JB’s Leadership Tips (Home Edition)

JB’s Leadership Tips (Home Edition)

  1. Every meeting does not need to be Zoom or WebEx meeting with video. We know we all want to stay connected during this work from home time, however, that does not mean we have to see each other EVERY TIME we meet. Stop it. Did we meet face to face every time in the office?
  2. Don’t meet with your employees each and every day. Trust your employees. Check on them socially and ask them is there anything you can do to support them. Do not schedule a check in visual huddle everyday. Your employees are great and that’s why you hired them. They know how to reach you. (I need to practice this one too.)
  3. Silence on a conference call can mean the same things it does in a regular in person team meeting. It could mean that everyone gets it and does not have questions and it could mean that everyone is scared to death about an issue and does not want to be the first to bring something up. Trust your gut and when you think it is the later, make individual calls to follow up and give your team members personal attention.
  4. If the Video Camera is ON! please ACT LIKE the CAMERA IS ON!
  5. Make a Toast to each other and celebrate victories and small wins. For example: We all made it to the call on time. Nobody killed a kid during home schooling and work from home time today. Everybody is safe and healthy. I am not saying your toast has to be with alcohol, but you are at home although you working. Your call. 🙂. How is your leader going to know either way. 🙂

Lead with Care, Compassion and Current Information. Realize that with home school, taking care of elderly parents, working and not being overwhelmed by the current state of the world, we only have so much Capacity. Let your team use their capacity wisely.

Appreciate your team.

We Are All Amazing

“We should soundly reject language coming out of the mouths of any of our leaders that feeds a climate of fear and hatred or normalizes racist sentiments; leaders who demonize those who don’t look like us, or suggest that other people, including immigrants, threaten our way of life, or refer to other people as sub-human, or imply that America belongs to just one certain type of people,”

“It’s time for the overwhelming majority of Americans of goodwill, of every race and faith and political party, to say as much — clearly and unequivocally,”

President Barack Obama

What is a Virus?

A virus is a microscopic piece of genetic material surrounded by a coat made of proteins. It enters healthy cells and hijacks them, creating copies of itself. When viruses begin replicating inside a living organism, they can cause an infectious disease. 

Viruses are not generated by race or ethnicity. Viruses are not generated by gender, gender identity or sexual orientation. Viruses are not generated by religious beliefs or political affiliation. Viruses are generated by living organisms and can affect all of humanity.

What is Racism?

Racism = Power + Prejudice

Power is political, economic, social, systemic, institutional and influential. Power defines reality for the person or group wielding the power and the reality for those being oppressed by the use of this power.

Prejudice is negative stereotypes directed towards a group of people that are damaging and deny individuality. Prejudicial attitudes typically lead to negative behaviors towards individuals and a particular group of people.

Racism serves the interest of those in power and fosters racial oppression against those experiencing it. Racism leads to internalized and external negative messages that also leads to discrimination, violence, conscious bias and oppression of groups and individuals.

No Time for Silence

Racism is identifying a virus by the name of a country (China) or race of people because the virus impacted those in that country first. Racism is calling women of color nasty if they ask questions about conscious bias and racist behavior. Racism is treating and allowing others to treat those of Asian decent with disdain, disrespect, bias and prejudice regarding a virus that has nothing to do with their race, ethnicity or birthplace. Racism is Being Silent when there is xenophobia, greed, othering, exclusion and hatred. Racism is Silence! Racism is No Action!

The Virus and You

CoVid19 is impacting the world. It is impacting you. It is impacting your family. It is impacting your community. The way YOU respond when people use the origination of this virus and the impact of it in a racist manner is also about YOU. You must stand up! You must speak up! You must ACT! You must not let anyone or any group to be marginalized at any time. Let’s all show up and show that We are All Amazing!How we address CoVid19 socially and through human relationships as a nation will determine how we survive and thrive today and tomorrow.

Are you interested or committed to equity and inclusion?

Coach Cheryl Reeve is the four time WNBA Championship coach of the Minnesota Lynx. She is a great leader and excellent coach. At a recent event showcasing the Lynx President’s Circle, she shared the great work of the Lynx organization. During her presentation, Coach Reeve asked a simple but thoughtful question that we all should ask ourselves, “Are you interested or committed to diversity (equity) and inclusion?” Her question implies that there is a difference between the way commitment looks, feels and performs and that it is very different than the behaviors someone exhibits when they are just interested. Let’s explore her hypothesis and see if there is something to this thought.

If you are interested in losing weight what might it look like in your actions. You could express your interest by reading a book on weight loss. You could express your interest by viewing a movie or attending a seminar on weight loss. You could outline a strategy for healthy weight loss and post it on your refrigerator. You could hire a trainer and a nutritionist and meet with them to discuss a plan for losing weight. You could join a gym. These behaviors demonstrate an interest in losing weight.

If you are committed to losing weight, what might your behaviors look like? You could identify a weight loss goal and pick a date by which you want to lose the weight. You could purchase foods that are healthier and cook and eat those foods as part of your new diet. You could join a gym and visit three days a week and workout for an hour. You could check in regularly with an accountability partner and make sure you take the advice of your partner when called out on your challenge of losing weight. These behaviors demonstrate a commitment to losing weight. This commitment manifests itself through intentional actions and are reinforced through goal setting and accountability.

So what if you are interested in equity, diversity and inclusion rather than committed. What does that interest look like? You could read a book on equity and inclusion. You could watch some Ted Talks on Structural Racism and go to seminars on Racial Equity. You could outline a strategy for building awareness, implicit bias and inclusive leadership. You could hire a Chief Inclusion Officer and join many national equity and inclusion groups. These behaviors demonstrate an interest in equity, diversity and inclusion.

So what does a commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion look like? You could allocate a significant budget to do equity, diversity and inclusion work. You could invest in a Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer and a team (more than two people) dedicated to addressing internal and external equity and inclusion strategies. You could design develop and implement strategies that hire interns of color, establish specific and measurable goals for hiring people of color in all roles, establish specific and measurable goals for spending with diverse vendors, establish specific and measurable goals for reducing attrition for people of color, sponsor (monetary) career fairs and other events that focus on racially diverse, disabled and LGBTQ communities, and invest in strategies that educate, mentor and promote current racially diverse employees to higher level opportunities.

A commitment would have a CEO consistently investing in equity and inclusion and using his OWN voice to show the commitment to leaders and all employees. A commitment would have medical staff that addresses health disparities by identifying, measuring and then implementing strategies to reduce those disparities. A commitment would have various community partnerships with transparent relationships where there is mutual accountability, respect and support. A commitment would have a primary pillar of the organization’s strategic plan focusing on equity and changing the healthcare system to provide equitable outcomes, elimination of structural racism and providing health equity solutions for all patients and families.

So ask yourself are you interested or committed to equity and inclusion? Your answer may surprise you.


Too Black, Too Strong, Too Intimidating, Too Demanding, Too Harsh, Too Much to Handle – Do You Really Want Equity?

Equity is giving people what they need to be successful. Equity NEVER focuses on giving people equal amounts in order to be fair and just. Instead, equity takes into account structural racism, bias, discrimination and many other barriers and then realizes that some groups need different solutions than other groups. Equity is NOT Equal! Equity does not treat everybody the same. As we begin 2020, I want to share my perspectives on Equity and what it takes to move it forward.

Too Black

Someone told me that someone told them that when James was the Chief Inclusion Officer for the State of Minnesota, he did too much for the Black Community and therefore other communities of color and the Native American community were not happy with him. In the past when I heard something like this, I would get angry and try and justify my actions or defend my stance for the Black community. I will no longer take that stance. Instead, I will say, I am TOO Black! I was born a Black Man. I own the greatness as well as the challenges of being a Black Man. I own the Detroit upbringing that taught me to always look out for US! I own my commitment to increase state spending in the Black Community that led to a 1000 percent increase in spending with Black businesses. Equity required this of me and for that there will never be an apology. As for the assumption about what other communities think about me because I practice equity, I will let you ask them. I am positive my sisters and brothers from another mother have a different story to tell about me and my work than the person who made the comment about me. Equity is Too Black!

Too Strong

I have often been told that I am pushy when it comes to the work of equity in Minnesota. Some have said that I don’t understand that everybody is trying “their best.” I have also been told that people are afraid of you James because “your presence takes over the room.” Lastly, I have many times been blamed for people not offering a counter opinion because they “thought” I would not hear what they had to say. Minnesota is the land of 10,000 or more inequities for communities of color and Native Americans. I will not belabor the horrible statistics because you have heard them many times before. We are bad in unemployment, home ownership, health equity, economic development, education, etc. When things are in a dire straight and change must happen NOW, I submit that there is no such thing as Too Strong. It is quite possible that people in the past have not been strong enough to make change and also not strong enough to hold people accountable. It could be that if we increased our strength to not only have tough conversations, but also exhibit tough actions we would all be stronger and healthier in Minnesota. Equity is Too Strong!

Too Intimidating, Too Demanding, Too Harsh

If you don’t demand change, change will not happen. Many people have asked nicely and politely and when told to apologize for asking. The infant mortality rate for Black mothers is 2.3 times higher than that of white mothers. Black babies are 3.8 times more likely to die from complications of low birth rate than white babies. In other words, the HARSH reality is that Black babies are dying and we need everyone to be more intimidating, harsh and demanding until this tragedy is fixed. If you are worried about being nice or well received rather than urgent, that could be the root of the problem. Equity is Intimidating, Demanding and Harsh!

Too Much (Hot) to Handle

An old Heatwave album from the 80’s was entitled Too Hot to Handle. The picture of a LP on the front of album was so hot that it was melting. My goal in 2020 is to be Too Hot to Handle for Equity. What does Too Hot to Handle look like? Well, I am so glad you asked. It looks like ridiculously high hiring and retention goals for people of color and Native Americans that some think can’t be met. It looks like ridiculously high supplier diversity spend goals that some say cannot be met. It looks like holding people accountable for their actions who consistently demonstrate inappropriate behavior towards people of color and Native Americans. It also means holding people accountable for their inactions in resolving these issues. Lastly, it looks like addressing the statement of “we have never done it that way before,” with the response, “equity requires that we do it differently and it may look nothing like we expected.” Equity is Too Hot to Handle!

As you bring in the new year and the new decade ask yourself do you really want equity? If the answer is yes, ask yourself what are you willing to do achieve it. Your answer may surprise you.


This is Us!

This is Us is a very popular television show on NBC. Although I have not seen more than a couple of episodes of the show, I know that it is very popular and critically acclaimed. This is Us showcases the dynamics of a multi-cultural, multi-racial and multi-dimensional family. It tells of their past, current situation and future by showcasing various life experiences. The family experiences happiness, sadness, reflection, pain, pleasure and more. This is Us reflects the spectrum of what life is.

The Monitors Club hosted its annual holiday party this weekend and exhibited our version of This is Us! The Monitors Club was founded in Minnesota in 1955. It is an organization founded by and currently led by Black Men. The founding purpose of the Monitors is to monitor events happening in the Black Community. The Monitors goal is to make sure that Black families are receiving their equitable share in education, health and economics. The Monitors Club also serves as a social organization for Black Men to fellowship with one another. I am proud to be a member of the Monitors since 2018.

The Monitors Holiday Party was a true gathering of This is Us! Over 290 guests experienced great fellowship, food, live music. a DJ and lots of celebration. The race of the party goers was predominantly Black and they were dressed “to the nines.” We laughed, we smiled and we danced the night away. We had doctors, lawyers, political leaders, preachers, corporate and nonprofit executives, educators, bankers, judges, business owners, pilots, civic leaders, and more in attendance. We embraced the fact that This is Us in Minnesota. While many of us ONLY talk about disparities plaguing Black people in Minnesota, we must also acknowledge, celebrate and recognize the amazing and beautiful Black people in this community and how we have had great success. This is Us!

We must recognize the investments of the Monitors Foundation and how it consistently gives to organizations serving Black families and students. The goal of the Monitors Foundation is to build the foundation from a half million dollars in assets to a million dollar foundation in the very near future. This is Us!

The Monitors started in Minnesota in 1955. They monitored the Black Community and cared about the success of Black families. We celebrate the more than sixty years the Monitors Club has continued to serve and invest in in the Black community. I realize that Minnesota must work to eliminate racial disparities caused by structural racism and other barriers. However, during the journey towards eliminating these disparities, the Monitors Club and the room full of guests from the Holiday Party should be recognized and acknowledged as beautiful, resilient and strong Black people that are doing great things in the community. This is Us! Let no one tell you or others that this part of the Black community does not exist in Minnesota. Nights like the Monitors Holiday Party need to be recognized, celebrated and repeated. This is Us!

Black Achievement in Minnesota – What You Gon’ Do?

A few years ago one of my favorite ministers preached a sermon entitled “What You Gon’ Do!” The theme of the sermon was that you are placed in a variety of situations, trials and tribulations and you must decide how you are going to respond. The cliff notes version of the sermon was “don’t talk about it, be about it.” The marching orders were to set goals and reach them with commitment and integrity, no matter what cards you have been dealt and no matter what the statistics tell you.

For the second time in the last two years, the Twin Cities has been named the 4th worse city for Black people to live. The only cities that placed worse than the Twin Cities are Milwaukee and Racine, Wisconsin and Waterloo, Iowa. The ironic thing about this ranking is that overall the Twin Cities and Minnesota have some of the highest rankings for education, health, wealth, housing and employment. The State of Minnesota consistently ranks in the top three states for livability and in the past has been home to more millionaires per capita than any other state. We know that the reasons for this large disparity is the gap between blacks and whites in all of the fore-mentioned categories. Four Hundred years of slavery, stolen lands, family destruction, business and community destruction, racism, discrimination, Jim Crow, restrictive covenants, lynchings/murders, sexual assaults/rapes, case law misinterpretations and political abuses led to these vast disparities and grave statistics that this survey reports on every year. We know like clock work that Minnesota will be ranked near the bottom for Black people for livability.

The reality is clear. Black people in Minnesota are not doing as well as their White counterparts. This is what we have known for quite some time and probably can predict every year just like we know it will definitely snow and be cold in Minnesota in December and January. The question then becomes not what the statistics will report each year, but instead the question is, What have we done and what are we going to continue to do to make it better.

I truly believe that when you know the data you can truly design and implement strategies to address the data and make things better. You can rest assured that we know very well the disparity or racial inequity data in Minnesota. How do I know this you ask? Well, I know this because every year we hear the same statistics about Minnesota being the 2nd, 3rd or 4th worse place to live for Black people. (Two years ago Minnesota was the 2nd worse city) What we don’t hear are stories that reflect on what is being done or could be done to change this current status. This is what I hope to hear about and see more of in the future.

In 2011 unemployment for Black people in Minnesota was 25%. In 2018, unemployment for Black people was 6%. Unemployment for Black people still remains twice that of white Minnesotans, but no longer are 1/4 of all Black people in Minnesota unemployed. Somebody did something to make a change and although not perfect, they made it better. By 2035, 1/4 or all Minnesotans will be people of color. A dramatic increase from 6% in 1990. Currently 20% of Minnesotans are people of color. By 2050 1 out of 2 working age Minnesotans will be a person of color. This must lead to changes in: recruitment processes, who ultimately gets hired and how we retain our best employees. Employers who want to be successful must make a change in their recruiting and promotional practices for the expanding workforce (people of color) in order to maintain a competitive advantage.

In 2018, the State of Minnesota increased spend with Black owned business by 1,075%. Now mind you, in order to increase spend by over 1,000%, spend had to be worse than abysmal and it was. However, rather than do a study again and again and tell us that the numbers are abysmal, an effort was made to be intentional and measure success while trying to get better. Somebody did something to increase investment in Black businesses.

In 2019, many small and large businesses have been working with the People of Color Career Fair, St. Paul Chamber of Commerce, Center for Economic Inclusion, Greater MSP, Make It MSP, Council for Minnesotans of African Heritage, MEDA, minority chambers and organizations like African American Leadership Forum, Coalition of Asian American Leaders, Latino Lead and the Tiwhae Foundation (American Indian) to make equitable changes for Minnesotans and no longer have Blacks and other people of. color rank at the bottom for quality of life measures in Minnesota. Also in 2019, many people acted with more intentionality to develop the skills and promotional opportunities for Black employees and Black owned businesses in their respective organizations. Somebody decided to do something and hopefully they will make these changes sustainable over the next several years.

I started this blog by simply asking the question, what you gon’ do? I want to challenge each of you reading this article to individually and collectively answer that question and then commit to actions. So the next time you hear the statistic about how bad Black people are doing in Minnesota you can say that you: 1) intentionally spent money with Black owned business; 2) intentionally mentored or sponsored a Black employee to be successful and promoted at your company; 3) invested in (money or donated services) home ownership (NAREB) and financial independence for Black families; 4) sponsored and supported social and community activities that bring together Communities of Color; 5) intentionally identified structural and institutional racism as barriers to Black success in Minnesota and started to dismantle these structures and institutions; and 6) set measurable equity goals and implemented strategies to achieve these goals while holding yourself accountable for your own biases and non-inclusive behaviors.

So the next time you read or post a story about how bad it is for Black Minnesotans ask yourself what has been done, what is being done and lastly what are you willing to do to make it better.

Don ‘t talk about it be about it – Do Something!

Makes Me Wanna Holler…….

The journey of being a Black Man is filled with ups and downs, joys and pains, sorrows and triumphs. While always a roller coaster of emotions, I would not trade it for the world. Being a Black Man also gives you a lens and perception that has been framed by your daily reality and that reality and experience of those who look like you. While no two experiences are the same, when it comes to stories of racism, social justice, bias and the Black Man’s Journey, my brothers and I have a lot of moments when we say, “That happened to you too?” When we ask the question, most times it is not a question but instead a statement. A statement that is all to familiar and connected with consistent mistreatment and misperceptions of who we are. The bias against us is real and sometimes it is NOT unconscious.

As I journey through the life of being a Black Man, sometimes a situation happens that lets me know that the views of the world towards me and my reality of living in this world has forever changed me. While driving home tonight, I was fast approached by a police car coming up on my right hand side while my daughter and I were on the highway. At first I thought ok where is my wallet? Is it in my back pocket? Do I need to reach for it? Who should I call if I get stopped to identity my whereabouts. What will happen to my daughter? How will she be impacted by this stop? Will she be safe? All of this and more raced through my head. The police car did not stop. Instead, it raced by and approached quickly two other police cars that were on the side of the road with lights flashing. Those police cars were directly behind a black SUV. I saw the driver of the SUV with his hands out of the window with what looked like keys in his hands. The police appeared to be on the side of their respective vehicles with their guns drawn. This I am not sure of, but it is what it looked like to me.

As I drove by, the first things that came to my mind were, Was that another Black Man in the SUV? Is he OK? Will he be safe? My second thoughts were, Should I circle back on the highway? Should I circle back and pull up behind the cop cars and use my camera phone? Will my daughter be safe? Will I be safe. Am I overacting? I also thought I know some good cops. Some cops ate my good friends. These are probably good cops. So many statements and questions running through my head. Made Me Wanna Holler.

As I kept driving home, my 7 year old asked, “Daddy, what would happen if we got stopped?” My mouth got dry. I took a couple of deep breaths and then asked her, “What do you think will happen?” She said she did not know. I knew I could not leave her with that thought, so I said we would be OK. I told her the police would just help us out and make sure we are safe. They would position their cars so no one would hurt us from highway traffic. I said we would be OK. This is is the substance of what I hoped for and the evidence of what could be seen if we were stopped. I have faith. However, my faith is tempered by my Black Man Experience, My Black Man Reality, My Journey with Philando Castile and his family while serving under Governor Dayton and the fear and insecurity and doubt when you see a different experience for you and those that look like you in this country. Made Wanna Holler.

Tonight Made Me Wanna Holler. I don’t know what happened to the driver of the vehicle. I don’t know the probable cause the officers had to stop the vehicle. I don’t know the demeanor, professionalism or bias of the officers. I don’t know what animus was, or could be exhibited by the passenger in the car. I don’t know anything because I kept driving. However, I do know that my experience and the experiences of other Black Me. who look like me Makes Me Wanna Holler because every time this happens, I have to process my angst, anger and fear and my daughter has to say to herself, “What will happen to us Daddy?”

Makes Me Wanna Holler…………

The Real Meaning of Pride

As a kid, my mom use to always talk to me about the real meaning of Christmas. She told me that the visuals that I see of Christmas which include Santa, Rudolph, Frosty, Elves, etc did not reflect the true meaning of the holiday. She indicated that the holiday was more about sacrifice, giving, love and acts of kindness.

As we wind down Pride Month, I am reminded of my mom’s words of wisdom. Pride Month is not about the visuals of parades, floats, rainbow colored paraphernalia and speeches. Instead, the true meaning of Pride is reflected in actions of courage, sacrifice and commitment towards equity for members of the LGBTQ community.

On June 23, 2019, many members of the executive team at Childrens Minnesota participated in the Pride Parade. The visuals were great. Our CEO played trombone in a LGBTQ band that marched in the parade, my daughter and I handed out lip balm and other Children’s Minnesota branded items along the route and many Children’s employees and their families walked, waved and shook hands with the massive crowd. The visuals were amazing.

On July 2, 2019, the real meaning of Pride was revealed. For the last several months, I noticed the single stall restrooms in the executive offices at Children’s Minnesota in Minneapolis were designated for Men and Women on the respective restrooms. I asked a few people at the time why the restrooms are not gender neutral since they are single stall and serve mainly people in the executive suite. I asked would it be ok if we changed the signs to reflect gender neutral restrooms. I also spoke with the Executive Sponsor of our Pride Employee Resource Group and asked if she would support the change. She emphatically said yes. I was pleased. I then thought I should probably start the process of meetings I thought were necessary to make this change. I thought there had to be a significant and probably lengthy process to make this happen. This is where I got surprised. There were no meetings called, there were no outside experts consulted, there was no data reviewed to prove disparities, instead a decision was made and #EquityActions taken. The temporary sign below (permanent signs ordered) was placed on the display outside of the restrooms. “The restroom may be used by any person regardless of gender identity or expression – Restroom.” The visual of this sign is amazing .

Pride will always be a festive and good time every June. I look forward to attending every year. However, I also look forward to what actions people will take after Pride to assure Equity and Inclusion for the LBGTQ community. #EquityActions!

The Impact of Structural Racism – Think About It and Be About It – #EquityActions

When I first heard the term structural racism, I was confused as to the meaning of these words. I had experienced individual racism and heard the hurtful names and phrases we as Black people, as well as others, have been consistently called. I have also viewed many videos and pictures of scenes depicting slavery, lynchings, fire hoses used against human beings, lunch counter attacks on college students, and kkk rallies with vile and bigoted language. These actions plus the position of power of the people who exhibited these behaviors = Racism. I thought these actions were deflating for communities who suffered from them. Little did I know that Structural Racism has more of an impact than these heinous and disgusting acts.

Structural Racism is the creation and implementation of public policies, institutional practices, and negative cultural narratives that perpetuate racial inequities and constrains mobility, flexibility and attainment for Black, Latino, Asian and Native communities. Structural Racism is designed to create structural barriers that create Race based disparities in healthcare, education, economic development, employment, family income and wealth and housing. (Urban Institute – Structural Racism in America)

The impact of Structural Racism is reflected in the clear disparities that exist in Minnesota and continue to cast a dark shadow over the state’s economy and well being outcomes for Minnesotans. While we seek to create a more equitable, diverse and inclusive state, we must acknowledge that the impact of Structural Racism is not only realized in the policies that led to the Black Codes, Jim Crow and Racially Restrictive Housing Covenants, it is also prevalent in current policies that guide hiring practices, philanthropy models of investment, board of directors selection processes and leadership development and succession planning in nonprofit and for profit institutions. Just to name a few. If Equity, Diversity and Inclusion are to be visualized, implemented, and practiced, we must examine how structural racism is exhibited and how we must change our system behaviors to impact this work.

Think About and Be About It – #EquityActions

Over the next few blog posts, I will address some of the systematic barriers created by structural racism. These systemic barriers must be addressed through sustainable equity actions and designed and communicated through collaborative partnerships that build trust in communities impacted daily by these equity actions.

Equity actions will not require another disparity study. Equity actions will not require a new review of disaggregated racial data. Equity actions will not require another leadership cohort group to study racial inequity, read another book on racial justice, nor have a conversation on race. Equity actions will not lament the educational, health, employment and economic disparities in Minnesota, nor will Equity actions wait for the next national ranking to tell us (what what we already know) how bad Minnesota ranks for Black, Asian, Latino and Native people.

#EquityActions will provide recommended actions to:

Build Community Trust and Positive Relationships with communities of color, LGBTQ communities, disability communities, veteran communities and other diverse communities

Remove HR Policy and Procedure Barriers to Recruitment and Retention

Increase Equitable Access to Business Opportunities

Increase awareness and leadership competencies for inclusion and equity

“As I grow older I pay less attention to what [people] say. I just watch what they do.”

Andrew Carnegie

#EquityActions – the time is right to start doing something and creating sustainable actions to make Minnesota great and equitable for all Minnesotans.

James Burroughs

We are who we were raised to be! Systemic and Institutional Racism in 2019 is not a surprise to me.

A few weeks ago I saw a great movie entitled The Best of Enemies starring Taraji P. Henson and Sam Rockwell. The movies was based on a true story. For those of you who have not seen the movie, I will not provide too many details and spoil the plot. I will share that the premise of the movie is about a Klu Klu. Klan leader, a civil rights champion and desegregation in Durham, North Carolina public schools in 1971-72. The story vividly discusses how many white men held open membership in the Klan and also held public office, were business leaders and also influenced public policy.

The story makes clear how racist actions were not only accepted, but endorsed by the political, economic and social systems during this time. True structural racism and the long term impacts of it were showcased in this film. The film has me thinking about this question: Why are we surprised about racist systems, institutions and behavior in 2019, if this is how we were raised? We were raised to be who we are.

During the time period reflected in this movie, I was 4 years old. I was born in Detroit Michigan and my mom was 25 and my Dad was 38 at the time of my birth. My mom was raised by her mom who was born in 1900 in Grantville, Georgia. My dad was raised by a mother born in the late 1800s in Birmingham, Alabama. Both of their mothers taught them through the lenses of what they knew and what they experienced. Living in the south, they were taught about racism, civil rights, lynchings, Jim Crow, Black Pride/Power, the power of faith, etc.

My mom and dad’s character was developed by the experiences of their parents. They became who they were raised to be. As my parents raised me, they imparted knowledge of their experiences as was passed down to them. I learned about the impact and importance of Black history, segregation, discrimination, racism, Black Power, Black Economic Development, Black Political Power and many things about racism in the Deep South and the North. What I learned shaped who I am as a leader and guides how I create teams and manage people from diverse backgrounds and experiences. How I was raised is important and defines in part who I am.

Just like I was 4 in 1971, so were the children of the Klu Klux Klan and White Council members in the movie (true story) Best of Enemies. In Durham, North Carolina, these young people were influenced by their parents and grandparents just as I was influenced by my own. They learned about and were expected to enforce bigotry, white supremacy, discrimination, racism, prejudice, etc. They were also exposed to discriminatory acts, by their relatives, from lunch counter attacks, dog attacks and other vicious acts against Black people, including but not limited to lynchings, beatings and other heinous, yet not prosecuted, crimes. How these kids were raised defines in part who they are.

As I reflect on the fact that I am only 51 years old and the children of the Klan members and bigots in the movie are the same age or younger, I realize why we should not be surprised when we encounter behaviors and systems that exhibit fear and hatred of other races, religions, ethnicities, sexual orientations, etc. We are who we were raised to be. The way we change this dangerous trajectory of acting how we were raised is by doing a few things differently:

Create circles where there are many opposing views and racially different people in the room. We must have those we hate and those who may hate us at the table. It is through learning who we are and who we can be, that we can make a difference in our thoughts and actions.

Acknowledge and address the impact historical and current trauma has on our interactions and behavior. As you have learned through this blog, who we are and how we think is parent/culture/environment driven and is in fact not so historical after all. I am still a fairly young man (my belief) who grew up in an era with others whose parents endorsed and enforced bigotry and violence based on race. How we react from a social emotional standpoint must be addressed before we rush to searching for solutions for biased behavior and racist systems.

Stop being surprised that bigotry, intentional bias, racism and white supremacy still exist. You are who you were raised to be. Let’s stop thinking that lynchings, Jim Crow, and the Klan were so far in our rear view mirror. In fact, we are not even a generation removed from heinous acts conducted solely against people on the basis of race. We are not a post racial society because we have never fully embraced, examined nor changed our traditions, values and behaviors that reinforce racial inequities. Racial disparities are not a surprise. They are the product of a system designed to create and sustain racial disparities. A system based on hatred, bias, prejudice and discrimination cannot produce racial equity.

Action, Action, Action is important. To know is to acknowledge; To understand is to comprehend; To validate is to address trauma; To act is to build upon the learnings and make sure we change behavior to break the cycle of who we were raised to be. I hope each of you see the movie Best of Enemies and realize that we truly have come a long way, but that the way by which we have come is not to far removed from atrocities and despicable learnings that we have not acknowledged, addressed or changed. We must destroy and replace the culture and systems built on racism that produced racist results and created racial disparities. Now we must act with urgency and not be surprised that in 2019 we are experiencing the results of who we were raised to be.