By Neil Foote, President, National Black Public Relations Society, Inc.
As the world awaits the results of the 2016 presidential election, there is a heavy cloud of uneasiness that is hanging over us. Whatever happens today will require a deep breath – and a need for great deal of healing – all across the board, but particularly in making sure we aggressively address the racial and gender stereotypes. Our country has endured nearly two year where blacks, Muslims, Hispanics, South Asians and women of all ages have been maligned, ridiculed and portrayed as outcasts. The country has witnessed scenes almost reminiscent of the Fifties and Sixties where angry mobs of individuals have stared each other down, separated by barriers of police officers clad in riot gear.
Interestingly enough, while there has been this din of racial unrest, some companies have used this effort to send a message that racial and gender inclusion is part of this country’s fabric. Take a look at Chase Bank has a series of new ads, including Golden State Warrior’s Steph Curry or its Tango TV ad. P&G, the multinational consumer goods company, has a new ad featuring a transgender model. Then there’s ATT’s CEO Randall Stephenson who urged his more than 273,000 employees to engage in the difficult conversation about race. These corporate efforts are not random. Each ad campaign is carefully conceived, scripted, and cast with a specific targeted market in mind. When a CEO chooses to talk about race, this is a major step that is designed to send a message about the company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion internally – and to its consumers. These actions speak louder than words. They transcend the vitriol we’ve heard on the campaign trail. These actions acknowledge that the consumer buying power of blacks, Hispanics and Asians is more than $1 trillion and the LGBT community’s buying power is nearly $1 billion. These are real live people who are our neighbors, co-workers, our friends and members of our family.
The business of diversity does matter – despite what critics who would say these ad campaigns and Stephenson’s message are too politically correct, bowing to pressure from liberals. Sadly, this is a shortsighted view of the world. This ignores the demographic changes in this country that are driving dynamic growth in cities and suburbs. This myopia overshadows the reality that many racial differences are overblown, highlighted by ugly images of blacks or Hispanics shouting at whites. On a daily basis, this is not happening. On a daily basis, blacks, whites, Hispanics, Asians and members of the LGBT community are working and playing together – without tension. There are police doing working their beats without shooting or harassing the people they’re protecting.
Of course, the intent is not to paint a picture that we live in a Polyanna world where everyone gets along all the time. The intent is to move past Election Day with a sense that the world we live in is much better than the seemingly gloomy world politicians have created in recent months. Corporations already get this. It’s time for all of us to hop on board.