Spirit Driving Institute Leila Johnson – Transformation Teacher


What’s Going On – My Response to Charlottesville


Last week, Brett and I attended a great business marketing class. The instructor mentioned a long standing rule for businesses - don't share your views on politics or religion through your business. He stated that people assume their customers share the same views as them. And that posting your political or religious leanings can alienate your customers. All the participants nodded in agreement.

Then, this week happened and I can't be silent any longer. I'm not going to apologize if this alienates anyone.

The Charlottesville white nationalists rally and the responses from the president had me speechless for awhile. I shook my head knowing that white supremacy is still such a force. Even worse, I can't believe that we have a president who isn't bothered enough by it for my liking.

You see, Data-Scribe is owned by me and my husband, Brett - two black entrepreneurs who check the "Independent" box on our voter cards. Some of you might wonder what's the big deal in sharing that.

For more than half of the 14 years we've been in business, most of our clients were outside of New Mexico and we never met them in person. Also, we haven't posted pictures of ourselves in too many places. All of that was on purpose.

We noticed that staying largely anonymous online gave us a level playing field. Sometimes when people meet us first instead of seeing our website and portfolio first, they just treat us "differently". It's something that I'm sure other black business owners encounter, but don't like to admit.

This didn't stop us. We feel honored and humbled by all the times we've had a "seat at the table". The number of high profile projects we've worked on, client relationships we've built, and business experiences we've lived through are mind boggling anytime we take a minute to reminisce.

Our parents lived through the Civil Rights Movement. We feel so blessed to have had the opportunities we've had just one generation later. Also, there isn't a day that goes by that I don't wonder what my grandmother would think about the life I lead. I'm sure she would have a sense of pride. And we want to pass down that sense of pride in our heritage and gratitude for today to both of our daughters so that they can strive to do even better than we have.

We often play the "What would life have been like for you in the 1950s?" game with our older daughter. It's a way to show her how much she has to be grateful for and not to have a sense of entitlement. (Don't know if it's working, but, hey, we're trying!)

We ask her things like "Would we have lived in this neighborhood?" No. "Would you have gone to this school?" No. "Would you have had the white friends you have?" No.

Then we ask her "Why?". And she says "Because we're black and black people didn't get to have those things back then." Simplistic, but hopefully gets the point across.

So, now I think about that game in today's context and can't help but feel like we're going backwards. Could the white supremacy movement gain enough momentum that the 1950s picture I painted could once again become a reality? How do we deal with having a president who continues to reveal his true colors in increasingly disturbing ways? How do you encourage your young black children with the usual rhetoric of growing up to be whatever they dream about? How do you say, "You could even be president!" with a straight face...

Let me return to where I started with this post. As far as I can remember, this is the first post where I've mentioned anything related to politics and race. I was inspired by the CEOs of public companies sharing their views and disassociating from the president. It feels good to share how I've been feeling for so long in this way.

So, where do we go from here? My knee jerk reaction is to donate money to an advocacy or human rights group. That seems like an easy way out to make me feel like I'm doing something. But, how do you know which one and whether your donation is really making a difference?

I don't have the answers right now, but will continue to seek ways to make a difference. I'd love to hear what other small business owners do when they feel moved to take a social stand.

In the meantime, I'll continue to play the "1950s game" with our daughter and hope that those conditions remain a thing of the past.

About Leila Johnson

Rev. Leila Johnson's book, Driving to Success: Let Your Spirit Take the Wheel, is a spiritual retreat for overachieving entrepreneurs and professionals who want to redefine the answer to "What do you want to be when you grow up?". Leila is President and Co-Owner of Data-Scribe, an information technology systems integration and modernization firm providing services to businesses, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies. As part of her journey on the road of life, Leila has earned her Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry and in the Metaphysical Sciences. She also holds her Master of Divinity and is an ordained reverend. Prior to starting her business, Leila worked as a call center coach, curriculum developer, and trainer in the financial and insurance industries.
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