One thing all Americans agree on is that these are turbulent times with protests across the country filled with people asking for justice, equality, and equal treatment. They want an end to racism and bias. It sounds like the 1960s Civil Rights Movement, but it is 2020, and the call to end racism is a multi-racial and multi-gender call. What has changed?
One change is found in demographics. Millennials and Gen Z grew up learning that racism and bias is just plain wrong. They have also learned that bias can rear its ugly head in so many ways. It is in communities, the workplace, government, social programs, educational institutions, neighborhoods, and any other place you can imagine. The awareness is brought to life in the peaceful protests that continue day after day across the United States.
We sympathize with African Americans and other minorities for the frustration and often despair they feel in trying to succeed in the face of unrelenting bias. Today, much of the bias is subtly expressed in society and corporations. It is why Diversity Global Magazine tries to fight the good fight in raising awareness of unconscious bias and present ways to overcome the challenges it presents. But sometimes there are such egregious acts that take place, they rise to a level of national awareness. We do not condone violence in any form, but it is also understandable that people reach a breaking point.
The peaceful protestors are showing that change takes a real commitment but that persistence can succeed. Who would have thought just a few weeks ago that America would be talking loudly about racism at the federal, state, and local levels and demanding change? This is not a period of slow change. People want change now at the government level to ensure everyone is treated humanely and equally.
Minorities are weary of being trapped by social and economic institutional racism that is so ingrained in the systems that it is difficult to even understand how it works and harms people. Just go to school and work hard, and you too can rise above poverty is how the advice goes. But what if children in underrepresented communities are attending schools that are underfunded, have no school bus service, and must maneuver through crime ridden streets to even get to school. They are trapped in a system designed to make them fail.
People also want change at the corporate level because it is no secret that minorities and women continue to struggle in the workplace to overcome bias. Blacks especially have difficulty breaking through the proverbial glass ceiling, must endure inappropriate jokes and comments, and are often denied opportunities they are qualified for. Where are the Black board members, the Black executives, the Black STEM workers, and the Black engineers? Why must there be so many diversity advocacy organizations working to shine the light on talented Black businesses just so that corporations will consider them as suppliers? Black businesses continue to have trouble accessing capital too, with Black entrepreneurs receiving less than one-percent of all venture capital.
We are a great nation doing great things, and this is a historical moment to bring all people together, not just in our country, but in the world. Change is always difficult, but as a country, we always seem to fall back into a comfort zone where we pretend all is good. The peaceful protests that continue unabated are a sign that change really is coming. Government officials are forming review committees with deadlines, so society can no longer hide behind endless discussions that lead nowhere. Corporations are learning they cannot hide behind Diversity & Inclusion policies that do not produce results. They must proactively search for qualified Black STEM talent, hold managers accountable for their actions, identify and change talent management processes that are standing in the way of creating inclusive teams, and invest the same type of resources in developing young talented minority professionals as they have invested in others.
There are already people saying “this too shall pass,” referring to the unrest and protests. If they are allowed to have the louder voice and people fall back into their comfort zone, then nothing will change. The younger generations will learn that all their efforts were not strong enough to overcome embedded racism.
Politicians must act boldly. Corporations must act boldly. People of all races, genders, ages, and ethnicities must work together. The world must act boldly. It is time to seize the moment and affect real change.