The past few days I have been struck by how obvious is the practical need for diversity in the workplace, be it the offices of mayors, the offices of a major newspaper, or a piping factory in Paris Texas. Lets step away from such issues (for a second) as institutional and societal racism, and look just at the practical consequences of non-diverse workplaces, as they have played out in our media over the last few days.
The Mayor of Los Alamitos, California sent out an email to constituents that shows the White House sitting amidst a field of watermelons, under a caption that says “No Easter egg hunt this year”.
The New York Post published a cartoon showing police having shot a chimpanzee (or a monkey) while saying “They’ll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill”. What is worse, they then try to blame the uproar over the cartoon on opportunistic activists, still not able to see the message the cartoon portrays.
Paris Texas, a town which in the last few weeks had to bring in federal mediators to try to deal with the worsening racial tension has apparently had a factory where bosses ignored such subtle signs of that “racial tension” as confederate flags and nooses as they appeared in the working spaces of black employees.
Now, I personally do not for a minute believe that any of these incidents happened because people were actually “unaware” of what they meant, although that is always the first excuse that is turned to when they become public. But I want to put that aside for a moment and point out to these public officials and corporations that if you had a more diverse staff, newsroom, or management, you probably would have been informed of the racism inherent in each of these situations before they were discovered by the national media, and you were painted as a racist by every media outlet that could squeeze out a minute of air time or a few column inches of print space.
While I believe we must continue the work of changing the basic attitudes, perceptions, and assumptions that underlie racism in our own hearts, in our own lives, and in the institutions that arise from those lives, I have doubt if this is enough to change behavior in the near term. But the practical benefit of having someone (many someone’s) on staff who can tell you that something is racist even if your own blindness or mal-intent can not see it…, thereby preventing a public relations disaster… that just makes good business sense. If you can’t (yet) understand the inherent worth and dignity of every person, perhaps you can understand this.
Yours in Faith,