The nation last week was set on edge by the deaths of two black men, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, at the hands of police in Louisiana and Minnesota, followed by an attack in Dallas that left five police officers dead. In response, vigils were held and demonstrations mounted in numerous cities including Rochester, where more than 70 arrests occurred Friday night during a Black Lives Matter protest.
President Barack Obama was in Dallas Tuesday and spoke at a memorial service for the five police officers killed by Micah Johnson. “I’m here to insist that we are not as divided as we seem,” Obama said. But race relations and the role of police are being debated in many communities.
A majority of respondents to this week’s RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll say relations between whites and blacks in the U.S. today are bad. Nearly half said somewhat bad, compared with 17 percent who said they are very bad. Just 2 percent said they are very good.
Some believe business should play a role in trying to improve race relations. After the deaths in Louisiana and Minnesota, Google tweeted: “We stand in solidarity with the fight for racial justice.” The company also has contributed $5 million to organizations working for racial justice.
Starbucks last year launched its “Race Together” initiative, designed to “stimulate conversation, empathy and compassion toward one another.” However, a plan to have its employees write “Race Together” on customers’ cups was sharply criticized and quickly abandoned.
Two-thirds of Snap Poll respondents agree that businesses should play an active role in efforts to improve race relations.
Nearly 470 respondents participated in this week’s poll, which was conducted July 11 and 12.
Overall, how would you describe relations between whites and blacks in the U.S. today?
Very good: 2% Somewhat good: 32% Somewhat bad: 49% Very bad: 17%
Should businesses play an active role in efforts to improve race relations?
Yes: 67% No: 33%
Your questions are very relevant. Every individual, organization and institution has a role to play. No one can afford to sit on the sidelines. We are in a crisis—one that we have been in for a long while. What’s new is the preponderance of undeniable evidence being brought to the fore, time and time again, through modern-day technology (videos and social media). It’s high time that we deal with the realities of injustice, and it’s time that we move beyond hate. It’s time to embrace our common humanity and interdependence, lest our idyllic “democracy” will not survive.
—James Norman, CEO, Action for a Better Community Inc.; co-chair, Facing Race, Embracing Equity
We all share the responsibility to improve race relations: individuals, businesses, churches, schools, nonprofits. Individual, institutional and structural racism must be eliminated. We have to move beyond a black community, white community, police community, Muslim community —to just “the community.” United we stand, divided we fall.
—Dana K. Miller,the Community Foundation
This is not businesses’ place to do this; it’s unethical and would be an HR nightmare. It’s more than enough work making sure the work environment is comfortable for all races, ethnicities, etc.
—Aaron D. Strout
All of America needs to be in an evolving dialogue with one another to know one another and understand what some of our citizens are subjected to. People criticize unspeaking Muslims when radicals murder and destroy people. White people need to take the same responsibility in speaking out against acts of murder against innocent citizens. We either have to share the same basic treatments of respect or expect civil discontent.
—Garry Geer, Geer Photography
All of us—white, black, etc.—need to play a role. The more we focus on what separates us, the further the division will be.
If a business engages in a controversial movement such as Black Lives Matter, they should prepare to face backlash. However, if they actually want to improve race relations, they will do so in their day-to-day interactions with clients, employees and customers. Treating every person as an individual is the best method to improving race relations. Broad marketing schemes based on popular opinion have proven to be public relations minefields.
Promoting diversity in the workplace helps people develop a better understanding of different cultures, customs.
I think that through commercials that highlight racial diversity and friendly interactions between people of varied backgrounds, business makes a positive statement about race. Also, I think that business leaders can speak out against unfair restrictions on voting and continued public education disparities that put children of minorities behind from the starting line.
—Wayne Donner, Rush
Business owners should be free to conduct their business however they choose. Certainly, this means that some would choose to take an active role in improving race relations, and others would focus on other areas of their business. It’s unfair to say that “businesses” in total should or should not act in a particular manner. That said, as individuals—business owner or otherwise—hopefully, we can all work to come together.
—Kenya Burn-Moore, Rochester
I believe race relations are better than they were in the ’50s and ’60s. However, we still have a long way to go to understand that we are all human beings. Yes, we all have our differences. That is not a race issue—that is just a fact of life. Wouldn’t life be boring if we were all the same?
Distilled down, “race relations” is about each individual’s prejudice and fear. Donations to a cause may help awareness, but businesses’ big advantage in shaping perceptions of trust are through providing economic equality, opportunity for self-respect and interracial camaraderie through team effort toward common goals.
—Joseph Lancaster, Cogenic Mechanical
Of course they should. This is America’s problem—all of us! It’s only with the same kind of community commitment we’ve used to impact other national problems that this horrible albatross will get lifted from our shoulders.
I believe that businesses already play a role in improving race relations. Working side by side with others teaches us all that the quality of a person’s character does not depend upon the color of their skin. Since passage of the Civil Rights legislation in the 1960s, we’ve all had the opportunity to learn those lessons.
—John Calia, Fairport
7/15/2016 (c) 2016 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.