This country has a long history of mistreatment of Black Americans; a legacy of racism. For some, the last statement made you lean in. Still others stopped reading; they’ve moved on. It’s OK. More would rather I use, “People of Color.” The truth is, the “People of Color” lexicon is used at the expense of Black people. Check the Being Black in Corporate America data produced by The Center for Talent Innovation study. POC soldiers were not previously prohibited from fighting for their country, Black soldiers were. And when exceptions were made? Well, we know how those stories end. Check the war heroes, The Harlem Hellfighters or as most know, the Red Tails (Tuskegee Airmen). It is simply who we are as a Nation; it is embedded in our Nation’s fabric, our foundation. And it is this very foundation and its vestiges that causes the permeation of differential treatment in our country and consequently, dare I say, company cultures. In a poignant interview, esteemed Princeton Professor, Eddie Glaude simply characterized America’s current state as, “This is us.”
In less than 24 hours, I watched two harrowing videos that may be party to the aforementioned vestiges. One, a White Minneapolis policeman sat with his knee in the neck of an alleged offender as he lay lifeless, after many times pleading, “I can’t breathe.” Familiar? You may want to grab Matthew Horace’s book, The Black and The Blue; A Cop Reveals the Crimes, Racism and Injustice in America’s Law Enforcement for true insight. The other, the Head of Insurance, at Franklin Templeton called the NYPD to lyingly report an African American man, in Ramble Park, threatening her life. This in retaliation for the bird watcher asking her to leash her dog. This is not only disgusting, and wasteful of resources, it is dangerous.
I have long said home and work are inextricably connected. And I only point these examples out to raise the question, “How does this subconsciously enter your office?” When leaders like Amy Cooper, a leader at Franklin Templeton that called the NYPD in the park, encounters a Black male candidate for a lead role, how will her bias (admittedly as I perceive here) show up? Only 3.2% of Senior Leadership in our corporations are African American, which is why we are still having firsts and celebrating stories like that of the Romona Hood in this week’s Report. Kudos to Ms. Hood! However, hate crimes are on the rise, and a Pew Center Study reported half of White Americans say, “There is too much attention paid to race and racial issues in our country these days.” How will we ever get beyond the 3.2%? Or are we fine with this stat?
Sadly, “This is us.” And if we are to ever overcome these vestiges, we’ll have to address the problem and take transparent, substantive action, making more than a verbal difference. It may very well be the vestiges (read unconscious bias) stopping you from hiring and retaining your best talent. How do you combat bias in your firm?