Recently, a fellow Tuck School of Business Minority Business Executives Program graduate, Gary Robinson, proposed an interesting discussion on his Facebook page. I invited him to elaborate for our readers. ~ Cheers!Since the beginning of the Obama Administration nearly eight years ago, racial tensions have been steadily on the rise. From the confederate flag debate to the shootings of unarmed black men, our society has been steadily reverting back to its traditional divisions. This presidential election season has done nothing but make the situation worse.
With that said, here is ground zero for our divisions. Most of what we are dealing with is tied to the biases, preferences, stereotypes, and/or assumptions that we all have. Some of these biases are based on facts while others are based in misinterpretations. Some of these biases we act on and others just change how we perceive the world. Nonetheless, it is important that we begin to recognize how our biases and assumptions affect what we believe and how we respond to each other. If we are going to heal our families, communities, and nation, it is going require a conscious effort on all of our parts to manage our biases and respect the fact that we are all different and see the world differently.
For example, some African Americans view cops as being brutal and not being here to protect and serve the people. Those same folks may see Black Lives Matter as being a great movement although there have been comments and actions within the movement that have not been so great. On the flip side, someone from the white community would say the exact opposite. Who is right? This would be a matter of perspective. We all will see the bad and good of those closest to us. At the same time, we tend to lump people together who are external to our experience. This comes from our biases.
Here is the truth. There are good and bad cops. There is the good and bad of Black Lives Matter. When we begin to recognize that the true enemy is the bad things in all of us, we will truly be on the road to healing the brokenness in this country. If you can learn to respect the perspective of others, it will make it easier for you to show others how to do the same. This is how we heal our community one person at a time.
Now, let’s be clear. There are also institutional divisions, which begin at the individual level. This is why we have to make a conscious effort to fight against biases and it starts at the individual level. Let’s say that we have a white and a black candidate for a job and both are equal in every way outside of ethnicity. If the recruiter is white, he is probably picking the white candidate because it is a comfortable selection. This is a reasonable rationale. If the shoe were on the other foot, I would expect a black recruiter might use the same rationale. The problem comes in when there are thousands of recruiters using that same rationale. This is how we come to have institutional racism.
We cannot defeat this enemy if we don’t have personal relationships with people who are different from us. We cannot overcome this if there is no conscious effort to seek diversity. As mentioned earlier, the battle against negative biases has to be a personal, one-on-one, conscious, and constant fight. And, it will take all of us to do it.
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