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Social media sensation George Lee isn’t your typical corporate Diversity, Equity and Inclusion instructor.
With over a million followers and over 40 million likes on his TikTok channel “TheConsciousLee”, this intellectual debating, hip hop dancing, thought-provoking, and workshop facilitating keynote speaker proves that Black intellectuals don’t have to play respectability politics to deliver a message that resonates.
“I stumbled into this DEI work being a policy debater in college. Debating a lot of the topics that come up in diversity and inclusion, from microaggressions to implicit bias to equity to structural violence,” George Lee told The Black Wall Street Times in a call on zoom.
Who is George Lee?
“Debating about them for years gave me a critical understanding and a lot of confidence. In grad school I started being able to peep game that there are ways for me to take my portable skills from debate and apply them into doing workshops, facilitations and public speaking; and that’s how I got into it,” Lee added.
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George Lee holds a bachelor’s degree in African & African American Studies and a Master’s degrees in both Human Relations and Adult Higher Education. He also holds Graduate Certificates in Women and Gendered Studies, along with Human Resource and Diversity Development from the University of Oklahoma.
As if he doesn’t have enough to do, George Lee is also the Coordinator of Policy Debate for OU’s nationally recognized debate team, a Language Arts teacher in the Oklahoma City Public School District, and has been named in the top 20 College Policy Debaters of the past decade.
“Education is elevation”
Racking up millions of views, the content creator’s videos have been shared by Cardi B, Democracy Now!, BET and others. He’s also been featured in the Washington Post, The Atlantic, and The New York Times, according to his website, George Lee Speaks.
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Like most DEI instructors, schools and other institutions can book him as a keynote speaker, for curriculum design, or for workshop facilitation. Unlike the typical image of a corporate DEI instructor, however, Lee’s humble roots coming from Bryan, Texas add fuel to the motivational fire that he ignites in the minds of the many young people who follow him.
“Coming up from the hood, there’s a lot of tropes that we’re supposed to buy into, that we get inscribed onto us. Being able to have the internet presence that I have, I feel like the intent is to get people to identify with me and different ideas. I found there’s different ways people identify with me,” Lee told The Black Wall St. Times.
With a motto of “education is elevation,” Lee said he’s been speaking for more than 10 years and teaching for five years, but it wasn’t until the past few years that he realized the boost new social media sites like TikTok could bring to his platform and message.
“One of the homies had shown me a video from this White dude named Gary V. He was like a social media entrepreneur guru. Very motivational giving advice on different platforms,” Lee said. In the summer of 2019 Lee came across a video of the guru. He was talking about the power of TikTok for content creators.
“My third video I uploaded was about a Black kid that got charged with assault for playing dodgeball, you feel me? And the video blew up. I had like 100 followers and the video got like 10K views. And I saw the reach on the app was a little bit different compared to all the other ones. Pretty much, I just ain’t looked back, man,” Lee said.
Lee said the young people really like his content on TikTok. So, it seemed like a great way to get more exposure.
When asked what his day to day is like, considering he posts so many videos along with his speaking engagements and being a husband and father, Lee said he’s currently focusing more on the behind the scenes aspects.
“Interviews, promotions, advertising. I’m an entrepreneur. so if I come up with an idea, I put my phone down and just record, bro. That’s pretty much how it is. I try to approach my content like a channel. Like how we grew up watching BET. You know, at certain hours of the day it’s gonna be certain programs on that channel so that’s how I try to approach content,” Lee said.
Building a platform
Lee said now that it’s summer time, he has more time to make more content.
“At the end of the day I’m building an international platform that’s based on critical education. My motto is education is elevation. Always prioritizing research over “me-search”. So my idea is from a critical Black perspective I’m able to talk about damn near everything under the sun and make it where there’s a platform that reaches internationally, that allows for people from different backgrounds, different hemispheres, different races, classes, gender, political ideology and perspective to be able to have some critical thinking provoked, as well as being able to learn things that the world considers taboo.”
His kids provide him motivation too.
“I got two kids. I would like to have it where my kids’ kids at least have something better than we got right now,” Lee said.
According to Lee, there’s two types of people in the world. There’s people that define the time they live in and people that are defined by the times they live in.
“Imma let you decide who you think George Lee is trying to be,” he said.
Intelligence and authenticity
When it comes to his authentic delivery on TikTok, he isn’t afraid to condemn respectability politics. That’s the decades-old idea that Black people must dress, act and talk a certain way to be accepted.
“Some people are gonna say ‘you’re asking for too much too soon. You make people uncomfortable. You’re not respectable and all that sh*t.’ So, sometimes you gotta make it do what it do.”
Lee said he falls back on his grandfather’s words when others doubt him. His grandfather told him opinions are like *ssholes. Everybody’s got one, and they usually stink.
“So when I approach my content, I pretty much do it knowing I’m an acquired taste. I’m not for everybody. But there’s a reason why there are multiple teachers that teach the same subject in every school you go to. Because you recognize there are different teaching styles and different learning styles. If you feel like what I’m doing and how I’m doing it ain’t for you, then that’s fine. ‘Education is elevation’ to you regardless.”
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