Leadership / Communication / Woke

Leadership Moment — 30 Nov 22

“You people . . .”

Mark McMillion
2 min readNov 30, 2022

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Photo by Adi Goldstein on Unsplash

This phrase is often used in movies or television as a punchline to pigeonhole the speaker as a racist / homophobe / etc. One of my sons felt a little ganged up on at a school activity yesterday by a group of white heterosexuals (my son is also white) and used the phrase.

When he was telling me the story, my head snapped around and I swerved the truck. He grinned at me and said, “It’s okay, Dad, they were all white people . . . “

I had to think about that for a moment.

I’m not particularly “woke” and my two daughters in their twenties really don’t think I am. I came of age in the ’80s and ’90s when woke was called PC or politically correct. I’ve written about this before.

After thinking for a minute or two, my son and I talked about the situation and how to move the needle with the group. Raised voices and recriminations don’t get results. When it gets to that point, things are stopped in place (at best) and normally require a little backing up to get things going again.

When a person says, “You people . . .,” the speaker is actually saying:

· I’m different than you

· I’m a different group than you

· I’m better than you

· My group is better than you

· You’re inferior to me

None of those things are helpful in resolving a disagreement. They just aren’t.

My son and I had a great talk about it. We concluded that wasn’t a good phrase to use. The conversation was probably better in my memory than in reality but I’ll cling to what I think happened.

That was my leadership moment today.

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Mark McMillion

Retired Army officer with two tours in Baghdad, married with four kids. Proud West Virginian and West Point grad. Works available on Amazon.