Black Lives Matter Speaker Series shows difficulties in the workspace for Black Americans


Rob Le Cates

Co-founder of Black Lives Matter SPI (Springfield) Sunshine Clemons, shakes Eastern President David Glassman’s hand after giving talk about Black Lives Matter at the Black Box on Friday.

Madelyn Kidd, News Editor

The co-founder of the Black Lives Matter Springfield, SPI, spoke about code-switching and tone policing for Black employees in the workspace on Friday in the Black Box Theatre in Doudna.

The co-founder, Sunshine Clemons, spoke at the Black Lives Matter Speaker Series: “Bias in Professionalism,” a presentation from the Africana Studies program, discussing the bias against those who are Black.

With focus on the workplace environment, Clemons went over how Black Americans have to code-switch when in the workspace at risk of being deemed “inappropriate” and “unprofessional” in the work environment.

Clemons explained what code-switching is said having to code-switch to get treated fairly is disgusting.

“Code-switching in short, is changing yourself to make other people comfortable in an effort to be treated fairly and to receive the same opportunities that other people are getting,” Clemons said. “And honestly, when you think about it like that, that’s super disgusting.”

Clemons went on to say code-switching is a survival tactic in the workspace and discussed tone policing as well.

“Tone policing is a tactic used to oppress or suppress, and it’s used to dismiss what is being said regardless of its truth or validity,” Clemons said. “It gives the impression that the delivery of the message is the real issue and not the message itself.”

When a faculty member in the audience asked how can Eastern’s faculty help their students who are facing bias and told they need to change either their hair, clothes or otherwise, Clemens said:

“I think you can support them by being a space that they can have those vulnerable conversations in… But what I’d say if [a student] is genuinely wanting to know how to navigate those situations, since it’s such a personal decision, you’re not going to have a standard answer, It’s going to depend on the situation.”

Clemons also said what she wishes for everyone’s one take away from this presentation to be.

“So as young adults in college, who either are or will be soon, entering professional circles of employment, I want to leave you with one really important thing,” Clemons said. “You are going to face challenges and some are going to be good, some are going to be bad. But one really important thing that I feel can help you through navigating them all is to have a strong sense of self and to know your worth.”

The Black Lives Matter SPI, which Clemons co-founded with Khoran Readus, had many accomplishments throughout 2021.

They partnered to help create and launch a “Healing Ambassador” program, an indoor “free little library” with books from Black authors in the Illinois State Museum, participated in the Citizens Police Academy, provided four high school seniors with scholarships and more in the last 12 months.

Black Lives Matter SPI has a website with information and updates on information on how to get involved or how to contact them at


Madelyn Kidd can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected]