It’s Time to Toss Out the Old Playbook For Good. Why “going back” is no longer an option.
It has been two years since the tragic murder of George Floyd. Two years since we all watched in anguish as a man was suffocated to death by the police. Two years since people of every race, religion, color, creed, and sexual orientation marched as one in protest of police brutality. And these marches were global. Showing a powerful movement for the lives of Brown and Black people. Showing the lack of acceptance of abuse and lack of accountability. Two years since nearly every organization in America vowed to make a meaningful and sustainable change for racial equity on the corporate ladder, and these two years have essentially nothing to show for it.
While carefully worded press releases, statements, and emails might appear that various companies are making moves to make a difference on the surface, the proof is in the pudding and these efforts are performative at best. Meanwhile, stress is at an all-time high in society, disproportionately impacting BIPOC people, consequently skyrocketing rates of heart disease, mental illness, and stroke. Are health benefits on par to meet the needs of BIPOC employees in today’s social and economic climate? Of course not. Are more PTO days given to help BIPOC employees manage the stress, trauma, and fear they experience daily? Of course not. Yet the white men at the top of the organization who make the rules continue to thrive on their luxury getaways and continue to make ludicrous amounts of money from the direct suffering of BIPOC people.
As organizations like Tesla demand workers come back into the office or lose their job, please take a moment to consider the average Black or Brown employee and how these demands are not equitable across the board for all races. How often do you see White men and women questioned for their honesty regarding their mental health, and even demonized for it? How often do you see organizations demanding employees be “on camera for “transparency”, and who is this primarily targeting? Make no mistake, the world has changed and organizations most definitely are taking note of mental health, but the question becomes who is benefitting from the changes? And are organizations too afraid to build equity into the equation when making these decisions? Said different, should there be “more” options/benefits to those who suffer more? Equal options to the most targeted and impacted people, is not equitable!
Some companies have gone as far as offering unlimited PTO (read what’s happening at Goldman Sachs) to help employees manage the stresses of the current state of the country, inflation, and work. This seems like a positive change, right? It could be if racial equity is held at the forefront of these initiatives, but they are not. In the same way that companies want their BIPOC employees to be on camera to ensure “transparency” — the same issues will arise as it pertains to unlimited PTO. And what do you want to bet that if a Black woman uses unlimited PTO, she is the FIRST on the Performance Improvement Plan and labeled a problem.
Even those who work directly in diversity and inclusion leadership roles are predominantly White women — so what does that tell you? Sure, their intentions might be in the right place, but do they hold an innate understanding of the struggles of BIPOC people to properly champion change and drive forward racial equity initiatives with the proper lens and urgency? Will they stick their necks out to protect and advocate for the company to do something differently, even if there is a personal consequence to the advocacy? Not a chance.
What I see is the GOB at the top of society dusting off the “old playbook” to silence, undermine, disrespect, and disregard BIPOC employees. I mean, has there ever been an update on these racial equity promises since George Floyd’s death? Rarely — because these efforts were merely a show to maintain positive publicity and avoid scrutiny.
The same ways that destroyed BIPOC are now being touted as the mechanism for business but doing the same thing will perpetuate the same outcomes. Unless we want history to repeat itself, it’s time to stand up, have some courage, and create sustainable change.
In my book The Color of Courage: Crushing Racism in Corporate America, I offer various solutions that can be seamlessly implemented into any organization to build a strong foundation of racial equity, champion the needs of BIPOC employees, and create a more equitable world for future generations. They aren't easy ideas to grasp, but the status quo system has, simply put, failed.
It is time to stop listening to the same voices and start listening to different voices. Start investing into different types of people that know how to spearhead change, those that are not at risk of being fired if they push too hard, those that see and understand what is necessary for change. To be successful, one must have sweat, szuffered and sacrificed. These characteristics are what must be in each “leader” driving change.
I have so much more to share – and the system built into corporate America has failed, so it is time, we start to think, lead and BE different.