Is Your Company Actually Fighting Racism, or Just Talking About It?

June 11, 2020

By Harvard Business Review

The wave of uprisings across the nation have made it clear that police brutality disproportionately impacting Black Americans is out of hand. Many businesses have sought to distance themselves from such violence with statements and pledges.

But the same racialized violence that many are waking up to as unfair, unjust, and unacceptable, is happening within the walls of our businesses. The key difference between “police brutality” and “corporate brutality” is the means. The former is relatively, although not exclusively, more physical. The latter is more systemic and covert. But in either case the result is the same: People are injured, abused, damaged, and/or destroyed.

To adequately respond to the current uprisings, leaders must reckon with the Black experience inside their workplaces.

We have spent the past week listening to Black employees within several different companies. A common theme that emerged from these conversations was the disconnect between a company’s statement or commitment of resources externally and the daily employee experience. This disconnect is not new, but the awareness of its depth is novel for some.

Several companies have publicly acknowledged this disconnect. Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock Inc, stated, “As a firm committed to racial equality, we must also consider where racial disparity exists in our own organizations and not tolerate our shortcomings.” Jason Kilar, the CEO of WarnerMedia, explicitly named racism as a problem in the company and committed to work towards change.

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