While this is an opinion column, I generally stay away from things of a political nature. Instead, here I mostly focus on engineering, manufacturing and management topics. But the social upheaval and protests in the wake of the killing of George Floyd have surely caused many of us to think about these issues in our lives and our workplaces. Many friends have related to me how their corporate organizations are taking proactive measures, hosting live corporate chats where they discuss the systemic racism prevalent in our society, as well as the struggles of other groups, including women, LGBTQ people, and other minorities.
Indeed, our publisher, WTWH Media, did just that, and we are actively discussing needed inward and outward facing strategies and changes. I hope your company is, as well. If it isn’t, I implore you to speak up.
As a friend said recently, personal change is hard. Examining what you learned growing up and acknowledging that some of it may be flawed is a long, difficult process. It’s easier to just ignore and maintain the status quo, not realizing that such action in effect continues to downplay the value of people not like you.
I realize that some people dismiss or find objectionable the ongoing debate about the privilege that comes from being white in this country. The word privilege itself seems charged. Some people get angry when hearing it, as though it’s an accusation being leveled at them. I understand how that must feel. But privilege doesn’t make you a bad person, subject to ridicule, or unworthy of your own perspective. It certainly doesn’t mean you haven’t faced your own hardships in life. It simply means you likely haven’t lived through the experiences that others with different skin do — and that when it comes to those topics, it is wiser to listen more and talk less.
Corporate success stories prove that more diverse companies build better products, answer customer needs more effectively and make us all better people in the long run. It’s important to the generation of kids and young adults behind us that we start to get this issue right. In every workplace, we need white people speaking out on behalf of Black people, straight people being allies for gay people, men fighting for women, and so on — because, quite simply, we all deserve to be treated as equal, whether at home or at work.