The War on the War in Corporate Hierarchy
Updated: Jun 2
Why Fear and Fragility is The Motivating Force Beneath It All
Anti-Black forces in America—and particularly corporate America—regularly use narcissistic projection and self-victimization to demonize African Americans. It’s time to go toe to toe over It.
“Blacks must always punch above their weight class to get ahead and they can never punch down because if they do the only way they go is down.” ( The Silent Agreement , 2021)
Have you ever met a person who was simultaneously damaged and entitled, hurtful and overly-sensitive, dangerous and self-victimizing? If so, you’ve probably met a narcissist.
According to the Mayo Clinic, “Narcissistic personality disorder is a mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others. But behind this mask of extreme confidence lies a fragile self-esteem that's vulnerable to the slightest criticism.”
Narcissists tend to have:
Fantasies of perfection and superiority
A belief that they are special or unique
A need for praise and attention
A sense of entitlement
A tendency to exploit others
A lack of empathy
Jealousy, envy and distrust
Arrogance and scorn
If this sounds like the behavior of white racists in America, and particularly some white leaders in corporate America, it’s because white privilege has created a castigating culture of white narcissism that is so entrenched, it often goes unnoticed.
The War on the War
In response to the recent wave of Black Lives Matter marches across the US, Trumpers and their more moderate sympathizers used an age-old trick that is a typical of narcissistic behavior: They projected their bad deeds (i.e. racially re-fueled violence and police brutality) onto the victims of structural racism who are merely fighting for equality
and not an outsized advantage. But you can’t take one log off the fire and pour gasoline on it with the other.
Using deeply held, counterfactual arguments, white, conservative leaders have characterized the Black Lives Matter movement as rife with violence and racism (likening it to terrorism) and aimed at stripping white Americans of their right to cultural pride, free speech, and a political voice. Interestingly, BLM marchers are protesting these same injustices, which are used by white Americans every day—even in corporate America—to subjugate Blacks economically, politically, and culturally.
By claiming that Blacks are doing what they themselves are highly adept at doing, which is promoting hatred, inciting violence, and trying to prevent African Americans from having a voice, whites are attempting to play the victim while waging what they think is a covert war on African Americans. But it’s really a war between freedom, fear and persecution.
In short, whites have declared war on the war against racial inequality.
Playing the Volunteer Victim is a Common Narcissistic Strategy
Historically, white conservatives have used every weapon in their arsenal (including violence) to prevent African Americans from enjoying basic American rights such as free speech, the right to vote, the right to bear arms, the right to an education, the right to be considered innocent until proven guilty, the right to equality under the law, and the right to pursue happiness when, where, and how they want to pursue it.
Fear is really the motivating force beneath all of this. According to Isabel Wilkerson, author of Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents. “What we face in our current day is not the classical racism of our forefathers’ era, but a mutation of the software that adjusts to the updated needs of the operating system.” To hear Trump and his armies of angry white supremacists tell it, Black Lives Matter protesters, and African Americans in general, are attempting to shoplift these very rights from whites through violence and political theater. By demonizing anti-racist protesters, legislating to hamper economic and political equality, and stirring suspicion about African American motives, racist whites are able to deflect attention from their own dehumanizing tactics and frame their victims as the aggressors when they fight back.
This is classic narcissistic projection, a tactic whites use regularly to confuse, manipulate, and keep their knee on the necks of African Americans while portraying themselves as the victims. Rather than grapple with the painful truth that they are have a history of being abusive, entitled, power-seeking, and hateful, white American narcissists project those descriptors onto their victims—African Americans—in an attempt to shift responsibility and rationalize their own dark tendencies.
Narcissistic Racism in Black Corporate America
Most African Americans who have worked in corporate America can tell you stories of how white racists use similar tactics to prevent them from rising through the ranks. They may experience open or veiled hostility, attempts to undermine their successes, and rules that regularly change to keep them “in their place.” When they stand up for themselves, African American workers are often characterized as greedy, selfish, aggressive, entitled, and difficult to work with—all things that white corporate leaders are known for being. Black executives that want to prevail in this unfair fight must recognize these tactics and refuse to be cast as the villains.
In my book, “The Silent Agreement: An Illusion of Inclusion,” I discuss the ongoing battle for racial equality in corporate America in boxing terms to help Black executives and their allies recognize and overcome the tactics white, corporate leaders use to knock out African American executives and prevent them from reaching positions of leadership.
When African American executives are faced with white narcissistic tactics like projection and playing the victim, the fight is a fight for economic survival, and Black executives should be prepared to go toe-to-toe to win. But to do this successfully, they can’t give in to their lower impulses because they will play right into the narrative white leaders are trying to create; that Blacks are overly emotional, hostile, opportunistic, and difficult to work with.
Comparing Black executives to boxers in my book, The Silent Agreement, I wrote:
“The strict rules of boxing do have one effect: boxers must control their emotions, or they could lose the fight on a technicality. To engage, survive, and win a toe-to-toe fight, a boxer must shed all the bad habits that might win on the street but lead to certain defeat in the ring. Boxers simply can’t win through sheer brutality or force alone. Defense is critical to their success. The smart boxer must maintain a solid defense while acting on offense, because once boxers stop thinking about protecting themselves, drop their gloves, fail to bob and weave, fail to recover, or stand winded and panting—POW! They may take a straight jab to the face followed by a--umph--uppercut that leaves the boxer in a cloud of uncertainty as the ref starts counting down.”
But how can African Americans, and Black executives in particular, fight successfully when every punch is turned against them?
“The goal for Black executives should be to move from dancing around an argument to standing flatfooted and steadfastly fighting for what they believe in. A Black executive must move like a boxer and adjust to attacks and counterattacks by noting the opponent’s fighting style. They can learn a lot from the four main types of boxers:
swarmer’s, out-boxers, sluggers, and boxer-punchers. The swarmer throws up a series of punches hoping they will land one while simultaneously attempting to crowd the opponent. In many ways, this style is like the don’t-hit-me-punch style in which a boxer has no strength or strategy and simply wants to get through the round.
The out-boxer seeks to outscore and mark the opponent. In a heated discussion, white executives feel confident they can out-box Black executives by undercutting the validity of their opinions using racial stereotyping and gaslighting. Black executives often feel that they can do nothing but defend themselves, but this approach quickly wears them out and highlights the weaknesses in their resolve. Black executives should instead skillfully return attacks and shift the balance to put white leaders on the defensive. If they do not, they face certain defeat.” (Silent Agreement, 2021)
How to Outbox Corporate Narcissistic Racism
African Americans see white narcissism in action every day in the streets, in the media, and especially in corporate America. The fact is that narcissism is the foundation upon which systemic racism is built, and African Americans who want to climb in the ring to combat it—whether in the streets protesting police brutality or in a the c-suites of corporate conference rooms fighting for economic equality—must be willing to go toe-to-toe to achieve their goals. This doesn’t mean violence, but rather adopting and adapting the focus of a heavyweight champion who can anticipate his opponents moves and expertly counter them every time without relying on brute force.
Blacks can defeat narcissistic racism by looking to the tactics narcissists regularly use to subjugate those around them such as keeping the focus on themselves, projecting their negative traits onto others, maintaining control of the narrative, and not playing the victim. African Americans who study these tactics are like boxers who size up an opponent before they step into the ring. By knowing the techniques narcissistic racists are likely to use, the African American community, and the Black corporate community, can more easily prepare a counter-strategy that uses the weight of the opponent against them to bring them to the mat.
To learn more about how to defeat racism using boxing techniques, check out my new book, The Silent Agreement: The Illusion of Inclusion available through Amazon or from a bookstore near you.