Everyday Racism: First Mobile App to ‘Step into another Skin’

Racism happens in everyday encounters, in interactions between people.  Resistance to everyday racism happens everyday, too.  Now, there’s an app for that, too.

A new app for iOS and Android that enables you to expand your understanding of everyday racism by experiencing some of what it’s like in Australia as an Indian student, a Muslim woman or an Aboriginal man. The app, called Everyday Racism, has just been released this week and is available now for free for iOS and Android.

 

Everyday Racism App

The idea behind the Everyday Racism  game/education style app is that players are challenged to  live a week in ‘someone else’s skin.’

The app a joint initiative by national anti-racism charity All Together Now, the University of Western Sydney, University of Melbourne and Deakin University.  the University of Western Sydney, Deakin University and Melbourne University are behind this project and the content of the everyday racism app has been developed based on ground-breaking research in the field of racism and anti-racism. A group of 8 panelists from diverse ethnicities have been consulted to make sure the app would be based on real-life experiences of everyday racism in Australia.

How do you think you might use the app? Download it and let us know what you think.

Engaging with Black Feminist Thought

One of the reasons for the persistent misreading of contemporary digital feminist activism, such as this unfortunate piece on the supposedly “toxic” atmosphere on Twitter for some feminists, is a lack of reading, understanding and deep intellectual engagement with black feminist thought by the vast majority of white women and most white feminists. By ‘deep intellectual engagement,’ I mean going beyond pulling a selective Audre Lorde quote out every once in awhile, like ‘caring for myself is not self-indulgence…it is an act of political warfare ‘ to justify a spa day. (Afrofeminist Nigerian journalist SpectraSpeaks has a wonderful piece of writing here about the distinction between self-care as revolutionary or individualistic.)

And, to perhaps state the obvious, the (mostly) white-male-tech elite which is ascendant in building and theorizing the web has very little interest in engaging with feminist perspectives on technology, and black feminist perspectives are nonexistent in this realm. So, as something of a corrective, I offer these resources.

Back in November, 2013 PoliticoMagazine featured a cover story by Michelle Cottle, titled “Leaning Out: How Michelle Obama Became a Feminist Nightmare.”  In response to this piece, Melissa Harris-Perry, the public intellectual tour de force,  responded with a smackdown to Cottle in her regular ‘open letter’ segment and offered a ‘syllabus’ of suggested reading in black feminist thought for Cottle and the other white feminists she represents. Yesha Callahan at Clutch Magazine was good enough to pull all those books out, list the author, full title and links for easy, scrolling and clicking access to Professor Harris-Perry’s syllabus:

And, if you’d like a video supplement to your learning experience, I remind you of this wonderfully engaging dialogue between Melissa Harris-Perry and bell hooks, which took place at The New School, November 8, 2013 (1:36):

What do you think? How has black feminist thought shaped your work, your activism, your scholarship? Are you new to these ideas? Intimidated about jumping in?

The Machine: Mass Incarceration and Race

The President’s State of the Union speech last night focused on the theme of “opportunity” in the U.S. Obama also renewed his pledge to close the prison facility at Guantanamo, the prison-of-no-return that the U.S. maintains in Cuba.  However, he made no reference to the persistent racial inequality in the U.S., and the machine that drives much of that inequality.  If there is one institution which (re)produces racial inequality in the U.S. like a machine, it is the institution of mass incarceration.  Between 1970 and 2005, the prison population in the U.S. has risen by 700%.  Most of that increase has been due to the failed “war on drugs” and most of those who are locked up are there for non-violent, drug-related offenses.  Even though whites use drugs at higher rates, it is black and brown people who are more likely to be locked up.

Mass Incarceration Infographic

Trouble with White Women and White Feminism

Today begins a series of posts about white women and white feminism.  There is something troubling to me in the pattern of white women’s behavior and white feminism’s response to inequality that I want to examine in long form. When this photo appeared last week on January 19 – celebrated as MLK Day in the U.S. – of Dasha Zhukova, sitting on a chair made from the mannequin of a black woman, many people were outraged.  Or, in the words of one British news outlet, the photo sparked a “racism row.”  The editor of the magazine interviewing Zhukova has since apologized, saying, “We are against racism or gender inequality or anything that infringes upon anyone’s rights.” The chair was designed by Norwegian artist Bjarne Melgaard.  Zhukova, the woman pictured said (through a spokesperson), it “reinterprets art historical works from artist Allen Jones as a commentary on gender and racial politics.”

Black Woman Chair

(Image from here)

I, too, was outraged when I saw this photo and initially dismissed the apologies as predictable non-apology apologies. But, upon reflection, I think that this piece of art rather succinctly captures both the historical position of white women vis-a-vis black women and the current position of white feminism vis-a-vis feminists and womanists of color.  This series is meant to explore these ideas in more depth over an extended period of weeks. I’ve written about the phenomenon of white women and white feminism before (here, here and here). In the series, I’ll draw on the scholarship in this area to offer a more in-depth analysis of some of the recent outrages.

I should probably begin by saying that some of my closest friends are white women. I, myself, am a white woman.  I have been helped in my career by white women, many of them white feminists. And, perhaps predictably, I come from a long line of white women ancestors.  This is me (about 1962) in the arms of my great grandmother (“Little Granny”), and next to her is my grandmother (“Big Granny”) and my mother in the hipster glasses and chic polka dots.

Four generations of white women

(Family photo)

The other thing that you should know about these women, my ancestors in Texas, is that none of them made it past the 8th grade in school. All of them were married by the time they were 15 years old, and as a point of pride they would have me tell you, not one of them pregnant *before* they got married.  I would add, of course, that they were all pregnant shortly after they married; most them were mothers by the time they were 16 years old.   Not me. I found feminism and got an education, and got the hell out.

FemMystique50_Screenshot(Screenshot from here)

So when the anniversary of Betty Friedan’s Feminine Mystique came around last year and lots of people were asking, “are you better off than your grandmother?” my answer was a resounding, and deeply personal, yes! Yes, I am, thank you very much, feminism.

At the same time, I recognize that there is no whiter, more heteronormative feminism than Betty Friedan’s. The “problem that has no name” which was the centerpiece of that volume was really a problem of white, upper-middle class, well-educated, heterosexual women who wanted “something more” like Friedan herself.  Yet, Friedan was no friend to queer women, like me (lavender menace, anyone?), and her vision of feminism was not meant for the millions of women – working-class and women of color – who already worked outside the home.

So what’s the trouble with white women and white feminism?  I’m not sure exactly, but as a sociologist – one who studies patterned, human behavior – I see a pattern here.  Of course, as Joe (and lots of people have) pointed out, it’s white men who hold the power and are a social problem. There’s also a consistency to the way white women behave and white feminists respond that is both troubling and requires critical attention.

Justine Sacco certainly got more than her share of attention for this tweet, sent just before she boarded a plane from the U.S. to South Africa:

JustineSacco_Tweet

(Image from here) 

This incredibly offensive tweet sent by a professional PR executive, created a furor on Twitter. As Sacco was en route to her destination in Africa, the Twittersphere lit up with indignation and then, perhaps inevitably for Twitter, with humor.  Soon, the hashtag #hasJustinelandedyet began trending.  By the time that Ms. Sacco had in fact landed, she had been sacked by her employer.

If you missed all this furor, it may be because this unfolded over a few short days in late December when many people are traveling, spending time with family, or otherwise away from the interwebs.  Fortunately, there is data to illustrate Ms. Sacco’s ignominious rise to prominence, and her rapid descent into the oblivion of “Justine who..?” 

sacco_tweets-1024x239

(Graph from here.)

It’s precisely this graph that prompts this long form series I’m launching.  If you know me at all, you know I love Twitter, but the rapid-fire, short-form exchange is not the ideal place to locate an extended critique of white women and white feminism.

So much of the post-Sacco analysis (if it can be called that) has turned sympathetic toward the fallen PR-exec and critical of Twitter for the incendiary atmosphere.  It’s not that I’m unsympathetic to her, it’s just that that is the wrong frame. The more relevant frame is that her behavior in sending that Tweet is emblematic of a broader pattern of behavior by white women that merits a longer, more thorough, historically contextualized analysis.

So, I hope you’ll join me here on for this series, where I’ll continue to put all this into a broader context. At the end of the series (which I’m predicting to be about 15-weeks, the length of a long semester), I’ll accumulate these posts into a free e-book, should you want all this in that format.

Finally, in an attempt to not completely re-center and re-privilege whiteness and white women, our new editorial calendar will feature regular posts (and re-posts) from feminist, and womanist, women of color.  One of the key issues, of course, is that white women simply don’t read enough writing by feminists of color, so this is meant to offer an opportunity to correct that.

>>>> Read next post in series

Discrimination Can Make You Sick

There’s a growing body of evidence that links the experience of racism with poor health and illness.  Recent, ground-breaking research further confirms this.

Any type of stress can impact health, but none may be quite as toxic as the tension and anxiety people experience when they fear that they will be discriminated against, reveals a groundbreaking new study led by Margaret Hicken, PhD, a Robert Wood Johnson (RWJF) Health & Society Scholar (2010-2012).

Working with a team that included David R. Williams, PhD, a veteran disparities researcher and head of the RWJF Commission on Building a Healthier America, and RWJF Health & Society Scholars Hedwig Lee, PhD, and Sarah Burgard, PhD, Hicken worked across disciplines to uncover several of the many ways that racism gets under the skin. “This research grew out of conversations with other Robert Wood Johnson Foundation scholars with backgrounds in sociology and epidemiology,” explains Hicken, who focuses on social demography and public health.

“Sociologists have a different way of looking at how people respond to discrimination on a personal level and what it’s like to live in a country where the media portrays your group in a certain way. Even policy-makers in the United States sometimes speak in code because ours is a racialized society,” Hicken says.

Using survey results from the Chicago Adult Community Health Study, a population-representative sample of 3,105 people, the team conducted two studies that measured the possible health effects of remaining hypervigilant about encountering racism when engaging in simple, everyday activities.

Health and the Stress Response

The first study was “‘Every Shut Eye, Ain’t Sleep’: The Role of Racism-Related Vigilance in Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Sleep Difficulty,” published in the June 2013 issue of Race and Social Problems. The results suggested that Black, but not Hispanic, adults were most likely to maintain high levels of racism-related hypervigilance (also called anticipatory stress), and toss and turn during the night. The Black adults reported 15 percent more hypervigilance-related sleep problems than the White adults.

The second study revealed far more striking differences among racial groups. In the article, “Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Hypertension Prevalence: Reconsidering the Role of Chronic Stress,” published online November 18 in the American Journal of Public Health, the team reported large differences in rates of hypervigilance and hypertension between Black and White study participants, and only a small difference among Hispanics.

Not only were the Blacks surveyed more likely to be hypervigilant about experiencing discrimination, that hypervigilance may have contributed to significantly higher levels of hypertension in them. At the lowest levels of hypervigilance, Black and White study participants had similar levels of hypertension. However, at the highest levels of hypervigilance, 55 percent of Black study participants had hypertension while 20 percent of the White study participants had hypertension.

The study findings may contribute greatly to the understanding of differences in health between racial groups, because disparities in hypertension are considered a significant contributor to health disparities in America.

Discrimination Can Make You Sick

(Download the PDF here.)

 

The Racism/Hypertension Link

“We think that the chronic activation of the biological stress response system that takes place when a person anticipates a negative event like encountering discrimination is what contributes to the higher rates of hypertension among the Blacks in our study,” Hicken says.

After controlling for variables such as income, gender, age, and socioeconomic status, study respondents’ feelings were measured through questions that included:

  • In your day-to-day life, how often do you do the following things: (a) try to prepare for possible insults from other people before leaving home; (b) feel that you always have to be very careful about your appearance to get good service or avoid being harassed; and (c) try to avoid certain social situations and places.

The researchers wrote, “the anticipatory nature of vigilance sets it apart from traditional notions of perceived racial discrimination. For decades, a large body of scientific and lay literature has provided evidence of the pervasive consequences of interpersonal and societal discrimination. In qualitative studies, social scientists often report on the way Blacks continually think about the potential for discrimination.”

“Overall, the work shows that in cases where racism-related vigilance is low or absent, Blacks and Whites have similar levels of hypertension. But when people report chronic vigilance, the rates in Blacks rise significantly. They rise a little in Hispanics, but not at all in Whites,” Hicken explains.

“For our next study,” she adds, “we are going to expand the questionnaire to gather better data and explore how or if the impact of hypervigilance can be mitigated.”

Originally posted at Robert Johnson Wood Foundation. 

We’re making some changes

We’ve been working on some changes to the look and feel of the Racism Review blog, and will be rolling out these changes over the next week or two.  You’ll notice changes in the layout, the logo and improved functionality of the blog. Of course, we’ll keep delivering our high quality content in the new format. Thanks for your patience as we work out the details of this transition.

construction

White Sexual Violence against Enslaved Black Women

Historians have estimated that at least 58% of all enslaved women between 15 and 30 years of age were sexually assaulted by white men during the antebellum period. In addition to the white male privilege and power evident in this extensive routine rape of black female slaves, the reactions of white women to their husbands’ sexual behavior helped perpetuate racial and gender subordination as well as white privilege.

White women reacted to sexual violence perpetrated against enslaved black women by their husbands in a variety of ways including ignoring or denying the behavior, divorcing their husbands, or punishing the enslaved black women who were sexually victimized. These reactions are repeated throughout a variety of records from slavery including Work Projects Administration slave narratives, divorce petitions, autobiographical slave narratives, and diaries.

For white women, the legal structure created some incentives to stay quiet about their husbands’ sexual violation of enslaved black women. During the 1800’s, a variety of state courts declared that a man had the right to execute “moderate chastisement” of his wife “in cases of emergency,” such as the Mississippi Supreme Court in Bradley v. State in 1824. The white male dominated structure of the legal, political, and economic system was crucial to white women’s responses to their husbands’ sexual violence against slaves. The desire to stay physically unharmed and financially secure likely encouraged many white women to remain silent about their husbands’ sexual behavior.

Mary Chesnut, an elite white woman living in the mid-1800’s described the denial of white women in her diary. She writes

every lady tells you who is the father of all the mulatto children in everybody’s household, but those in her own she seems to think drop from the clouds, or pretends so to think.

An anonymous former slave who was interviewed for the Work Projects Administration slave narratives wrote similarly,

Before my old marster died, he had a pretty gal he was goin’ with and he wouldn’t let her work nowhere but in the house, and his wife nor nobody else didn’t say nothin’ ’bout it; they knowed better. She had three chillun for him. . . .

Despite the potential consequences of speaking out against their husbands, some white women did file for divorce from their husbands often in large part because of the sexual “relationships” they had with enslaved black women. Through divorce petitions white women portrayed themselves as innocent victims of their husbands’ adultery. White women repeatedly overlooked the sexual violence and victimization of the enslaved black women coerced into their husbands’ “affairs.” Meanwhile they portrayed themselves as meeting the ideal standards of white womanhood, such as Margaret Garner from Mobile, Alabama who in 1841 petitioned for divorce explaining that she “calmly remonstrated” with her husband with regard to his affair or Mary Jackson from Georgia who treated her husband “Joseph with respect and affection and rendered due obedience to all the lawful commands.”

These women depict themselves as willfully submissive and obedient. Although the obedient, passive and loyal portrayals of themselves assisted white women in gaining divorces from their husbands as well as a portion of the economic resources in many cases; they simultaneously reinforced white gender roles and the white sexism that is associated. Moreover, when white women frame themselves as the sole victims of their husbands’ “affairs” with enslaved black women, they reinforce a narrative which focuses all attention on their own needs and the role of the court in protecting white women from men who have failed to achieve white male virtue, as opposed to acknowledging the needs of the black women who were sexually victimized and requiring of legal protection against rape.

Some white women also enacted a form of secondary abuse through physical and verbal punishment against the enslaved black women who had been sexually violated by white men. Through physical and verbal abuse, white women could transfer their feelings of humiliation, jealousy, or degradation into feelings of racial superiority over female slaves. Because white women were unable to enact any behaviors which would give them power over their white husbands this physical abuse directed at the enslaved black women simultaneously reflects the gender-subordinated and racially-privileged status that white women held. Not only did white women reinforce racial oppression through their responses, and lack of responses, to their husbands’ sexual violence, but they also reinforced their own oppression as white women by failing to resist the white male behaviors and white male dominated structures which ensure their gender subordination.

Today, although interracial rape of black women by white men has decreased significantly from the antebellum period, the intersecting institutions of oppression which shaped the identities and influenced the dynamics between white women, white men, black women, and black men persist. This raises the questions, in what ways are intersecting institutions of oppression creating incentives for some groups to partake in oppressive racial and gender performances and acts of domination today, and how does each group contribute to the overarching intersectional system of oppression?

Rachel is a Phd student doing her dissertation work on this issue of the extensive sexual coercion and rape of Black women by white men during the slavery era.

On MLK Holiday, Much Work to be Done as Structural Racism Persists

Today is the annual Martin Luther King Day celebration.  In the U.S., this is a federal holiday and means that government offices and many schools (including my own) are closed in honor of Dr. King.  Even this modest commemoration was a hard won victory over a racist resistance to the holiday by those who oppose civil rights.  As we reflect on Dr.King’s legacy, it’s important to recognize there is much unfinished business in achieving racial justice.  This infographic from the  Economic Policy Institute illustrates the work still to be done.

Structural Racism Infographic-final

(Source: Economic Policy Institute)

Sidelined in the #NotYourAsianSidekick Discussion

#notyourasiansidekick

 

 

 

In December of last year an Asian feminist conversation took Twitter by storm under the hashtag #NotYourAsianSidekick. Designed to create much-needed but difficult-to-find space for discussing justice in the Asian American community, participants tweeted about everything from “media representation of Asian women to the way the prison industrial complex erases Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in its demographic tracking”.  A groundwell of interest caused the hashtag to go viral globally, garnering 45,000 tweets within 24 hours, appearing in 95 million feeds across the next 3 days. Tanya Maria Golash-Boza covered it for Racism Review here, noting some of the social science evidence about discrimination against Asian Americans.

A month later, the hashtag is still trending. In fact the discussion has so deeply shown its importance that it has transformed into something of a movement with its own website and hosted forums that aim to continue “bringing conversations between artists, activists, and academics” about “everything from using Twitter as a platform for agitation to interracial solidarity to disability to queerness.” It has since generated widespread and well-deserved attention much of which you can easily locate and peruse via Google search.

Yes, it’s true. I’m on Twitter @multiasianfams. I have a love-hate relationship with social media but in my view there’s simply too much happening around race in that arena and online to ignore it. Case in point, I happened to hear about #NotYourAsianSideKick before it launched and participated at the very beginning for an hour. Something that got quickly lost in the explosive hype surrounding the trend (which has since been solely credited to activist Suey Park) was that it was originally co-hosted by Park and fellow activist Juliet Shen. To get the convo going, the 2 friends threw out a series of thoughtful questions with Park first up and Shen quickly following. Now while I think overall #NotYourAsianSidekick was and is a gorgeous and deeply needed movement to be heard, and even though plenty of mixed race people chimed in throughout – honestly I felt on the fringes of the conversation before it even began (as I usually do) being a multiracial person who can’t align fully with mono- categories like Asian. There was really only one moment that jumped off the screen at me and really connected to my lived/mixed experience, when Shen asked:

 

Picture 5

In fact hers was the only question that specifically addressed issues of interraciality possibly cracking the door to include a broader discussion of multiraciality in the hashtag and the Asian community at large. But sadly just a handful of women (including Park & Shen) responded before the discussion dashed off in another direction:

Picture 2

Picture 6Picture 7Picture 8

I thought #NotYourAsianSideKick moved away from this topic too quickly and decided to to contact some of the brave women who had spoken up for a deeper exploration. Interviews with several of these women follow, all words and images used here with their permission.

Juliet Shen

Juliet Shen @Juliet_Shen, Activist/Writer
identifies as: Asian American, 2nd generation Chinese

“When I date interracially friends, especially within the Asian American community, are quick to criticize or judge. There’s often that split second after I tell them the race of my partner that I see this change occur on their expression. I suddenly lose credibility as a writer, activist, and member of the community. Strangers are even worse. Because I blog, contacting me is easier than for the average person. I usually get about 1 piece of hate mail a week, often more if I write on something ‘controversial’ such as interracial relationships. The hate mail will range from disappointment to violent threats, to name calling, to everything negative under the sun. I have been called a race traitor, a house slave, and many more horrible things…I [still] see much criticism and backlash against interracial relationships…there is much work to be done.”

 Lindsey Yoo

Lindsey Yoo @LindseyYoo, Activist/Writer
identifies as: Korean American

“I’ve dated interracially enough that my [Korean American] family is no longer shocked when I introduce them to non-Korean partners. But my extended family in Korea has told me more than once to at least stick to white or Asian men; they want me to stay away from ‘darker’ men. They assume that non-white and non-Asian men are sexually and morally deviant — especially Black men… Some friends have commented on ‘how cute’ my mixed kids would be if my boyfriend and I ever decide to have a family, and others have pointed out to me that the existence of relationships like mine show how improved race relations have become in our country. It’s always awkward trying to point out the problematic assumptions in those types of reactions — especially since they’re presented as appreciative statements and compliments…Interracial relationships might be more commonplace and more accepted, but Asian men and Black women are still the least likely to out-marry, and they are the least desired demographics in studies of online dating activity and behavior.”

Maureen Ahmed

Maureen Ahmed @maureen_ahmed, Activist/Writer
identifies as: South Asian, Muslim – American

“When a South Asian woman dates outside of her race, or when a Muslim woman dates outside of her religion, her society will negatively respond (the severity of which changes from individual to individual). These trends stem from patriarchal expectations that a woman is responsible for continuing the heritage of her ancestors in a foreign land…Once she leaves her community, her children (because after all, she is expected to have them) will seldom be able to carry on those traditions, because…the male [is] responsible [for passing] on his customs to the family…While I think society as a whole has exceedingly become more welcoming towards interracial relationships, I believe there is still great resistance in smaller ethnic and religious enclaves throughout the United States. While new wave of immigrants continue to bring rich and vibrant traditions to this country, they often at times also bring with them racial prejudices against other communities besides their own.”

We can see through the testimonials of these young women that interracial mixing is sometimes still viewed very harshly which has obvious implications for children that may come later. It is an important subject that should be addressed in every community. Yet interracial/multiracial got bumped off its chair pretty early at the #NotYourAsianSidekick table. I can’t say I’m surprised. I keep seeing this happen despite the fact, as I have mentioned before, multiracial is the fastest growing youth group in the US; something of especially significance for the API community which has the highest rate of outmarriage (interracial and interethnic).

The struggle for racial equality in this nation which has historically coalesced around mono-aligned groups is now also struggling to know what to do with the growing visibility of multiracials. In its confusion, and often the faulty assumption that maybe race just doesn’t apply, mixed race peoples are frequently just left out altogether. But more and more young people are beginning to identify outside traditionally defined single designations begging the question, are we going to stick with a handful of racial categories and if so, who do we allow in them? Who qualifies as “Asian”? The simple truth is — we need to make more space for inter- and multi-in race discourse. Great convos about “the now” without a nod to “what’s next” aren’t fully prepared for the future that’s imminent, and waiting on our doorstep.*

 

I would like to express my deepest gratitude to the women who were willing to share their experiences and identities with us here. Speaking up is dangerous trailblazing work. Their willingness to do so paves a path for others to be heard. I ask that readers please receive their testimonials with respect and listen to their words without being predatory.

 

*Note: A multiracial Asian forum has since been proposed to Suey Park who was very open to the idea and will likely do so in the near future.

 

~ Guest blogger Sharon H Chang writes at the MultiAsian Famillies blog.

Racial/Gender Homogeneity in Corporate Board Leadership

In response to criticism from two major shareholders about the lack of diversity in its board of directors, Apple Inc. recently added language to its governance charter committing to seek women and minorities for consideration. The board currently consists of seven white males under the age of 50 and one Asian American woman. In an industry known to be built on the need for innovation, the singular homogeneity of Apple’s board is surprising, although far from unusual.

Other Silicon Valley companies have faced similar questions about their male-dominated leadership including Facebook and Twitter who were criticized for not having female directors prior to their initial public offerings.

The biannual report of the Alliance for Board Diversity reveals that both women and minorities are underrepresented in Fortune 500 boardrooms. Only about 17 percent of the 5,488 board seats are held by women. And minority women comprise 3.2 percent of these positions, while minority men hold 10.1 percent. The report also notes that African Americans, Hispanic/Latinos, and Asian/Pacific Islanders have experienced losses or only small gains in corporate board representation in the past year.

In our new book, The New Talent Frontier: Integrating HR and Diversity Strategy in the Private and Public Sectors and Higher Education , Alvin Evans and I argue that talent is the primary strategic asset needed for organizational survival in a globally interconnected world. As a result, organizations need to optimize their talent resources by building synergy between HR and diversity programs. Maximizing organizational capability requires that organizations respect, nurture, and mobilize the contributions of a diverse and talented workforce.

In an article entitled, “Does a Lack of Diversity among Business Leaders Hinder Innovation?” Sylvia Ann Hewlett, Melinda Marshall, and Laura Sherbin share the results of a survey conducted by the Center for Talent Innovation of 1800 men and women in white-collar professions that also included Fortune 500 executives. The authors found that due to homogeneity in the leadership ranks, the majority of companies fail to realize their full innovative potential. Fifty-six percent of the respondents indicated that leaders at their firms failed to find value in ideas that they have difficulty relating to or don’t see a need for. As a result, senior leaders lose revenue-generating opportunities when they do not create a “speak-up culture” in which employees can contribute innovative or out-of-the-box ideas. The findings appear to support a strong correlation between inclusive behaviors and acquired diversity.

As Joe Feagin eloquently observes in Racist America:

When Americans of color are oppressed in this country’s institutions, not only do they suffer greatly, but the white-controlled institutions and whites within them often suffer significantly if unknowingly. Excluding Americans of color has meant excluding much knowledge, creativity, and understanding from society generally. A society that ignores great stores of human knowledge and ability irresponsibly risks its future.

In this sense, the exclusion of minorities and women from the board rooms of American corporations indeed irresponsibly risks the future of American entrepreneurialism by overlooking the innovative contributions of diverse leadership.