Black CEO, Who Is Married To ‘Star Wars’ Creator, Uses Being Mistaken For The Kitchen Help To Teach An Amazing Lesson (VIDEO)

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CEO Mellody Hobson was mistaken as kitchen help and takes the opportunity to use her experience to build awareness. Video by Ted talks.

In 2006, Harold Ford called his friend Mellody Hobson, to tell her that he was running for US Senate in Tennessee and that he needed some national press. Hobson, an investor, in turn called a friend at a major media organization and organized a lunch. But when Hobson and Ford arrived at the lunch, they were taken to a back room. Then they were asked: “Where are your uniforms?”

Hobson says that she and Ford still laugh about that incident, but also that “deep deep down inside, I wasn’t surprised.” Her mother was ruthlessly realistic, and had prepared her for such things. For example, after a birthday party where she was the only black person, her mother asked, “How did they treat you?”

Why did she ask that? Mellody wondered. Because, as her mother said, “They will not always treat you well.”

“Race in America makes people completely uncomfortable,” says Hobson. “Bringing it up is like the conversational equivalent of touching the third rail.” Friends had even warned her about talking about the topic here at TED, that it would make her a ‘militant black woman’ and hurt her career. But she realized, “The first step of solving any problem is not to hide from it. The first step to any form of action is awareness.”

So she decided to talk about race, and to share her experience so we could all be a little less nervous. She has heard it said that the election of Obama ended racism in our time. But she says, “I work in the investment business, and we have a saying — the numbers don’t lie.” And the numbers show clearly that there are significant disparities in household wealth, income, job opportunity, and much more. As just one example, white men are 30% of the US population, and have 70% of all corporate board seats. There are only 7 minority CEOs in the Fortune 250, and of thousands of publicly traded companies, only two are chaired by black women. “And you’re looking at one of them.”

Hobson wants to make clear, “I’m not here to complain. I’ve been treated well by people of all races more often than not. I have succeeded in my life more than my wildest expectations. I tell the uniform story because it happened. I tell the race stats because they are real.” And furthermore, those continuing problems threaten to rob future generations of their opportunities.

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  • Laural December 26, 2015 - 1:08 pm Reply

    [“Friends had even warned her about talking about the topic here at TED, that it would make her a ‘militant black woman’ and hurt her career. But she realized, “The first step of solving any problem is not to hide from it. The first step to any form of action is awareness.”] –No one but those to which micro aggressions are aimed can honestly speak to how little or how much damage is truly done with their summation on a culture or a life. If we/they are annoying about calling people out about them, it is not hopefully to claim our victimhood, but to raise an awareness in ourselves and others in hopes that culturally accepted ignorance will diminish over time due to social and peer pressure–enough that it eventually changes that culture. In the meantime, we will break ourselves, our spirits, and our souls, against rock walls of self-congratulatory entitlement and dismissiveness until we can no longer be dismissed as militant. Because that’s how it has to work, ‘annoying’ as it may be right now.

    • tea December 27, 2015 - 8:49 pm Reply

      I really enjoyed listening to that because it was calm and NOT militant. I want to express myself without sounding bitter even though second ny second of my life im confronted with microaggressions. I sure hope that the change hapoens on my childrens life time. My God

  • Stewart December 28, 2015 - 2:54 pm Reply

    It wasn’t necessary to mention she’s married to “Star Wars creator”. She’s amazing in her own right and the a cement of married to, is a modifier, in the title. I didn’t see it mentioned anywhere in her quotes in the article, either Nothing wrong with being married to George Lucas, but I’m not sure how it’s relevant to her being a powerful black woman CEO? and she only married him in 2013.

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