Rhodes, in addition to being a Corporate Giving Network Board Member, is a Diversity Program Manager at Amazon and is on the Board of the After-School All-Stars. He has worked as an accountant at several “Big 4” Accounting Firms and currently serves as the Treasurer for the National Association of Black Accountants (NABA). Jesse exemplifies NABA’s motto, “Lifting as We Climb” by actively volunteering and contributing to charities and community outreach initiatives.
Kevin Henry is a recognized writer, trainer, speaker, consultant and actor and is currently the Diversity Inclusion Coordinator at Sound Health (a healthcare provider) in Seattle, WA.
Three major things have happened since we last spoke so this session touched on these:
1.) The President’s comment to White Supremacists during the debate on September 29th, 2020
2.) The outcome of Breanna Taylor’s trial
3.) The President canceling diversity training for federal agencies.
The discussion then turned to what we can do as nonprofit professionals including how we can help our organizations build an ethnically diverse board.
Mr. Henry kicked off the discussion by reiterating that the Black Lives Movement is not something that has surfaced overnight. The movement itself can be traced back 10 years but one could argue that the unfair treatment of African Americans by law enforcement has been occurring for hundreds of years. Brutal and suspicious deaths like those of Breanna Taylor and George Floyd are nothing new to minority communities.
90% of BLM protests are peaceful but the news media like to promote sensationalism and violence so that is what we see as the focus of such stories.
The media drives quick decisions, judgments and behaviors as reactions to BLM and other movements. The foundation of BLM is that everyone is human yet not everyone has the same experiences nor access to the same resources. BLM promotes empathy and encourages more anti-racist actions.
Rhodes stated that in the corporate environment, elements of inclusion are often omitted. All team members should feel valued, trusted, connected, and informed. If any of those items are missing, then it is not a diverse, equal, or inclusive environment. Companies and nonprofits need to strive to be more inclusive. Some nonprofits who serve diverse populations often have all white board members. They need to be more self-aware of their own biases and check each regularly to examine the foundation behind such choices.
Joy asked about President Trump’s debate comments: ”stand back and stand by”
Kevin responded by saying that,
“the president is ‘playing’ to his supporters to incite them. Many people dismiss his remarks as ignorant or wild when they are very intentional. He is using these statements to put “gas on the fire” and further divide people, increase his supporters and drive people to violence.
What President Trump omitted is more important than what he said. Many people do not realize the depth of his comments and think he is only pandering for votes.
Most people do not understand situations until they are directly affected. For example, many parents are uninterested in how or why youths may end up in prison until one of their children end up there.”
Continuing on to the outcome of the Breanna Taylor trial, Rhodes noted how different interpretations of the same laws are used for similar situations.
The warrant to enter Ms. Taylor’s home contradicts the right to bear arms and protect one’s home. Such laws are applied differently in black versus white communities. Firing 31 shots is viewed as a bad shooting here but would be blatantly excessive under usual police procedure.
Rhodes continued that the “innocent until proven guilty” legal process is applied in different ways and often is reversed (guilty until proven innocent) putting police officers above the law. In this instance, police going through the door before following usual protocols.
Gender and race are also factors where police act as if they need to meet some quota of arrests. Black people are less likely to challenge accusations because they do not have the resources to do so.
The basis of BLM is to see everyone as humans first. We are ignoring the basis of equality by forgetting our humanity.
The discussion then moved to President Trump’s recent cancellation of diversity training for federal agencies. Henry stated that the President’s announcement shows that he is in denial and reveals no accountability at any level. Peaceful kneeling of players at sports events was shown as being anti-America; yet, no one would be aware of this if the cameras were not focused on them at that exact moment. By making blanket statements on both ends (“everyone is great”, this behavior is “un-American”, Trump is just ignoring the problem. The media is again sensationalizing these players who are normally revered with “hero to zero” (and back again) extremist portrayals.
Joy asked how we recruit a more diverse board without disrespecting people of color.
She referenced Jim Taylor’s article on BoardSource.org entitled Recruiting for Board Diversity — Without Disrespecting People of Color (suggested reading for the session attendees and blog readers). Rhodes stated that often when non-profits are recruiting for a more diverse board they act as if they are just checking a box.
They need to work harder to recruit board members who not only check a particular diversity or demographic box, but also connect with the organization’s mission. Otherwise, it will be an unsatisfying relationship for all involved.
Such recruiting may take months and involves looking at everyone as a total person and appreciating different kinds of diversity.
Rhodes continued that this often requires having very intentional conversations. Intention may be uncomfortable, but it is honest and direct and the first step toward diversity and inclusion.
We all should take this time to be more aware of our own biases and be more open to those different from us. Rhodes mentioned that he as a black man and diversity advocate needs to strive to support both black women and all women.
Henry noted that if diversity is your goal you must be willing to devote the time and effort to cultivate and nourish these relationships as you would in friendships or dating relationships. This may mean meeting those you wish to recruit in venues that are comfortable for them, not you. We must be aware of our own biases.
The session concluded with how preconceptions permeate other areas of the workplace such as salary disparity, transparency, and negotiation.