Confronting Racism: Five Must-Read Articles For Every Business Leader

“Let’s cut to the chase. It’s been a tough few days…weeks…months.”

That’s how Danielle Cadet begins her viral article published at Refinery29, where she serves as a vice president and managing editor.

In the midst of a global pandemic that has disproportionately impacted people of color, leading to an economic downturn that has disproportionately impacted people of color, we’re now confronting, once again, the vicious racism and violence that are embedded in American culture.

“These issues are not ones that organizations or their leaders — from CEOs at the top of the hierarchy to team managers on the frontline — can ignore,” wrote Laura Morgan Roberts and Ella F. Washington in an HBR article posted earlier this week.

We asked colleagues across the country for recommendations of what we and other white American business leaders should be reading right now, to make sure we are informed and engaged as upstanders, not bystanders.

Here are five suggestions. Read them in this order.

#1: America is on Fire.

This message from the President of Emerson College, Dr. M. Lee Pelton, is a vulnerable and anguish-filled reminder of what it means to be black in America, told from one man’s experience. “Black Americans are invisible to most of white America. We live in the shadows – even those of us, who like me, sit at the table of bounty,” he writes.

#2: Bryan Stevenson on the Frustration Behind the George Floyd Protest

This New Yorker interview features civil-rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative. In a short number of questions and answers, Stevenson connects Floyd’s death and the subsequent protests to the long, racialized history of America. He puts this moment in the context of history.

Stevenson is author of a memoir, Just Mercy, that was made into a powerful 2019 legal drama starring Michael B. Jordan. Warner Brothers has made the film available for free streaming on Amazon and iTunes throughout the month of June, in response to the death of Floyd.

#3: Your Black Colleagues May Look Like They’re Okay–Chances Are They’re Not

Cadet, who we mentioned earlier, takes the context provided by the first two articles and acknowledges a truth, “Black people take the personal trauma we all know to be true and tuck it away to protect white people” in order to meet the professional expectations of their white colleagues.

A similarly powerful article on the topic can be found here, by Shenequa Golding. “I just witnessed the lynching of a black man, but don’t worry Ted, I’ll have those deliverables to you end of day,” she writes.

#4: U.S. Businesses Must Take Meaningful Action Against Racism

We mentioned this Harvard Business Review article by Morgan Roberts and Washington earlier. The authors offer a series of practical “dos and don’ts” that all business leaders can follow.

One piece of advice: “Do not rely on Black and brown people to educate you about what happened in order to justify their hurt and outrage or counter ‘colorblind’ rhetoric.” White people, we need to do our own work on this topic.

#5: Five Practices and Three Myths that Fuel Inequality

Finally, as scholar-practitioners, we often turn to the research for answers to big questions. Today, the research came to us with this 2-page synopsis of an influential Academy of Management article, which summarizes the findings of 232 articles, 76 books, and 14 reports from governments and think tanks on the topic of inequality, especially in the workplace. The authors (John Amis, Johanna Mair, and Kamal Muir) highlight five common organizational practices and three myths that reinforce inequality. We encourage you to dig deep into this one. It is well worth the effort!

In the coming weeks, there will be many more articles to read. We may recommend some of them (follow us on Twitter, @ValuesDriven). But reading isn’t enough: business leaders, what are you doing to confront racism and support your colleagues of color?

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Forbes – Entrepreneurs

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