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Madhavi N. Chittoor
by on June 14, 2020
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Enslaved by a color that condemns human life to accept unpaid labor, racial slurs and, aggression as the only reality of the Black life in America, the pressure is building to break free, breathe easy and be whole. It has been a long wait since Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr led the historic non-violent protests for civil rights in the 1960s. Mobility inched upwards at snail’s pace and it has always been a tight bargain for life, dignity, and a righteous share of prosperity. The world makes progress in science, economy and human development, towards building better societies with a unified consciousness. But America lives on in the warped reality of a socio-economic divide that is too ugly to ignore. The country is hailed as a rich, developed nation with unlimited freedom to its citizen, but whose wealth, well-being and liberty, are we talking about? How long are Blacks going to be marginalized? Is the system built to ensure Black silence?

Police brutality and the dehumanizing deaths of unarmed Black Americans at the hands of white domestic terrorists, including those who are sworn to serve and protect, are a moral stain that we can no longer attempt to conceal within the fabric of societal norms of what constitute an injustice and how oppression should be fought. It tears the country apart when the hands that are supposed to protect life and property, perpetrate the dastardly act. George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Emmett Till, and the many others whose lives were snuffed out by systemic racism deserve justice, not just as a punishment to the crime but as proof that America is truly built on the 14th Amendment, which guarantees equal protection under the laws of the United States to all of its citizens.

Racial Wealth Gap: The Root Cause of All Evils

Proof of the failure of the social experiment of the integration of Blacks within the so-called progressive society called America lies in the widening racial wealth gap. The capitalist policies, by design, did little to nothing to elevate the lives of African Americans. The market-driven consumeristic culture considered the African-American demographic as only consumers and low wage workers. The system must be corrected with economic reformation that allows Black Americans to be free of the struggle for survival and live lives of dignity, purpose, productivity, and prosperity. 

Time is of the essence. At a time when we have failed on so many different levels on the Social Progress Index of the Black community, we cannot afford the luxury of intellectualizing it all with long debates and deliberations. It is time to take concrete action, set the direction, and make every step count. 

What if we go wrong?
          We will make it right and keep moving forward. 

What if we go slow?
          More Black lives will be lost. 

What if we are silenced?
          We will amplify our voices with the resolution that this revolution is inspired by courage, commitment and unified strength.

These questions don’t unsettle us, status quo does!

The Orientation: From Oppression to Outrage and Outcomes

The needs of the Black community cannot be met by the furious protests or frustrating analytics of the unsettling data (and the absence of it) on how many have been injured, shot, or killed by the privileged and powerful. These methods so far have either accomplished very little or have not worked at all. Our focus is to build systems that sustain this momentum and bring about the change that uplifts and equalizes.

Our concern is the quality of outcomes – measurable and manageable. We are no longer satisfied with the façade of leadership’s speeches on diversity, inclusion and equal pay in the work environment. We will not let the voices to be silenced; we shall make them heard even when they are not the loudest. We are not grateful for the opportunity to be forever stuck at the bottom of the corporate ladder. Our ambitions are beyond having employment. We possess the talent and desire to make an impact in the boardroom and establish our businesses so that we can employ others. We have big dreams, and we mean business.

The Responsibility to Represent, Reclaim and Redefine

Discrimination and harassment against Black employees is an established theme in the labor market and the American workplace, from criticism of natural hairstyles to unequal pay and lack of advancement.  With the prospect of facing retaliation, demotion, or termination, Black employees are often reluctant to speak out against discrimination in the workplace.

Black Americans are no longer the uneducated underprivileged, we are the educated underprivileged! An increasing number possess university degrees in spite of the ongoing discrimination. We are well experienced and skilled to take up management and senior executive positions and run our own businesses; and yet these apparent capabilities are routinely overlooked. With just four Black CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, it is evident how deep and wide the problem is. 

Corporate restructuring should be driven by an authentic desire to level the economic playing field for Black Americans, rather than paying lip service that does not permeate beyond corporate literature or social media. Corporations must communicate in a voice that speaks not just for its own publicity, but speaks for the muffled voices of its Black employees, shareholders, and customers. Corporations must distinguish between publicity through the wizardry of words and real action with the intent of progressive change.

There needs to be sustenance in the agenda and efforts that keep the heart of the reforms beating, long after the protests die away. Whenever any measure of advancement has been made in this journey, the strategy needs to be shared so that it can be studied and replicated with increased momentum. We need continuous anti-poverty interventions to deal with the vulnerabilities of the Black community.

Blacks are Blacks

Blacks are not ‘people of color.’ Black Americans have a unique history with America that is different from other minorities and must be acknowledged. Our issues are different, concerns are different and reality is different. Hence, local, state, federal, and corporate policies need to be redesigned specifically to address the needs of the Black community.

The Path: Entrepreneurship and Mentoring

Black professionals are more likely to look at entrepreneurship as an appealing opportunity to establish freedom, unlock our potential, and gain autonomy over the work. Those professionals who flee corporate America and successfully chart their own course must make it a priority to share their knowledge and experiences and lead others to economic freedom through entrepreneurship. Starting a business might be challenging, but it doesn’t have to be lonely. Together, we can and we will.

A Final Thought

Rather than be weighed down by centuries of oppression, we need to lift each other up with renewed energy and committed efforts to make changes that last. Lest the Black lives that we have lost, will be in vain.