Moderated by the CGN founder, Joy Stephens, the discussion opened with Mr. Henry clarifying the essence of the Black Lives Matter Movement that began almost 10 years ago, long before George Floyd had a knee on his neck for 8.5 minutes leading to his death which we witnessed on national television.
Incidents such as the Trayvon Martin shooting in 2012, the fatal shooting of a jogger Admaud Arbery in Georgia coupled with Breonna Taylor’s death aided by the spread of COVID-19 have put long accepted practices and previously unquestioned brutality into the spotlight.
Henry stated that the BLM Movement does not diminish the value of other lives but has elevated the systematic racism and discrimination experienced by minority groups for decades.
Rhodes explained that white privilege is a way of describing how people naturally view the world from their own lens. One must make a concentrated effort to pause, self-reflect, look around and be emphatic to others. Choosing not to do anything is also a white privilege that other groups do not have.
In contrast, people of color are always thinking of how everyday actions such as forgetting a store receipt when returning an item or being in a luxury vehicle when a police car follows may be misinterpreted by those in authority as a potential illegal act.
“Circumstances can change but skin color cannot.” Therefore those of color need to be extra cautious in situations that whites would consider routine.
How does this affect the nonprofit community?
Henry stated that many corporations may have diverse Boards which look good to an outsider, but what are they doing internally with their employee training and work practices? For example: Do they offer their employees paid time to volunteer in communities of color?
Rhodes offered a break down of addressing the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) model.
Diversity: Organizations that are aware of issues but do not want to devote resources (monetary, staff, training) to solve the problem are actually more harmful that those that ignore the issue.
Equity: One size does not fit for all organizations. People must make choices to intentionally add diversity to their Boards of Directors, Staff and Training. This depends on their mission, industry and how they embrace specific groups.
Inclusion: Involves making sure all employees feel valued, trusted, connected, and informed to enable them to deliver best results to their constituents. This involves extra effort to be sure that every team member has the same tools and information available to them.
Henry stressed the need for outreach that includes meeting people where they are, not expecting them to come to us. This includes practicing DEI ourselves and not just looking at things through our own lenses: “Looking inward before looking outward.” Through such actions we can break down the walls and see an environment where people can “reveal, feel and heal” creating an empathic healing journey.
Rhodes added that good intents must have actions that follow in order to have impact.
Moments of reflection can lead to those actions and employee resource groups (ERGs) within companies are a good start. The Black Employees Network (BEN) at Amazon is an example of such a group.
We can all begin with self-reflection and understanding how one’s own biases affect how we view the world. Organizations can use this approach when thinking about training and populating their Boards of Directors. Police Departments should provide cultural and sensitivity training to all officers in communities of color to better understand their role in these communities.