Unless you’ve been living with your head in the sand, you are witnessing a massive amount of cultural unrest due to the unjust murder of George Floyd. This incident wasn’t the reason for the unrest, but the tipping point that caused many to begin voicing frustrations. We could spend days and weeks debating the causes of racial tension, and I suspect those causes are multi-faceted and very complex. However, if we want to be part of the solution, our efforts are better spent looking for ways to contribute to reconciliation. As BSC owners and leaders in a radically diverse industry, we are uniquely positioned to effect change. Let me offer three suggestions to be light in the midst of strife.
Every Job Matters
At the root, racism is the view that one person is superior to another. It is a distorted view that measures value by skin color, culture, economic success, or any number of other factors. As leaders in business, we can reinforce this false ideology when we see certain jobs as more intrinsically valuable than others. For janitorial business owners, when we view cleaners as dispensable, we reinforce the view that value is tied to something other than being human. But if we view humans as valuable and their work as valuable, we send a strong moral message in our companies. Not only will this message help combat the underlying causes of racism, it will also build a stronger company culture and a more loyal team.
Minorities in Leadership
One way to promote the dignity and value of all persons is to have minority individuals in places of leadership within your organization. I am not suggesting you institute some sort of affirmative action policy, but when the opportunity arises and the individual is qualified, promote or hire minorities into leadership. Not doing this could reinforce the stereotype that minorities are only good for labor positions. I’d image none of my readers actually believe this about minorities. However, minority leadership in your company is a good way to send the message of what you believe – individuals of all races are capable of performing a variety of functions within a business.
Finally, let me encourage you to have minorities involved in training at all levels of the company. Once again, I’m not encouraging an affirmative action approach where race matters more than qualifications. What I am suggesting is that sitting under the teaching or leadership of someone of another race is helpful in tearing down racial stereotypes. I remember the first time this happened to me in a significant way. I was attending a majority black church in Baltimore for a short period of time and the pastor was an amazing, intelligent, and kind man. He had much to teach me and I benefited greatly sitting under his authority, if only for a short time. When we learn from and submit to individuals of differing races, we better position ourselves and others to combat the evils of racism.
I realize my readers may hold a variety of views politically and have varying opinions related to the current racial tension. I’m ok with that. I’d just ask that you consider how the above suggestions could not only improve your company culture and performance, but also be a part of the solution for our larger cultural problem.