By Cecily Joseph and Jen Boynton
It would be an understatement to say the Black Lives Matter movement has left an indelible mark on America’s timeline. Social media has facilitated a society-wide awakening to existing racial inequality: Regular people throughout the country share videos – incontrovertible proof of racially-motivated police violence and the national lack of social justice it represents. The rise in documented deaths of black men and the Black Lives Matter movement provided a catalyst for a conversation we should have been having all along.
But for all too long, America’s employees of every color have left it at the door when they walk into work. Companies don’t know how to talk about this topic. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) departments don’t know how to address it, and don’t even know if they should. Employees come to work distracted by loss of life, inequality, fear and the unfairness of it all, and we don’t know how to support them, so we stay silent.
Additionally, in what should be a meritocracy, our nation’s businesses are in a unique position to right much of the systemic inequality through fairer hiring and equal pay for equal work. Yet well-intended diversity programs have had minimal impact.
Many of us have conversed about this topic since such events as the Charleston church massacre in June of 2015 when a white terrorist opened fire on 13 black members of a bible study group, one hour after they welcomed him to pray with them; or even further back to the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the killing of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager in a hoodie.
We don’t claim to have all the answers.
But we know that business leaders – and sustainability leaders – have a responsibility to look for them. Through this series, we’ll highlight solutions that work and bring experts to the table to discuss solutions we’ve yet to try from activists, consultants and corporate insiders. We’ll look up-close at challenges people of color face in the workplace and why traditional diversity programs alone are not enough. And we’ll take a wide-angle lens to the problem – looking at economic and social issues we need to overcome in the fight for true equality.
If you feel a little uncomfortable, good. We do too. Our hope in convening this conversation is to show how social inequality is a material issue for corporate social responsibility practitioners, so that we can all work together to make things better. We hope to convene a conversation to help you tackle a national problem that is, frankly, impossible for any one person or organization to solve.
But we feel a moral compulsion to try anyway. We will kick off this series next week.
We invite you to join the conversation in the comments of the articles in this series, on Twitter at @CecilyJosephCR and @JenBoynton, using #BLMandBeyond, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to your feedback.
Cecily Joseph, VP, Corporate Responsibility & Chief Diversity Officer, Symantec + Jen Boynton, Editor in Chief, TriplePundit
Image credit Gerry Lauzon, Flickr