An Open Letter to Our White Allies at Companies– If Not Now, When?
By Arva Rice, President & CEO, New York Urban League, Inc.
It was more than a week after George Floyd’s death, and I opened my Facebook page to see a post from an old high school mate. At this point there are few friends from my Milwaukee, Wisconsin high school on my Facebook pages after years of debates where many insisted that “All Lives Matter.” But on this day, I stopped in my tracks as I read her post about how watching George Floyd’s murder sparked a change of heart. She acknowledged that Black Lives Matter was not a slogan but a statement about the value of human life.
This awakening has been happening across our country and our world. It may start with one individual. But how can corporations rise to the challenge?
In the wake of the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor and the recent civil unrest, we need white people to speak to other white people, to acknowledge privilege in all of its forms and become true co-advocates in the fight to eradicate racism. Writing a post on Facebook or releasing a statement that Black Lives Matter is appreciated. But at this inflection point, acknowledgment of 400 years of injustice is a first step. We recognize that from an early age whites have been taught that race and religion are topics that are to be avoided. But in that avoidance festers lack of knowledge of inequities. We need white co-advocates to boldly engage in uncomfortable conversations and push for policies that will lead to greater equality. For allies at small businesses and large corporations, organizations like NYUL have ways that can help you be active allies to drive real change.
Every year NYUL recognizes corporations that recognize that diversity matters. NYUL bestows Champions of Diversity Awards to corporations with exemplary practices as exhibited by their supplier diversity, diversity of leadership, philanthropy and composition of their workforce. And every year we have corporations apply that have no Blacks or women on their boards, have a concentration of Blacks in non-management positions, and no formal commitment to supplier diversity. These corporations want recognition without doing the work. Building diverse workplaces require awareness, analysis, commitment and resources.
But where can you begin? You can start by asking a few questions:
1. Does your corporation have Blacks and women on your Board of Directors, C-suite and in senior management?
2. Does your corporation regularly review the diversity of your workforce and develop goals and metrics for achieving those goals?
3. Does your corporation have a formal supplier diversity program with goals for Minority & Women Owned Business Procurement?
4. Does your corporate giving prioritize resources on those communities most in need, for instance those zip codes with highest concentration of COVID-19 cases and deaths?
5. Does your corporation have an-on-going partnership with Sponsors for Educational Opportunity, Inroads, MIT, NAACP, or Urban League? These are all organizations to eradicating racism and providing diverse candidates for the workplace.
7. Does your corporation have a leadership team responsible for discussing issues of inclusion that has access to the C-suite?
It is time for every company to not only become a Champion of Diversity, but to fight racism in policy and practice. That time is now.
By Arva Rice| President & CEO
New York Urban League, Inc.
204 West 136th Street
New York, NY 10030
https://www.nyul.org/; https://www.facebook.com/newyorkurbanleague/ and https://twitter.com/NYUrbanLeague
Arva R. Rice, President and CEO, New York Urban League is available to speak at corporations.
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Lisa Skriloff (for the New York Urban League)
Multicultural Marketing Resources, Inc.