Shekinah Young |2020 Business Record Forty Under 40 honoree

Businesses drive our nation’s economy. Before the business boom there was horrific free labor, discriminatory practices, redlining, poll taxes and other unjust practices levied on Black Americans yielding generational benefits to the country but none to the Black individual or families. One of the generational impacts of racism is a lack of economic mobility, which is still seen today though racial biases impacting jail/prison population, access to jobs and hiring practices, nepotism, access to capital, etc. Understanding impacts of racism and the power of business leads me to believe that everyone has a role to play in eradicating racism, including businesses. 

Businesses need people and profit in order to be sustained. 

Since January 2020, COVID-19 has plagued both people and profit, leading businesses to take protective action. Racism has plagued our country since 1492 with great strides along the way, but unfortunately they were followed by more barriers to the American Dream. In the case of the contagious respiratory virus, companies have taken extreme precaution to protect people and profit swiftly. Where and how work takes place, consistent communication and flexibility with the policies that govern the people have all been reviewed and adjusted. In a similar fashion, racism is dealt with by establishing policies to discourage unjust behavior of employees and enterprisewide commitments to inclusion. These steps have been deemed necessary as adjustments to their respective problems, but neither one has eliminated the root illness. 

I believe the responsibility to eradicate racism goes beyond anything an individual or business posts on social media. Businesses that want to implement “liberty and justice for all” or support equal access to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” should look at internal and external practices and make adjustments to products, services and company culture. Through a lens of justice there is an opportunity to create equal access and meaningful change. 

No one knew that COVID-19 was coming, but businesses’ swift action allowed our community to become more informed, develop an action plan and implement the plan. No matter when we became aware of racism, privilege and unconscious bias, we can no longer turn a blind eye. With the same urgency as the COVID-19 response, businesses should take swift action to become more aware, develop a product or services and a company culture plan of action, then implement that plan. Without such actions, we are damaging our people and profit, which compromises our ability to be sustained.