Being black in the US vs the UK: There's a big difference

Author, broadcaster, and financial advisor Alvin Hall posits that since he doesn't fit into the narrowly defined idea of what a financial advisor should look like in the U.S., he fell through the cracks and didn't get a fair chance.

Alvin Hall: Two facts. One, I define myself as a black man first, because that’s what you’re going to see when you look at me. Being gay is something I define myself second, third, I can’t decide really. But it’s not everything I am. It’s a part of a complexity that I am. And that’s not backing away from the fact that I’m gay. It’s just that there are other aspects of my personality which are much more important to me and how I negotiate the world.

My career in the UK and other parts of the world really came about because someone there saw my talent at being able to talk about money, personal finance, cultural issues, and my curiosity, and opened the door for me. I don’t think that I would have had the same opportunity in the United States.

Why not? Partly because when people look at me they don’t see my skill sets and they’re always filtered through their own prejudice.

In the UK and other parts of the world – not all but many – people will give you credit. They’ll give you the opportunity— even if it’s the opportunity to fail, but it’s an opportunity that you can turn into success.

I don’t think that what happened with my career in the United Kingdom would have happened for me in America. I don’t think that the affection that the people in the UK have for me would have come to me in America. I think that people saw my curiosity, saw my hunger, saw my ability to talk about things honestly and openly, and genuinely and they appreciated that. I will never know why we couldn’t convince Americans to embrace that side of me and I stop - and many years ago I stopped wondering. I just stopped.

When I use the term “coded” I mean when people know and don’t know they are bigoted, racist, or generally prejudiced but they try to hide it. So you have to be very much aware of eye movements, facial tics, hand movement, body language, even sometimes word choices, because that word choice can often telescope to you, suddenly, exactly what you’re dealing with.

And often the people who use those terms are so unaware that they don’t even know the import of what they’re saying. But if you know that means you can adjust yourself to the situation. They are not likely to change, and you will gain nothing by calling them out on it except next time it’ll be more subtle. So often when I see it, I adjust me because as I learned from that therapist many years ago, it’s me I have to change. It’s me I have to alter, not them.

Author Alvin Hall is a huge award-winning financial advisor and broadcaster in the UK, despite being born and raised in poverty in Florida. He feels, though, that he wasn't able to break through in American media because America, he feels, still has a lot of inbuilt racial prejudice. He posits that since he doesn't fit into the narrowly defined idea of what a financial advisor should look like in the U.S., he fell through the cracks and didn't get a fair chance. In the UK, on the other hand, "they'll give you the opportunity— even if it’s the opportunity to fail, but it’s an opportunity that you can turn into success."

Adam Gopnik on the rhinoceros of liberalism vs. the unicorns of everything else

Torn between absolutism on the left and the right, classical liberalism—with its core values of compassion and incremental progress whereby the once-radical becomes the mainstream—is in need of a good defense. And Adam Gopnik is its lawyer.

Think Again Podcasts
  • Liberalism as "radical pragmatism"
  • Intersectionality and civic discourse
  • How "a thousand small sanities" tackled drunk driving, normalized gay marriage, and could control gun violence
Keep reading Show less

You weren't born ‘to be useful’, Irish president tells young philosophers

Irish president believes students need philosophy.

Personal Growth
  • President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins calls for students to be thought of as more than tools made to be useful.
  • Higgins believes that philosophy and history should be a basic requirement forming a core education.
  • The Irish Young Philosopher Awards is one such event that is celebrating this discipline among the youth.
Keep reading Show less

Fascism and conspiracy theories: The symptoms of broken communication

The lost practice of face-to-face communication has made the world a more extreme place.

Videos
  • The world was saner when we spoke face-to-face, argues John Cameron Mitchell. Not looking someone in the eye when you talk to them raises the potential for miscommunication and conflict.
  • Social media has been an incredible force for activism and human rights, but it's also negatively affected our relationship with the media. We are now bombarded 24/7 with news that either drives us to anger or apathy.
  • Sitting behind a screen makes polarization worse, and polarization is fertile ground for conspiracy theories and fascism, which Cameron describes as irrationally blaming someone else for your problems.
Keep reading Show less