Even black men can be fired for not being "woke" enough
Part one of a five-part series on my departure from Bell Media and iHeartRadio
French President Emmanuel Macron made international headlines when he expressed concerns that American cultural influence is creating division in France. As a Canadian, I have made similar observations in my country, too.
Wokeness—a political agenda with a superficial commitment to diversity and inclusion—has become a global ideological movement. And, more than government policy, it’s big corporations pushing this agenda and punishing those who refuse to comply.
Weeks after George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis in 2020, Bell Media hired me to be part of the iHeartRadio talk network as a radio host. From my perspective, Bell Media/iHeartRadio recognized that despite its publicized commitment to valuing people from different backgrounds, they had yet to ever hire a fulltime black talk radio host in their Canadian market. What my experience made clear is that the company failed to consider what it would mean to sincerely engage someone from a black community, without expectations that we conform to the pressures of tokenism.
Elite institutions often make assumptions about a person’s political views based on what he looks like or where his parents are from. Soon after being hired, I could see that Bell Media/iHeartRadio erred in making the same assumptions. I felt that they were hoping to have hired a liberal stereotype of a black man who espouses their expected political talking points. Bell Media/iHeartRadio was not prepared for a black man who loves his country, rejects victimhood politics, maintains strong ties to his faith community, and shares heterodox views on a wide range of issues.
In June 2021, executives encouraged on-air talent to decry our country as racist in the lead up to our independence day. On the day before Canada Day, our radio shows were made to air multiple audio clips per hour that defined our country by the worst, most racist parts of its colonial history. My show was exempt from this mandatory content because of its time slot, and I decided to counter this divisive narrative. That day, I celebrated my country by interviewing immigrants, veterans, and others who love Canada.
Months later, corporate executives shared by email a vision for diversity and inclusion that involved dividing employees up by race, gender, and sexuality for “equity consultations.” I refused to participate, and suggested that the company ought to demonstrate a commitment to true diversity: diversity of thought.
Bell Media/iHeartRadio failed to acknowledge that the radio shows I hosted were uniquely diverse and inclusive, even though I didn’t conform to the company’s political agenda. We welcomed more black journalists, professors, and business leaders than any other show in our markets. Guests included Toronto Raptors’ Fred VanVleet, Brown University’s Glenn Loury, rapper and writer Coleman Hughes, social entrepreneur Tanya Lee, sports journalist Jason Whitlock, and Canada’s first black Minister of Justice, Alberta’s Kaycee Madu. The shows I hosted featured regular commentary from Jeff Charles of RedState.com, The Blaze’s Delano Squires, Kentucky State professor Wilfred Reilly, and Samuel Sey of SlowtoWrite.com.
By December 2021, Bell Media/iHeartRadio attempted to pressure me into being a liberal stereotype. In spite of my efforts to engage a wide range of guests and ideas, one executive in particular began to question my commitment to “Diversity and Inclusion” (I assume she capitalized the letters D and I to show how serious she was). Her attempts came across to me as actually questioning my willingness to parrot her preferred ideological talking points on identity politics.
I took their pressure as an opportunity to stand up for myself and my community. I detailed to senior management that the radio shows I hosted were indeed diverse and inclusive by embracing heterodox perspectives on important issues. I explained that the views expressed on the show reflect different strands of political and cultural thought in black communities, including black Christian traditions. I also asked for, but never received, specific examples of how exactly my black guests and I weren't aligned with the company's values.
To make a long story short, I was lied to. Bell Media/iHeartRadio took me off the air, with a promise that we would discuss all of my concerns in the new year. In January 2022, during a phone call where I expected to speak with senior management and iron out our differences, I was informed that due to a “corporate restructuring,” I was being let go. That would be the end of our conversation about “Diversity and Inclusion” with a capital D and I.
Needless to say, the firing appeared to be a mix of retaliation and cowardice. It felt like they wanted to punish me for standing up for myself and also bury my substantive concerns about the company’s ethics. I personally believe Bell Media/iHeartRadio fabricated a restructuring narrative to avoid confronting the reality that their vision for diversity and inclusion does not welcome black men who think for themselves.
I am a black man. I am also a conservative, a proud Canadian, a son to a wonderful mother, a Christian, and a lawyer. None of these elements of my identity contradict each other. But too many big corporations have decided to push a political agenda that suggests people like me either don’t exist, or should hide our authentic selves for the sake of careerism.
My experience shows exactly why it’s critical for politicians and business leaders to challenge the power of woke capital. What these companies are doing is not just business; it’s politics.
Look out for part two of this five-part series on Monday, February 7.
If you can relate to my experience, please consider contacting SpeakForOurselves@macdonaldlaurier.ca. We’d love to hear your story and help you share it with others. Visit www.SpeakForOurselves.ca