savvy future entrepreneurs.
“It will always come back to you,” Perry said of being poised to help people in one’s lane, giftings, and callings.
Perry, who teaches and mentors authors, speakers, and entrepreneurs on how to build a platform and attract major media and publishing contracts is also the publisher of Speakers Magazine and co-founder of Digital Business Acceleration. She said that being in her field for decades shed a lot of light on many inequalities – especially what Black women face in the communications field. Decades later Perry is still making a difference and said that bridging the gap between what people need and what she offers is what it’s all about.
“I’m always giving back,” she said, adding that she enjoys sharing her experiences with others looking to empower themselves and it all starts with networking.
“[The] main thing you can do when you’re around as long as I am … [is] introduce your colleagues coming up [to people] that they should know – that they need to know, and that is why mentorship is real important,” she said, adding that a sprinkle of passion in one’s profession doesn’t hurt either to get the ball rolling. “It is always good to love what you do.”