It’s time — well past time — for the U.S. to address issues of race and diversity, and business must do its part.
For months, with repeated police shootings of unarmed African-Americans, the U.S. population has been engaged in a conversation about racial injustice, including the fear that African-Americans experience when stopped by law enforcement.
The May killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis — as a policeman knelt on his neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds, causing his death — galvanized the country. Sadly, other examples continue to come to light, including the Aug. 23 shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, when a police officer fired seven bullets into his back, potentially paralyzing him for life.
If you have driven by a dispensary recently, you might have noticed some business operations taking place outside. But, why is that; and what other changes has the cannabis industry seen since March?
Unfortunately, the national conversation has sometimes descended into tired, politically and racially charged arguments. Some choose to focus on riots, vandalism and looting, rather than shootings of unarmed Blacks by police. (Yes, rioting, vandalism and looting are bad. But shouldn’t killings of Blacks rise above that in priority? At times, those most vocal about protests that get out of control have said not a word about killings of unarmed Blacks.)
We believe that most police officers are dedicated public servants with an extremely difficult and dangerous job, but we also believe that a systemic problem exists with how Blacks are targeted and treated by law enforcement. Society should demand a complete overhaul of police training, implementation of national standards to govern the use of deadly force, and ongoing training in race relations and bias.
At the local, state and national level, businesses should be outspoken about the need for such reform. But business must also examine its own ways of operating, including the hiring process.
We have seen helpful signs. Certain business sectors have launched programs to increase diversity, from startups to venture capital to the outdoor industry. Large companies have begun hiring diversity directors to evaluate and improve their performance.
But small and medium-sized companies — including BizWest — must do their part. We must examine our own hiring practices and work harder to identify qualified people of color. “We don’t get any applications from people of color” isn’t a valid excuse anymore.
Many organizations exist that can help businesses seeking to diversify their workforce and create a welcoming environment for people of color, from the NAACP to the Latino Chamber, etc.
And we should also explore why communities in the Boulder Valley and Northern Colorado have so few Black residents (just 1.2% to 1.6%).
Let’s do our part and right a centuries-old wrong.