Housing insecurity is real, and you might be perpetuating the harm

My fellow colleagues,

If you are privileged enough to be a homeowner, second property owner, and/or have no problem paying rent on time every month despite the massive uncertainty of the last 18 months, please know that this weekend may have heavily impacted someone on your team, someone who works for or in your office building, or someone on your zoom call this morning.

PSA: Any advice here is parred down significantly. If you are not working through your own journey of what inclusion and equity mean to you, this may not resonate, make sense, or you may want to “play devil’s advocate”. Please consider hiring a coach or consultant to provide frameworks and tools for beginning this work.

Please do not:

  • fall into a well-meaning-person-of-privilege trap and ask each person individually about their rental situation (or vaccination situation for that matter).
  • Pontificate from your ego in every meeting about how angry you are when this doesn’t impact you at all.

Forcing personal connection only creates the opposite.

Some offerings:

Have you or your family (not distant friends, think personal over performative) ever had housing instability? Then DO indeed share.

But first, if you are in a leadership position, take some time to THINK about how it would feel to see you out here.. all hoggin the mic about some housing insecurity thing you know nothin’ about. < insert any other social issue that does not impact you>.

Read as much as you can about housing insecurity. Who it impacts and how. How the US and other countries have handled it so far. How the pandemic has both compounded these harms for some renters and respective property owners and excelled wealth generation for others.

If you decide to share, make it about how you are feeling, what memories this brings back for you and how that may have impacted your weekend, sleep, or ability to remain present around family.

Practice acknowledging the unearned privileges that afford you the distance from housing insecurities and/or how it even feels to be uncertain about where you might sleep on any given night.

Practice acknowledging and expressing gratitude for what specific people did not get to experience or accomplish because of the sacrifices (willing or unwilling) they made for you.

Acknowledge how you are currently working through the subsequent feelings of guilt that are the side-effect of realizing your privilege (and if you ain’t feeling guilt, please see above PSA), and what you are doing to fulfill your responsibility for dismantling the structures that got us into this situation starting many generations ago.

Establish an ongoing learning cadence about said structures and how you currently benefit from them while others are oppressed by them is a great start.

Reminder: you alone can’t solve this (or really any social issue) issue alone. ☝🏾☝🏾Focusing on the above responsibility until an answer comes to you is a good place to stay for a while☝🏾☝🏾.

Another Reminder: Reading a book or asking the one first-to-graduate person of color you know to tell you about their experience won’t count..

Lastly, DO NOT forget that you have no idea what people are going through behind their smile and/or nods on zoom or passing by in the office, or “my weekend? Oh yeah, it was good, thanks..” Be kind and considerate just by thinking before you speak.

If any/all of this makes you uncomfortable, ask yourself why.

When you find that answer, ask yourself why again and again until you get the root of your fear. And yes, it is fear indeed. Having fear doesn’t mean you’re weak, it just means that your pre-frontal cortex and amygdala are operating correctly.

We who have been historically underestimated often have to work through and heal from the traumatic events that formed our nation just so we can get through the day.

It's time for those who have been historically overestimated to work through the trauma they too have experienced in how their group has inflicted harm onto others without remorse or reprimand.

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Mandy Bynum

Mandy Bynum

Advisor, Consultant, Speaker. Formally Head of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at New Relic, Founder of Mandy Bynum Consulting.