Reverse Racism? Let’s Talk About Inclusion…
Posted by Mitch Mitchell on Jun 9, 2015
In the middle of last week I was watching a YouTube video created by someone I know, though not overly well. He was talking about going into a bar and having a black guy calling him all sorts of names. When he asked the guy why he was calling him those names, the response was “because you’re white.”
He said that he talked to the guy for a while and they resolved their issue and all was right with the world. Before that part though, he said he felt he was experiencing reverse racism. Turns out most of the people who commented on the video thought the same thing.
I’m not going to say I don’t believe it, but there had to be way more happening than the story told. For instance, if it happened in a bar where most of the people were white, we all know the guy would have been thrown out way before he’d had a chance to say something more than once. If it had been a black bar, more than one person would have been in on the name calling and the guy I know wouldn’t have stayed longer than a few minutes.
Those are the normal scenarios anyway; anything else… well, if it’s true there had to be way more than that going on. Still, it doesn’t matter; I’ll tell you why.
Last Friday I went with some people who are part of an organization on whose board I’m on. We were looking at some new meeting space that we supposedly wouldn’t have to pay for in a brand new building. It took me a while to find it, even though it’s in my hometown, because I passed it by, not realizing that the old building that had been there for decades had been renovated, since I came by it on a back road.
When I finally got there and walked in, the lady at the desk didn’t even hesitate in saying to me “Hi, your group just walked around the corner.” I thought at the time that she was prescient; how could she know who I was there with or why?
Within a couple of minutes we found the group I was supposed to be with and the tour began in earnest. It was a beautiful building in the modern style of businesses. Lots of open spaces, glass walls for the most part, two levels, but the upper level can look down on the lower level. The wall to wall carpeting dampened noise and the color scheme was warm and inviting.
You could see everything and everybody. As we kept walking around, we came to the patio, the lunch room, and the big conference room, where a training session was just getting ready to end. While everyone else stopped I decided to look into the room just to see who was in there.
We were then escorted to a smaller room where we could briefly have our board meeting. It lasted maybe 20 minutes or so and, luckily enough, we ended on time.
I’ll own up to this right now; I was mentally off. I hadn’t slept all that well, I was feeling a little bit dizzy, and I was having some problems keeping my balance; that’s never a good thing. The building was overwhelming I must admit. One of the other people in our group said to me at one point “I feel like we shouldn’t be here.”
I agreed. Thus, when the meeting ended and we’d agreed to have our first 4 meetings of the new season there, I said “Well, I guess it’s a good thing Danny and I are here.” When someone asked why I said “Because we’re the only people of color in the entire building.”
Trust me, we were. There were at least 100 people in there, maybe way more since my count might have been off. But there was no doubt that there wasn’t a single person of color outside of myself and Danny, who happens to be Indian (from India of course). So much clean, such a wonderful design, everything state of the art… and not a single person of color.
I walked out angry; luckily, no one seemed to notice. On the drive home I wondered why I was angry; I mean, I should be used to it… right?
I always say that this concept of reverse racism is a myth. Here’s a question that I’d like someone to answer. Name a single business that has more than 20 employees in America where there isn’t a single white person in it?
You won’t find any. That’s why reverse racism is a myth; at a group, minorities in this country don’t have anything to themselves. Sure, there are lots of small minority owned businesses, and some consultants like myself. But entire businesses of only minorities… not happening.
Next, name a single business where most of the leadership is minority in the United States; I’ll wait. It’s not going to happen. Goodness, I’ve been in hospitals in Texas and Tennessee and New Jersey. I’ve been in hospitals where at least half of the workforce is minority. But when you get to the leadership… if you’re lucky there will be one or two. In the hospital in Texas, none; in the hospitals in New Jersey; one. The hospital in Tennessee… none.
If you want to know what reverse racism is you have to understand the concept of inclusion first. I’m not saying that any of these places I visited were racist; far from it. What I will say is that when it came to leadership, they hired what they were used to and comfortable with, and that’s that.
Like this business I was at last Friday. I don’t think they intentionally set out to be exclusive. Goodness, they even built a special elevator for the disabled; there was one person there with a disability.
I just think it’s easy to overlook those who aren’t necessarily similar in the quest for getting “the right person.” I don’t buy the “none ever apply” excuse; when I was an employee, I went out of my way to find people in the communities the hospitals were in to reach out to minority populations and tell them to apply for jobs. I told them to make sure they were qualified which, if they had a high school diploma, even a college degree, they would be. If I could do it and it wasn’t my job, other businesses can get it done.
I’ve said this often and I’ll say it again. Business and the world is better when people learn that diversity improves our lives overall. In an article titled How HR ‘Best Practices’ Kill Innovation last week in Forbes, Adam Hartung wrote “It is incredibly important to have high levels of diversity. It’s the only way to avoid becoming myopic, and finding yourself with “best practices” that don’t matter as competitors overwhelm your market.”
Reverse racism? Bah!