A conversation on race with Sam’s Club Associate Tahirah Buford.
Dec. 10, 2020
On a shopping trip with her grandma, she vividly remembers walking up the stairs and seeing two water fountains, one for white people and one for Black people. “It was the first time I realized I wasn’t like my classmates,” recalled Tahirah Buford about her first memory of segregation dating back to her childhood in rural Helena, Ark. But that experience wasn’t as far back as you might think… it was the early 1980s.
And that’s part of the reason why Tahirah, now a Field People Partner for more than 90 Sam’s Clubs in the central part of the U.S, has a passion for diversity and inclusion which pushes her to advocate for and lead race conversations on a regular basis. We recently sat down with her to talk about what inspires her to continue the conversation on racial equity.
What have you learned about yourself this year?
I have conversations about race with other Black people all the time, but I realized I wasn’t having these same conversations with people outside of my comfort zone. It’s so important to have conversations with folks who don’t look like me. I want my white peers and white friends to know they can always come to me with questions. I’m always willing to have an open and honest conversation about race without anyone feeling nervous, judged or intimidated.
If someone doesn’t know how to engage in difficult conversations about race, what advice would you give them?
Be willing to speak up first. Race can be a sensitive topic but don’t let that silence you. If you feel it in the pit of your stomach, you’re doing something right. If you feel uneasy, you’re headed in the right direction. There is no magic bullet to getting started with these conversations. You just have to do it.
As a Black woman, what is a question you wish more people asked you?
Simply put: how does that make you feel? One thing that hit me hard this year was the murder of Breonna Taylor. When people ask me, “how does that make you feel as a woman or a Black woman,” it makes the pain and burden I still carry from that situation feel acknowledged.
How can we continue taking steps toward strengthening racial equity?
Black people can’t create change by ourselves. It has to be a coalition of black, brown, white, and more. Our Regional Vice President, Shana DeSmit, has led several intentional and heartfelt calls with her Market Managers this year to talk about race. These conversations have made us feel vulnerable at times, but we always leave knowing and understanding each other better. We can’t stop having dialogue because we feel uncomfortable.
What excites you most about the racial equity momentum at Sam’s Club?
The fact that Sam’s Club is being intentional and steadfast in our commitment to improve diversity, racial equity and inclusion is tremendously exciting. Our entire company has rallied around seven areas of focus this year – things like hiring and selection, education, minority supplier development and more – where dedicated work is being done to seed a more diverse culture. Sam’s Club has made inclusion a key priority for our business, and we’re working together to make lasting change.