• California is currently leading the discussion on slavery reparations.
• The pushback against police brutality has spread to other countries.
• Business efforts to support Black Lives Matter must be sustained.
Almost six months ago, George Floyd, a Black man in Minneapolis, was killed in police custody. This prompted the greatest civil-rights movement the United States has seen in 50 years, one which rippled around the globe.
Since June, however, support for the Black Lives Matter movement has declined. But Black lives still matter. Black people are systemically at a disadvantage when it comes to jobs, healthcare, education and much more. So what progress has been made, and what can we do to keep the momentum going around the world?
Though slavery was abolished in the United States in 1863, former slaves were not compensated for their servitude. For years, state and local governments looked into reparations for African-American descendants of slaves, but they are yet to see such measures.
In September 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom, a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader alumnus, announced a special task force to look into reparations for slavery. This task force will examine how the state has profited from slavery, while also reviewing the increase in wealth, education and healthcare disparities, and the lasting consequences of enslavement. Senator Cory Booker from New Jersey introduced a bill with 12 co-sponsors on studying reparations for African Americans, while President-Elect Joe Biden has supported the idea of studying reparations as well.
Reparations are important because they are an acknowledgment and an apology for the injustice that took place, and consequently impacted millions of African Americans to this day. Japanese Americans were placed in internment camps in 1942, and in 1988 Congress passed a bill that President Ronald Reagan signed, apologizing and acknowledging the injustice and providing $20,000 to each person affected. Reparations are not something new to the United States, and hopefully, more states will follow in California’s footsteps.
George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Daniel Prude and 181 other Black Americans have been killed by police in 2020. Since June, there has been an uptick in reforms to address police brutality in the United States and around the globe. In July, the state of Minnesota passed a bill to eliminate certain training programmes that encouraged aggressive conduct, while also requiring new training for police officers to understand and be aware in situations where an individual may be autistic or in a mental-health crisis.
The law also created a special independent unit to investigate excessive police force and community advisors to advise on policy changes.
In New York state, the governor signed an executive order mandating all police departments to gain local government approval to reform their departments by April 2021 in order to continue receiving state funding.
In other countries, governments and citizens alike are leading reform. Halifax County in Canada cancelled its plans to order armoured vehicles and instead redistributed the money into diversity and anti-racism programmes.
The pushback against police brutality isn’t limited to Western countries. In Nigeria, the #EndSars movement gained new momentum in October after revelations of killings and excess force by the anti-robbery (SARs) police unit. The government have pledged, not for the first time, to abolish the unit, but high among protesters’ core demands is to ensure that police officers are adequately paid to help reduce corruption and brutality.
Diversity, equality and inclusion in the workplace
During most public outcries, businesses tend to stay away from the controversy. But in the wake of George Floyd, organizations in all parts of the world shared support on social media and put out statements condemning the killing. But they must go beyond social media posts. They have a responsibility that starts within their own walls – with their employees. Diversity and inclusion doesn’t just mean hiring more Black, indigenous and people of colour (BIPOC), it also requires addressing and rooting out ingrained systemic racial inequities within small teams, or a whole organization.
Some companies in the private sector are responding to inclusion in their workforce while also contributing towards the fight for racial equality. Accenture has been a leader in workplace diversity efforts for years, and is consistently named as one of the top companies in this regard. Its executives consist of 40% minority representation, while employee minority representation is over 50%.
VMware, a Silicon Valley-based tech company, created an internal campaign on its intranet using the hashtag #wehearyou. The goal was to support their Black employees and find out ways they can better contribute towards equality together. The company donated to social justice organisations and matched employee donations.
McKinsey followed up their statement against racial inequity with 10 actions to deliver change and combat racism, including anti-racism and inclusion programmes and dedicating $200 million over the next 10 years in pro bono work to advance racial equity and economic empowerment within the global Black community.
Be, and remain, an ally
Since June, allyship has become more mainstream as citizens unite in the fight for racial equality. There are several ways to be an ally in the fight against racial injustice, but what is just as important is to remain an ally and ensure that progress remains on the upward trajectory. One of the best ways to be an ally is to read and educate on the history of systemic racism rooted in large parts of the world. A nice example is Caste by Isabel Wilkerson, which charts the influence of racism through the “caste systems” in America, India and Europe, and is a good start to understanding how systemic racism is ingrained.
You can also be an economic ally. The racial wealth gap between Black and white people adversely affects Black business owners as they search for loans to support their business. Black entrepreneurs already have an uphill battle to gain capital, build a network and develop resources for their company. While the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic has hit many businesses, Black-owned businesses suffer the most. You can be an ally by buying from local Black-owned businesses or investing in early start-ups, or supporting under-represented founders. By purchasing or investing in a Black-owned business, you are not only contributing to their success, but the economy itself.
The COVID-19 pandemic and recent social and political unrest have created a profound sense of urgency for companies to actively work to tackle racial injustice and inequality. In response, the Forum’s Platform for Shaping the Future of the New Economy and Society has established a high-level community of Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officers. The community will develop a vision, strategies and tools to proactively embed equity into the post-pandemic recovery and shape long-term inclusive change in our economies and societies.
As businesses emerge from the COVID-19 crisis, they have a unique opportunity to ensure that equity, inclusion and justice define the “new normal” and tackle exclusion, bias and discrimination related to race, gender, ability, sexual orientation and all other forms of human diversity. It is increasingly clear that new workplace technologies and practices can be leveraged to significantly improve diversity, equity and inclusion outcomes.
The World Economic Forum has developed a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Toolkit, to outline the practical opportunities that this new technology represents for diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, while describing the challenges that come with it.
The toolkit explores how technology can help reduce bias from recruitment processes, diversify talent pools and benchmark diversity and inclusion across organisations. The toolkit also cites research that suggests well-managed diverse teams significantly outperform homogenous ones over time, across profitability, innovation, decision-making and employee engagement.
The Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Toolkit is available here.
Beyond these examples of how the tragic deaths of George Floyd and other Black Americans have influenced the past few months, we need to keep speaking up for diversity and inclusion. We need to keep the conversation going in order to keep alive the spirit of Black Lives Matter and our hopes for a fairer world.
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