Business

Opinion: The long history of racism stalks black professionals, and America’s best employers recognize and respect it

When I told my great-uncle Buck that I was working on a new book about diversity, equal opportunity and inclusion in the workplace, he was concerned. He asked if I wanted to write about “how racism puts people down”. It wasn’t like him to warn me about my work, so I nudged him a little. He sighed and started telling me a story about my family that I had never heard before.

When slavery ended in the United States, Uncle Buck’s grandfather—my great-great-grandfather—started farming in South Carolina. His crop was cotton. It took some hard work, but over time he became the largest supplier of cotton to the county’s black community.

Eventually, people realized that if he could only sell to white people, he could grow his business even further. It was food for thought, but he hesitated. Selling beyond the color line was dangerous. However, he found what he felt was a sensible solution: he would grow the cotton and hire a white man to sell it outside of the black community.

It was an entrepreneurial impulse that eventually cost him his life. Uncle Buck refused to go into detail except to say that his grandfather was lynched by the white townsfolk for selling to them. Buck had seen it all.

Uncle Buck earned a college degree and rose to trusted leadership positions in his government job. Yet all these years later, his experience of what might happen to a black man with career aspirations still haunted him. Every time he took a step up the ladder, he feared a mob of one kind or another might be waiting for him.

Between 1882 and 1968, on average, a black man was attacked by a mob every nine days in the United States.

When I tell this story, most people react with shock and disbelief. If I tell black professionals, they’ll nod in approval. Often they have similar family histories of racist violence against an enterprising ancestor. Between 1882 and 1968, on average, a black man was attacked by a mob every nine days in the United States. Many of these violent crimes were allegations against people like my great-great-grandfather, whose only crime was being too busy for their own good. It is a heavy cultural burden that cannot be healed in a few generations.

The truth is that with the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the American dream has not become a reality for everyone. By the end of the Civil War, it was not magically available to blacks, and Dr. Martin Luther King was still fighting for equal access to it a century later. Even now, until black professionals no longer feel the specter of the mob every time they enter their workplace, it cannot really arise.

Every time a Black professional hears another racist joke, is subjected to a false equivalence, or doesn’t see a single face that looks like theirs on a potential employer’s website, they are reminded that black people in the US have been going through centuries – longer Struggle to advance against all odds and there is still a long way to go. For every ancestor who swung from a rope for the sake of success, there is a traumatized Uncle Buck who was taught that success came with dangers. And for every Uncle Buck, there are many more who have been taught that the safest thing is not to even try.

Black people go to work in the historical shadow of “color only” signs, beatings, floggings and hangings.

To create a work environment that helps all people reach their potential, we must all bravely confront (among many other things) that black people go to work in the historical shadow of “color-only” signs, beatings, floggings and hangings . Back then, black people could not separate their personal and cultural lives from their professional lives. They couldn’t leave their blackness at home, and that hasn’t changed to this day. As a result, there is tremendous generational fear that all of their achievements could be snatched away from them at any moment, which today translates into workplace stress.

portfolio

It may seem unreasonable to some for a Black professional to feel that racism in the workplace could actually harm them – like a mob waiting in the conference room. However, numerous studies show that the history of violence against black people in the United States has taken a tremendous emotional toll, leading to inflammation, high blood pressure, anxiety and other health problems. What some feel about baggage that is “best left in the past” is actually a historically valid fear.

Diversity, equity and inclusion leaders have important work to do: help organizations face the past.

Dedicated DEI work can make a difference. Diversity, equity and inclusion leaders have important work to do: help organizations face the past so they understand the nuances where today’s workplace is still damaging to many. This is the starting point for changes in organizational culture and policies that help build a better future for all.

This requires self-reflection, challenging conversations, and behavior changes that can seem difficult to endure. But the reward for companies brave enough to change is that it helps them attract and retain the best and most innovative talent. It will also bring the satisfaction that comes with creating a deep, mutual sense of belonging in the workplace.

Deanna Singh is the author of Actions speak louder: A step-by-step guide to become an inclusive workplace (Penguin Random House, May 2022). Singh is a DEI leadership expert and founder and chief change agent from uplifting effecta diversity, equity and inclusion consultancy that helps individual leaders and organizations create inclusive workplaces.

More: “Backlash is real”: Yes, your workplace is probably racist — but how do you even begin to address the issue?

Also read: ‘If we hadn’t done it, nobody would’: Suzanne Shank paves the way for companies to empower women and people of color

https://www.marketwatch.com/story/the-long-history-of-racism-haunts-black-professionals-and-the-best-places-to-work-in-america-recognize-and-respect-this-11653546396?rss=1&siteid=rss Opinion: The long history of racism stalks black professionals, and America’s best employers recognize and respect it

Brian Lowry

InternetCloning is an automatic aggregator of the all world’s media. In each content, the hyperlink to the primary source is specified. All trademarks belong to their rightful owners, all materials to their authors. If you are the owner of the content and do not want us to publish your materials, please contact us by email – admin@internetcloning.com. The content will be deleted within 24 hours.

Related Articles

Back to top button