“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.
What the hell is going on? Dominating the headlines is a petulant and vindictive President spewing lies and urging his supporters to attack the very government
he swore to protect. What resulted was a deadly insurrection attempt being popularized as a “protest” against a legitimate election — incited by the sitting
President. While many claim (and they might be right) that Trump is mentally unstable, I have been more concerned about his lack of empathy and inability to take
in any information that does not reinforce his biases. He is, in a phrase, “learner blocked.” As the days of the Trump administration wind down, I am reflecting on
whatncomes next for us as a Nation.
Will we be able to reconcile the stark differences that threaten to further divide and separate us? What is causing or contributing to furthering this division? While I
don’t have the answers to these questions, I do have some opinions.
For example, I would submit that the “the weasel in the woodpile” is systemic racism. Systemic racism is the triumph of racialized policies and practices over the
principle of equal opportunity for all. Systemic racism gives access to societal privileges to one group of people over another based on the belief that one group
is superior to another. While not all white Americans exercise their inherent privileges, Black Americans lack even access to these racially coded privileges.
Systemic racism didn’t start with police killings of unarmed Blacks. It started with the genocidal policy towards Indigenous people. Similarly, enslaved Africans
because of the color of their skins became the target for exclusion and marginalization. Systemic racism should not be confused with bigotry and racial
stereotypes. The Archie Bunker type of racist is simply a tool that puts a face on a system that has corrupted every institution in this country.
Systemic racism is the codification of beliefs designed to keep certain groups marginalized. Once installed, systemic racism does not require that racists meet
and plan on how to keep Blacks in a ditch of despair and destitution. The American system of racism is now autonomous and self-perpetuating.American racism
does not need or require whites to be overt racists — all they need to do is remain silent. This silence is practiced and loud. Every transgression against Black
people is rationalized by pulling up old arrest records of the victims. It appears that if the person was arrested years ago for shoplifting, execution on the streets
and corners of America today by police is justifiable homicide. Go figure.
The police are not in Black communities to mainly protect and serve. Rather, they are dispatched to patrol and profile. And, if the denizens of these ghettos are
found outside of daylight working hours in a white community, it is assumed that they are intruders intent upon committing some heinous act(s). The white
community has been convinced that a Black interloper, regardless of his/her purpose, is a clear and imminent danger to their safety and way of life. What is the
basis of this fear? Have Blacks enslaved whites, lynched white people or attacked the very symbols of our government while wearing Nazi paraphernalia and
waving confederate flags? The short answer is no. So, what’s next?
In the spirit of offering solutions, I make the following modest proposal.:
1.Speak out against both subtle and blatant racism even with family/friends
2.Avoid all media bubbles that ill inform, mis-inform and under-inform
3.Stop with the stereotypes on all sides
4.Establish the America ideal of “justice for all” as our National creed
5.Hold our elected officials accountable for what they do and say
6.Be a role model for our children
7.Make the vision of America as the lighthouse of freedom and democracy a reality.
As Martin Luther King, Jr. put so eloquently, “We will go out and adjourn the councils of despair and bring new light into the dark chambers of pessimism. And this
will be a great America and we will be participants in making it so.”
By Kwame Salter
Thoughts on Diversity
Based on my recollection, Diversity Initiatives have been around in some form or fashion for over 50 years. While Affirmative Action was the precursor to diversity
initiatives, neither achieved its stated goal of creating a diverse workplace. I have racked my mind to try to find another highly visible and publicized corporate
initiative that could fail repeatedly — and yet keep getting rebooted. Sure, these Diversity Initiatives have provided jobs and impressive titles to several talented
Black and white female employees. Yet, truth be told, the objective of significantly transforming the workforce profile of corporations has not materialized.
These newly minted VP’s and Senior VP’s of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) are bright and hardworking individuals with a prior commitment to making the
workplace more diverse and welcoming. Too often, these individuals are taken off the traditional career path to become the face and the flack catcher for both
supporters and detractors of the Diversity Initiative. The Diversity Office usually consists of the diversity leader, shared clerical support and maybe some level of
support from other parts of the organization. Ironically, often the reporting relationship of the diversity chief is not to the CEO but rather to a span breaker in the Legal
or HR function. Still, the reality is that Diversity and Inclusion are enterprise-wide cultural change initiatives. As with any change initiative, Diversity/Inclusion faces
resistance from within the organization. Organizational culture shift is more than a notion. This is especially true when it comes to changing both the complexion (no
pun intended) and profile of the workforce.
Any culture shift will necessitate the reallocation of power, values and resources within the organization. Typically, in the case of Diversity and Inclusion resources
such as monies for travel, employee resource groups and staffing are earmarked for the initiative. However, the existing power structure and values of the
organization remain intact. Any DE&I initiative still must rely on hiring managers to do the right thing when it comes to identifying, recruiting and hiring under-
represented employees. Ironically, the very people who can prosecute the DE&I initiative are most often the ones who balk, derail and resist. They resent being told
to even consider hiring people of color and women. Suddenly, the issue of being qualified becomes the central topic of discussion. The juxtaposition of minority and
qualified takes on a different meaning. It is almost as though they are being asked to consider unqualified applicants of color. It feels like a white applicant is
assumed to be qualified at first blush, while the applicant of color must be ‘certified’ as qualified. The word “qualified” functions as a form of micro-aggression and a
potential barrier to improving the workforce diversity profile.
Given the above, the underlying question that remains is how serious is the enterprise about making Diversity and Inclusion a reality and not just a Public Relations
eye wash? Is DE&I a serious strategy or simply a scam that organizations trot out when they are called to task Where are the key performance indicators? Who
individually and collectively will be held accountable? How are the so-called diverse hires treated after they start work? Is the position of chief diversity officer a
career path dead end? What imperative drives your company’s DE&I initiatives? Is the company driven by a moral, legal or a business imperative? Or, perhaps, is
your company driven by all three imperatives — moral, legal and business? While each imperative is valid and important, it is the business imperative that is the
most impactful. People of color are very brand loyal and generate trillions of dollars in spendable income. Having people working at a company who look like them
and have a shared experience is both an effective selling point as well as a powerful recruiting tool for the organization. If done right, a company’s DE&I initiative
can create a consumer franchise of minority customers that are loyal and dependable.
For DE&I to become a strategic initiative, I would propose the following short list:
1.Use the Executive Management Group (Direct reports to the CEO) as the DE&I Advisory Committee
2.Reward results over effort by recognizing Diversity Champions like we do outstanding sales personnel
3.Identify the Chief DE&I position as a rotational assignment for the best and brightest — including white males who know where the pressure points are in the
4.Turn DE&I into a Center of Excellence for ideas, support and training on the Power of Differences
5.Use Workforce data in a proactive way versus as a blunt instrument to embarrass line leaders
6.Accept the fact that minds and hearts may not change but behavior must comport with our public statements
7.Remember the three D’s:Diversity, Development and Deployment. In other words, once you build a critical mass of protected class employees make sure that
development is intentional. Finally, placement or deployment is critical to an employee's success. Where one is assigned can improve the probability of success or
In closing, we know that corporations reflect the larger society. However, socially conscious companies are often the tail that can wag the dog (society).
Kwame S. Salter is a retired Senior Vice-President, HR Global Supply Chain at Kraft with over 22 years in Corporate HR.