In her Ted Talk “Color Blind or Color Brave,” financial executive Mellody Hobson makes a case for individuals and organizations to exercise bravery in taking race head on in the workplace. She encourages people who exercise this bravery to push through the inevitable discomfort, the usual requests for color-blindness and the inherent risks of workplace alienation not only because it’s the right thing to do but because it’s the smart thing to do. Organizations that are diverse and inclusive have a competitive advantage, and there’s plenty of research to prove it.
I agree wholeheartedly with Mellody Hobson’s case for leaning in to conversations about race. At Mayerson Academy we have been engaging in monthly conversations about diversity, equity and inclusion for the past year along with several of our colleagues at the Cincinnati Youth Collaborative. These conversations have created a space for us to explore topics like personal identity, systemic oppression, unconscious bias and intersectionality. Oftentimes the topics we discuss are challenging, emotional and deeply personal, and many participants have demonstrated a remarkable level of vulnerability and honesty in our group. Participants have shared that they have developed deeper relationships with colleagues, greater self-awareness, and more consciousness about issues of diversity, equity and inclusion. These conversations are continuing this year while our team also begins to explore what a deeper, more systemic commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion will look like for our organization.
These ongoing conversations and our organization’s emerging commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion will require all of us to call upon the character strength of bravery – specifically psychological and moral bravery, as defined by the VIA Institute on Character. Our conversations about race oftentimes require psychological bravery – facing up to deeply held, unconscious biases can be painful (though this pain is a necessary part of the process of breaking down biases and does not truly compare to the pain that victims of bias face on a daily basis). Taking on an organizational commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion requires a form of moral bravery – pushing for change is hard and oftentimes unpopular, even when there is the collective will to do so.
Ultimately, color bravery is crucial not just because it’s the right thing to do or the smart thing to do – it’s the necessary thing to do if we want to live up to our fullest potential as individuals, as an organization, and ultimately as a society.