It’s no secret when looking around the world right now, that many of the really difficult things that are occurring are happening disproportionately to Brown and Black people. This is found across nearly every system, but I want to focus on three areas:
The inequality and racism inherent in these systems are causing the devastation of our communities.
The Impact of Slavery Lives On
Inequality and racism have existed since slavery was legal. I'm not going to lecture you about slavery and its impact because if you don't know it by now, you are living under a rock!
However, I do want to talk about the systems that have been created because of slavery.
Corporate America has a responsibility to deal with these repercussions and they need to do it in bigger ways than they have in the past.
Dave Chappelle recently had an “Instagram conversation” where he spoke about the impact corporate America has on People of Color. He talked about his business dealings with both HBO and Netflix and compared and contrasted the way he was treated by both corporations.
He said, “Ladies and Gentlemen, know what’s in the hot dog you’re eating.”
When I heard that, I knew he was right! We don’t know exactly what goes into hot dogs. All we know is that they are gross and not good for us.
A hot dog is a metaphor for corporate America.
It is a symbol for its systems and the impact they have on Black people.
When a Person of Color accepts a position in corporate America, things may look good on the outside, just like a hot dog looks appetizing from time to time. But in both cases, the treachery and grossness occur behind the scenes, where the sausage is being made.
Often Black people are welcomed into corporations because they have the skills and ideas to help that corporation earn money.
But when the profits from their contributions start rolling in, the Black employee finds themselves marginalized, paid below their earning potential, and uncredited for their ideas that helped the corporation become successful. Adding insult to injury, they are often treated disrespectfully during the whole process.
People of Color are earning 63 cents to the dollar in corporate America.
It’s not just in the corporate world, either. Those who chose to stay out of the corporate world and build business for themselves instead are often forced to go to extreme lengths to develop their business and become profitable. The cost, both financial and emotional, is not comparable to what a white person in the same industry has to go through.
Because of these experiences, People of Color are often guarded when it comes to sharing their business ideas or professional aspirations because they have had them taken from them or used against them in the past.
We all need to take a closer look at what is going into the “hot dog” of corporate America. We need to educate ourselves about these issues and stand up for the ethical treatment of all members of society — no matter the color of their skin.
There has been a lot of talk about reparations, but corporate America owes the Black community in more ways than monetary ones. We will never be considered equals if investments aren’t made into systems — like police reform and health care — where racial disparities are evident.
Corporate executives often talk about reforming the criminal justice system, but that talk needs to be followed with action. The police need to be held responsible for racial targeting and Black lives need to matter as much as any other life when it comes to police brutality and violence. Corporate America can help hold these agencies responsible for their actions.
Health Care Equality
Health care is another area where there is racial inequity.
During the Coronavirus pandemic, front-line workers have been exposed to a higher risk. They have continued to come into work and have encountered situations where there is a high risk of infection (see Tyson Foods). Unfortunately, they are often also the individuals who do not have access to affordable health insurance or quality health care.
We are failing to protect the people who are most in need of protection. Corporate America can step up and make sure all people have access to affordable health care and insurance.
A Better Way Forward
We have to do better. We have to find solutions to these issues. We are all trying to make money and find our way in the world, but there is a line that goes beyond making money and into exploiting an entire race of people. How can anybody be okay with that?
It takes people to earn profits. It takes people to build buildings and businesses. Why are Brown and Black individuals the last people that are thought of? We need to do things differently. We need to put people before profits.
You can’t take your money with you when you pass from this life, but the way you treat others and the actions you take to be morally and socially responsible can be your legacy. When one of us succeeds we all should succeed. By addressing these issues, we can bring more equality into corporate America and our country as a whole.
Cindi Bright is a Seattle based speaker and consultant on topics of race, diversity, and social justice. She hosts HeartBeat radio a weekly program discussing the issues impacting brown and black people. She spent over 30 years in corporate America as a human resources leader/executive. She is known for her candor, honesty, and humor. Her work is aimed at personal and business transformation.