Happy Tuesday #Jontourage,
Welcome back to the “Classy Gent Chronicles”, where staying classy is the only way to be. Let's jump right into it....
So I am out at lunch with my aunt. She is always excited to see me considering we only get together a few times per year (we said we were going to change that in 2017). We go to our favorite meet up spot, Silver Diner. Today it is especially crowded so there is a line to be seated. Since this is no seating area, everyone waiting to be seated has to stand. The lady in front of me starts asking my aunt about her car because I guess the lady saw my aunt drive up to the place. They talk for a couple minutes about the car. Then my aunt introduces herself to the lady, for which the woman also introduces herself as well. So I say “hi I am Jonathan”. My aunt, who is always so proud, tells her that I am published author. Despite my book being published in March 2016, it is sometimes still weird to be known as an author considering I hated English in high school...but that’s neither here nor there. So the lady asks me about my book. I tell her what I tell anyone who asks, it is a book that helps people improve their self-esteem and other areas of their life with steps and diagrams on how to do so. The woman was very excited to here and commented on how important a topic like that is as my aunt continues to beam with pride.
The conversation takes an interesting turn when the woman asks “so is the book only for black guys?” I am not one who gets easily offended, nor am I one who assumes every odd comment must have been a malicious one. However, that comment does speak to what many people assume about minority entrepreneurs that our non-minority counterparts don’t have hanging over their head. The question we are faced with is are our products, services, and objectives only established to help people that look like us?
If I was in a wheelchair and I made a book on loving yourself, would people assume this book could only benefit people also in a wheelchair? If I was Hispanic and I had a radio show, would people assume only Latino listeners would find the show appealing? Joel Osteen and Steve Harvey are both respected celebrities that both have self-help books out. When you see a book by Joel Osteen versus a book by Steve Harvey, how does your perception change as to whether one book can help you more or not based on who wrote it? Although Steve Harvey and Joel Osteen are household names, many local entrepreneurs face that challenge every day.
The even bigger question is how many sales have I and other minority entrepreneurs lost once the customer saw us in person? I honestly do not think the lady meant any harm but her comment but I do feel if I was the same person, same credentials, same back story just white, she may not have asked me that question. If I wasn’t a minority, my ability to make a book that helped all people may not have been called into question. The title of my book is “Master of Ceremonies: A Male’s Guide for a Successful Life” not “Master of Ceremonies: A Black Male’s Guide for a Successful”. There are books out there with African American males on the front cover and “Black” or “African American” in the title. Despite me telling this lady the name of my book and showing her the front cover (it’s my phone wallpaper), it wasn’t convincing enough for her to not ask me “so is the book only for black guys?”
Moving forward, I think we can change our intent by changing our wording. Instead of asking “so is this book only for black guys?”, she could have asked “who is your target audience?”. What do you think her intentions were with that statement?
Moral of the story: It is perfectly fine to be curious about something, but it is how the question is asked that changes the course of the conversation.
Remember, in order to live out your dreams, you have to think it, feel it, live it! Until next time, stay classy...
Jonathan C. Harris is no stranger to leadership, hard work, or success. At the age of ten years old, he earned the right to be a guest weatherman for a day on Fox 5 DC News. He has already received over 100 honors and awards including Forty Under 40 for Prince George’s County, MD, TEDx Talk speaker, American College Personnel Association (ACPA) Outstanding Men’s Program, high school Valedictorian and the Kiwanis Club Citizenship Award. Raised in Fort Washington, Maryland, he has served in leadership positions his entire life, from being the manager of the school store in elementary school to the president of the Homelessness Awareness Club in middle school to the president of the National Honor Society in high school.