There is no silver bullet.
We’ve heard this adage applied to so many things, but never has it been more true than today, when we as individuals, as an industry, as a community and as a country, are facing an opportunity to truly change the course of history.
Systemic racism has been more than 400 years in the making, so things will take time to progress.
While many of us are anxious for an immediate response, it’s important to remember that our response should be thoughtful and above all impactful, in order to lead to enduring change.
As a Black man in our country and a Black complex manager in a predominantly white profession, I’ve developed my opinions largely based on my experiences.
But there is always room to grow. Over the past couple of months, I’ve learned so much from listening more closely to my colleagues and friends, some who share a similar background, and some who have entirely different experiences.
I’ve also taken more time to learn from experts in the area of Black and African American culture and history.
How We Got Here
On Juneteenth, Raymond James Chairman and CEO Paul Reilly hosted two special guests — Johnnetta Cole, Ph.D., an anthropologist, educator and college president, and Kelly Charles-Collins, an expert in unconscious bias, bystander intervention and workplace investigations — for a firmwide virtual webinar and Q&A about race and its impact on the workplace.
Understanding that, in order to move forward, we need insight into how we got here, Cole shared comprehensive, emotional, historical context for what we’re experiencing around race and systemic racism in America.
She explained what she calls the collective memory of Black Americans, one that began 401 years ago when 20 enslaved African women and men were brought in shackles to America.
She took us through history, showing how significant events (many under the guise of progressive change) only served to further reinforce discrimination and inequity in our country.
Discussing the past and where we have come from can be painful to hear, but it’s important to recognize and acknowledge what’s happened in the past, or else we are doomed to repeat the same mistakes as we try to move forward from here.
One of the most impactful takeaways from Charles-Collins’ presentation was her description of the many cultures of our society.
She didn’t mean “culture” in the sense of ethnicity or even race. She meant macro-cultures, like our firms and organizations, and micro-cultures, such as divisions within a company, the various departments, and even our work teams.
While many firms are supportive of a diverse and inclusive workplace at a macro-culture level, the real work that individuals can do is within their micro-cultures.
She offered examples: Are Black colleagues being spoken over in meetings? Are Black women being asked about the professionalism of their hair?
When hiring managers are looking for candidates, are they reading into the organizations with which the candidate is affiliated, to determine if they seem “too ethnic” or “too Black?”