This month, our company has been hosting a weekly salon series in recognition of Black History Month. It’s an opportunity to share what we have seen, heard or learned about Black heritage. There are discussions about Black joy and Black excellence, but unfortunately there are many more about oppression, suffering, violence and trauma.
It’s been nearly 60 years since Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech, where he said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
That march for racial equality continues on nearly every corner and avenue of American society. There has been a marked change in our conversations, discourse and awareness about inequalities since the start of the pandemic. However, Black people and other people of color have experienced higher rates of COVID-19-related hospitalization and death compared with non-Hispanic white population, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Furthermore, data consistently shows that Black people have a shorter life expectancy than other races. In 2020, life expectancy at birth for non-Hispanic white was 78 years compared to 72 years for non-Hispanic black, according to data from the National Center for Health Statistics.
We must acknowledge that not all problems can be checked at the door before heading into work. We must continually push, challenge and advocate for our Black colleagues to create a workplace where everyone feels safe and valued.
Work Through Rest
Rhonda Broussard runs a diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) organization called Beloved Community. She says that like many others in the DEI space, her organization has fielded an outpouring of calls in the past two years.
Broussard and others are digging deeper and asking companies tough questions: Is it to offer some programming during Black History Month? Is it in response to a specific crisis or incident? Is it to create a welcoming and inclusive culture, or give the illusion of one for shareholders, stakeholders and current or potential employees?
Not all DEI consultancies specialize in or want to offer those services. After all, it is serious work to educate on biases, privileges, and perceptions; it’s even harder to change individual minds and hearts, not to mention institutions.
In response, Beloved has focused on what services it provides and who it provides them to. The organization is also focusing on its workers’ well-being by closing during for the month of February. It’s reminder to employees that they need to rest and recharge and to clients that DEI work should be ongoing throughout the year.
“Our country took 400 years to get here,” Broussard said. “We’re not going to fix things in the next four weeks.”
Read more about Beloved and its founder Broussard here.
‘Calling Out’ vs. ‘Calling In’
When you see something, do you say something? If so, how do you say it—do you speak privately or unabashedly in front of others? The former is referred to as “calling them in” and the latter is referred to as “calling out”
This can be true of any issue, but it gets more attention when talking about racism. That’s a problem, Dana Brownlee writes. “One of the clear signs that racism is not taken seriously in many workplaces is the fact that phantom issues often distract from the actual problem.”
The question about whether to call out or call in is an individual one, and the decision will likely need to be made again and again, depending on the specific situation and surrounding context.
Still, it’s important to become conversant on the approaches, possible outcomes and potential consequences. Brownlee thoughtfully and thoroughly describes the topic and educates on why, above all else, it’s important to speak up when we feel compelled to do so. Indeed, learning to use our voice is the only way to bring about lasting change—and hopefully positive progress at that.
Learn more about calling out, calling in and how both can create a safer, more inclusive workplace here.
Spotlight on the Sidelines
We’ll be honest with you: We don’t follow football or most sports in general. But a colleague alerted us to a debate off the field that has captivated our attention, that of former Miami Dolphins’ head coach Brian Flores. Flores is suing the National Football League and three of its teams for an alleged pattern of racist hiring practices and racial discrimination.
NFL.com Columnist Jim Trotter offers an insiders’ look—that he blessedly explains in a way outsiders can understand—at the way things are done in football. As of 2022, three-quarters of the league’s 32 franchises employed one or no Black head coaches.
Furthermore, the NFL has never had a Black majority owner, has had only two Black club presidents and has had seven Black general managers, five of whom were hired in the last 13 months. There’s a similar lack of diversity among executives.
Despite 70% of NFL players in 2019 were people of color, the league is struggling to create an inclusive and welcoming workplace environment for all. The NFL has been embroiled in many controversies in the past decade, including its handling Colin Kaepernick and other players’ decision to take a knee during the national anthem. Now, Flores’ lawsuit suggests the league is not creating opportunities for talented people of all backgrounds to perform to the best of their ability and advance their careers.
"We are at a fork in the road,” Flores told ESPN last week. “Things are either going to stay the way they've been, or we're going to move in a direction that not only will help and effect change among the Black and minority coaches in the National Football League, but [also elsewhere]."
Flores is seeking class-action status, which would allow others to join him. But Trotter’s off-the-record interviews with other Black coaches show a reluctance to speak up, either for concerns about job security or experiences that are still too traumatic to discuss. Regardless of a potential verdict in the courtroom, we hope Flores’ lawsuit leads to thoughtful discussions and meaningful changes in the court of public opinion.
Read more here.