The owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, Mark Cuban, is quoted as having once said the following: “[I] know I’m prejudiced, and I know I’m bigoted in a lot of different ways . . . If I see a black kid in a hoodie on my side of the street, I’ll move to the other side of the street. If I see a white guy with a shaved head and tattoo, I’ll move back to the other side of the street.” To Cuban’s point, Derald Wing Sue, author of Race Talk and the Conspiracy of Silence, reminds us that we are all prejudice, in some way or another, and that acknowledgement of this fact is the first step to effective and successful dialogues about race. Furthermore, acknowledgement is necessary to overcoming such associated biases and stereotypes that come from prejudice.
Despite what anyone may have thought with the election and subsequent presidency of Barack Obama in 2009, racism [still] exists in America. #Charlottesville, #Charleston9, the bombing of the Pulse nightclub, recent anti-semitic attacks in New Jersey and New York, and other horrific events motivated by hate and racist views are vivid reminders that this country still has a long way to go in this area. You might ask, “Charles, what does any of this have to do with our business and the bottom-line of what we’re supposed to be doing at work.” I would argue that the very existence of racism and racist views risk negatively impacting our ability to successfully and consistently meet the demands of our jobs. How can I make this claim?
The effects of racism aren’t worn like pieces of clothing, simply to be taken off or removed just because one may have to dawn a badge or come through armed guards for entry to their place of employment. Rather, those effects stick with us like a lingering cold or bacterial infection, requiring deliberate and continual treatment and attention. The effects of racism cause people to struggle with simply seeing each other as fellow human beings, having the same considerations (i.e., this person has beliefs, hopes, anxieties, vulnerabilities, friends, family, etc.—just like me). Simply not talking about it does not make racism go away or mean that it no longer exists. Many people in our work centers—especially those who work in the federal sector—are afraid to have conversations [open and honest] about these awful incidents that continually put us against one another. We should not fear having honest, thought-provoking dialogue with one another. Doing so helps to bring greater understanding to the plight of things the person next to you might be dealing with. (I pray this doesn’t happen, but a #Charlottesville or #Charleston9 could happen anywhere—even right in or near your neighborhood.)
There is a very stimulating YouTube video I believe reinforces what I’m encouraging here—the need for serious dialogue in this area of racism and its effects in the work center. Take a look at “A black man undercover in the alt-right” . I believe it’s worth the 20 minutes it’ll take to watch it. Allow the video and Mr. Theo E.J. Wilson’s oratory to stimulate questions and encourage you to reach out to family, friends and colleagues to engage in courageous conversations.