Black Faces In White Places: Dr. Randal Pinkett On The Challenges African-Americans Face In The Business World (VIDEO)

Roland Martin sits down with the first and only Black winner on Donald Trump’s “Apprentice” and author of the book Black Faces In White Places, Dr. Randal Pinkett.

For more information about Dr. Randal Pinkett and his book Black Faces in White Places visit

MR. MARTIN: Remember that old song Kermit the Frog sang on “Sesame Street,” “It’s Not Easy Being Green”?  Well, all too often, it’s not easy being Black in corporate America.  But it doesn’t have to be difficult, if you know the game.  Here to fill us in is the first and only Black winner on Donald Trump’s “Apprentice” and author of the book Black Faces In White Places, Dr. Randal Pinkett.

Randal, welcome to the show.

MR. RANDAL PINKETT: Good to be here, Roland.  Thanks for having me.

MR. MARTIN:  Sort of like a[n] Alpha day.  We had Lee Saunders on earlier.  Now we[‘ve] got you on.  That’s the way it rolls.

MR. PINKETT:  Hey, I like that.

MR. MARTIN:  Let- —


MR. MARTIN:  — let – let’s talk about this book, because there are so many African-Americans who walk into corporate America, and there’s the belief that, “Look.  I’ve got the degree.”

MR. PINKETT:  Right.

MR. MARTIN:  “I’ve got the pedigree.”

MR. PINKETT:  Right.

MR. MARTIN:  “I’ve done all the right things,” but then when they come up against the reality of being Black in largely White corporate America, it’s a shock to them.

MR. PINKETT:  It can be, and it’s not just corporate America.  You see it in entrepreneurship.  You see it in the nonprofit sector.  You see it in government.  You see it in media.  You can be a t- — testament to that.

MR. MARTIN:  Oh, yeah.  Trust me.  Yeah.

MR. PINKETT:  Yeah, yeah.  So, the phenomenon of being a ‘Black face in a White place,’ as the book implies, is one that almost every person of color at some point in their lives has been e- — experience to.  And what we’ve done with this book – my co-author, Jeff Robinson, another Alpha, and I – have tried to understand what have been the challenges that you face when you’re the only one, one of the few in your department, your team, your organization, your division – take your pick; and how do we overcome those challenges.

So, we interviewed dozens of African-Americans who’ve made it to the top of their profession.

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

MR. PINKETT:  Don Thompson, Alpha, president of McDonald’s; Hill Harper, Alpha – [laughs] –

MR. MARTIN:  [Laughs.]

MR. PINKETT:  — Kevin Powell, Ben Jealous from the NAACP, Angela Glover Blackwell, a guy named Roland Martin we interviewed as well.

MR. MARTIN:  [Chuckles.]

MR. PINKETT:  [Chuckles.]  And we, through the interviews, saw these patterns of strategies that we’ve employed to not just navigate these environments, but not lose a sense of who we are – to maintain a sense of pride of where we come from and to make it without compromising oneself.  And so that gave rise to what we call the “10 game-changing strategies” that the book basically conveys.

MR. MARTIN:  And one of the things that people have to remember:  when you won “The Apprentice” – and I think what you were asked –


MR. MARTIN:  — is something similar that a l- — lot of African-Americans have gone through.  So, here you are, final two.


MR. MARTIN:  It’s supposed to be about the best.

MR. PINKETT:  It’s supposed to be.

MR. MARTIN:  All of a sudden –

MR. PINKETT:  Supposed to be

MR. MARTIN:  — Donald Trump, who I don’t like on this show anyway – Donald Trump, he says, “Well, Randal, why don’t you share” –


MR. MARTIN:  — “this with” –


MR. MARTIN:  — “your competitor?”


MR. MARTIN:  And you were like –

MR. PINKETT:  “Absolutely not!”  [Chuckles.]  I said, “Absolutely not!”  And you recall recently there was a valedictorian who was asked to share being a valedictorian – a high school s- — Black girl – with a White girl who had not – who did not have grades that were commensurate with her performance – which is almost unheard of.

And I took heat for making the decision to not to share the title, and my response to that is, “Why should I?”  I was the clear victor.  I had a better record, better performance; and by any objective measure, it was a clear victory.  Now, that begs the question, which we ask in the book, “Now, why was I asked the question, and all of the prior winners, who were not Black, haven’t been asked; and every winner since me – there’ve been 11 seasons of the show – none of them have been asked?”

Now, why is that the case?

One can only conclude, when you see these kinds of nuances that you can’t quite make sense of, that race has to be a factor.  That there’ve been 11 seasons.  I’m the only person of any color.  I’m the only one asked to share the title.  It was insulting to me, insulting to lots of people of color, because it just drove home the age-old adage you have to be twice as good just to be considered equal.  And that’s the challenge we still face in the 21st century.

MR. MARTIN:  What has been the response you’ve gotten from folks who – who’ve read the book?  And have they emailed you, called you and said, “Man, I was going through this stuff” –


MR. MARTIN:  — “and now I understand that it’s a game I have to play”?

MR. PINKETT:  Yeah, yeah.  So, we draw the analogy of these environments that we navigate as the – as a playing field, and you’re competing in a game.  And whether you choose to acknowledge it or not, it’s a very competitive game.  If you want to be a CEO, if you want to be a world-renown journalist, if you want to be an entrepreneur, it’s a very serious comp- — competition.

And so what we’ve gotten as feedback from people on the book is that it has done a great job of really capturing the intricacies of the challenges that we face, because it wasn’t – it’s – nowadays, it’s not fire hoses.  It’s not dogs chasing us down.  It’s not people calling you the n-word to your face.  It’s far more subtle.  It’s you win, and then you’re being asked to share.  It’s you make a point that somebody else makes, but then everyone says that’s a great point.  But didn’t I just say that?  It’s I’m a valedictorian, but yet and still, somebody else is being considered equal to my performance, when I was clearly the valedictorian.  So, what we’ve heard from people is that, “It captures those nuances, but more importantly, it’s given us practical strategies on how to navigate, overcome them and not lose a sense of who I am.”

MR. MARTIN:  Last question.  I believe that we’re living in a moment where White fear is dominat[ing], and what I mean by that is look at Pat Buchanan and his book – this whole deal of, “Oh, my God.  Our” – “We’re losing our culture.”


MR. MARTIN:  The demographics are changing.

MR. PINKETT:  They are.

MR. MARTIN:  And so do you have a sense that White corporate America has to understand that “the ballgame is going to be different” –


MR. MARTIN:  — “for your kids than it has been in the past”?  And are African-Americans and Hispanics ready for this changing demographic [that], by 2042 – some say could be sooner – that we are a majority minority country?

MR. PINKETT:  No, it’s a great question, and as I go out and talk to corporations about our findings from the book, one of messages I’m delivering is, “If you are not prepared to make your organizations more receptive to all people of all backgrounds, then you will not be competitive in the 21st century.”

But there’s a flipside to that.  Traditionally, we’ve always talked about us as African-Americans having to learn about the majority culture.  Nowadays, it’s not just about learning about the culture of Whites.  You[‘ve] got to learn the culture of Asians –

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

MR. PINKETT:  — culture of Hispanics, the cultures overseas.  And if we, as African-Americans, aren’t similarly willing to make that – that shift as well – and I think we’re well equipped to do it, ‘cause over time we’ve always been able to manage and navigate our culture and other cultures; but now it’s more global, and we have to be just as tuned to that as others for us to be competitive.

MR. MARTIN:  All right, folks.  The book is called Black Faces in White Places, and I tell you it’s a good read – one you and your children should check out.

Randal, we appreciate it.  Thanks a lot.

MR. PINKETT:  Thanks, Roland.  Thanks very much.

  • Deliah Davis

    Great interview! The book is a must read for every black american that works in corporate america or considering working in corporate america, because I can tell you it is no joke!!!

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