Black Lives Matter.
*Most names in this post have been changed to protect those mentioned.
When I was in sixth grade, my favorite teacher was Dr. Lonnie White, who used to start every history class by having us recite one of two phrases.
The first was “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
Dr. White would use this quote from the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. when we were studying anything that highlighted the mistreatment of a group of people – from the removal of Native Americans during the Trail of Tears to the killing of Jews during the Holocaust.
He wanted to teach us that while an issue in society might not have affected us personally, whether because of our age, our race, or our gender if we turned away and ignored the suffering of others, one day it would be our turn and then no one would be there to help us.
Dr. White taught me to believe that building a world where your ceiling in life isn’t determined before birth requires the collective efforts of everyone and not just the group affected.
One group has been affected for a long time.
Many of you who read my emails or watch the My Consulting Offer videos already know a lot about my background.
You know that I grew up in one of the poorest communities in the United States, my school system was once “the worst in America”, and that someone told me “people from your town go to jail, not to Yale.”
What you might not have known is that I grew up in a majority Black community.
In fact, four out of five people in my hometown are Black.
From the time I started grade school until I graduated from high school, I could count the number of non-Black students in my classes each year on one hand.
While I wasn’t immune to the issues of race (I could write an entire book on the challenges of growing up Asian in America), I also saw the challenges that my Black friends faced every day.
I remember being pulled over at sixteen years old while driving home from church with my friend John, and the cop asking only for John’s information even though I was the driver and he was just the passenger. Had John not been born Black, that car ride would have been like any other Sunday afternoon ride.
I remember at seventeen years old interviewing for a part-time tutoring job, making it to the final round with my friend Aubrey (who had better grades than me, already had tutoring experience, and had been voted “most likely to succeed” by our class, including me). I ended up getting the job and when I asked the interviewer why me instead of Aubrey the response was, “My family feels more comfortable with your people.”
In each incident, I was reminded of the privilege of my skin color and how injustice manifests itself around me and, if someday I wanted allies to support me, I needed to show I would be an ally for others.
What started off with attending small community events in middle school promoting Black issues eventually evolved into me spending many of my weekends in high school attending rallies, getting signatures for petitions, and even working with my Congressman’s office to raise, discuss, and promote issues in our Black community.
When I arrived at university, I learned that even at a place like Yale being Black still affected your experience.
At Yale, I would take on other issues affecting the world, but I never stopped caring about the issues I saw in the Black community. But as in my high school days, it took time to earn acceptance into the Black community on campus without anyone thinking I was trying to put this on my resume or make light of the situation, but with every protest I joined, every debate I engaged in, and every charity concert I brought people to, I was able to contribute to the change.
One of my favorite memories of graduating from Yale is having been invited to a graduation celebration for Black students and their families.
Being able to celebrate part of my graduation weekend with the Black community was an honor but also a reminder of what I learned back in Dr. Lonnie White’s history class and the two phrases he had us recite.
The first maxim I shared earlier, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”, was to demonstrate that someone else’s issues deserve your attention as much as your own issues.
The second quote was, “To whom much is given; much is expected in return.”
This second one didn’t mean much to me when I was an 11-year old growing up in a household facing the risk of eviction, gang violence, and going hungry each month, but as I’ve gotten older I have come to see how much I was given.
I survived at least two neighborhood shootings growing up; I was given a full scholarship to Yale; and I was born “non-Black” in a country where being Black meant starting life with a handicap.
Because of what life has given me, I think of myself as indebted to help others who might not have won the pre-birth lottery.
In particular, I am indebted to the Black community.
Who I am today is because of the amazing Black people present in my early life.
I am the product of the Black elementary, middle, and high school teachers including Dr. White who taught me; I am the product of the Black mentors who showed me what it meant to pay it forward; and I am the product of the countless Black friends, classmates, and neighbors who shared their stories, food, and lives with me.
I won’t pretend to have the answer to how we can change our world so that the quality of your life isn’t determined by the race, gender, and class you are born into, but I do know I am someone “to whom much has been given” and because of that “much is expected in return.”
Giving forward has been a theme in my life even before I started My Consulting Offer.
When I signed with Bain & Company, I donated my signing bonus to building schools and starting the first of many college scholarships I (and eventually My Consulting Offer) would sponsor. In fact, three of the last four scholarship winners have been either a Black high school senior using the fund for college or a Black teacher using the fund to buy classroom materials (the scholarships are open to everyone and the winner is decided by a committee of my former high school teachers).
But this year, we have increased our efforts at My Consulting Offer even before the recent events, and what has happened since then has only pushed me to want to do more.
- We have been partnering with businesses to create a free platform for paid remote internship opportunities for anyone who might not have access to internships because of location, COVID-19, or financial reasons. Moving forward, I have been reaching out to Black business owners to make sure they also have opportunities to have their businesses shown in a spotlight to you and others.
- We have been promoting Diversity events for the major consulting firms such as those hosted by McKinsey. Moving forward, we are going to continue to find and highlight diversity events. For Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) that might not have access to consulting events, we plan to reach out to those schools this summer and volunteer to coordinate events for the Fall and beyond so that their students have exposure to consulting as a potential career path and much of My Consulting Offer’s support.
- I have been giving away portions of my profits from My Consulting Offer to fund the building of schools, college scholarships, and, during recent events, organizations/people involved with fighting COVID-19 and advancing Black Lives Matter. As you know, when you get a job offer while working with our team, we donate part of your enrollment tuition to funding schools and scholarships. Moving forward, anyone who gets an offer will have a choice of telling me where you want your donation directed. You can still fund the building of schools around the world or sponsor a college scholarship, but now, if you prefer, you can choose to support the local NAACP or Black Lives Matter group in your community. If you received an offer in 2020 and already told me that you wanted to make a donation to education but now wish to change that to a local NAACP or Black Lives Matter group, you can email me directly.
My Consulting Offer and I are committed to moving towards a world where the height of one’s success in life is not determined before birth.
As a result, these initiatives that I listed above will continue to run after this email, long after the news outlets decrease their coverage, and long after the current discussions stop, because this won’t be the last injustice that needs our attention in our lifetime.
We can’t do this alone.
I know many of you in our community want to be involved in moving us toward this better world, so I’d like to share a few actions that I have found helpful, and that I challenge you to take at least one if you haven’t already.
- Give Your Voice. There are local movements all over the world and they are easy to find.
Give Your Money. There are countless organizations doing great work. Find one that resonates with you. But if you want a place to start, I personally support the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the Bail Project.
Give Your Ear. I’ve lived in a Black community for 18 years and I am still learning about the experiences of those in my community through conversations with those directly affected. To support a movement, you have to listen to the stories of why that movement matters. Here is a place to start if you enjoy reading, a place to start if you prefer to watch, and a place to start if you prefer to listen.
This one post won’t change the world, but I hope it moves us closer to a world where it is a given that Black Lives Matter.
Founder, My Consulting Offer