SEPTEMBER – PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE
I recently heard the expression “racism without racists” and felt this concept must be recognized in improving our business practices. I believe that our society has made great strides in overcoming deep-rooted issues in racism and prejudice but the biggest hurdle remains, and more importantly it is invisible in many ways – it is the existence of beliefs and systems that continue to propagate racism and prejudice without our even realizing it.
In the words of our Vice-President, Charlie Teixeira, the first step in overcoming this hurdle is “to listen to people we actually know rather than get all of our information from news sources or social media”. It is important that we do not base our opinions on our own assumptions, but rather on direct input from those in targeted groups. And, if we don’t have friends and colleagues we can talk to, that should be a red flag that indicates the first step we must take in tackling these issues in our personal and business lives is to broaden our circles.
The second step, in my opinion, is to allow freedom of expression. We must stop censoring or arguing against statements we do not agree with or that make us uncomfortable. We must not dictate which topics are “acceptable” to discuss, or to rephrase another person or group’s statements to match our beliefs, whether it is in a personal or business setting. It is true that some topics can cause conflict or awkwardness; but ignoring these topics is much more devastating as it serves to perpetuate systemic racism and prejudice that undermine true equality.
Intersectionality is necessary in our approach to equality as it relates to gender, race, and class. We must first allow our friends and colleagues to speak their truth. We must listen, and then we must act.