What qualifies Racial Harmony to moderate a discussion about Corporations and Racism? Racial Harmony professes to be a third-party, neutral organization dedicated to promoting understanding and cooperation among all races and ethnic groups. What right does it have to call corporations, “racist”?
Please read the title again. Racial Harmony is not name-calling. Instead, Racial Harmony is attempting to further one of its goals which charges itself “to promote and initiate strategies to increase racial and ethnic understanding.”
Survey after survey indicates that the majority of people believe racial discord is more pronounced today than it was twenty years ago. The business community’s acts and omissions are one element in that perception--if not reality. Economic disparity is greater today; the chasm between the rich and the poor is widening. Many believe the fate of the middle class is threatened.
Again, you ask what does this have to do with racism? Is Racial Harmony aligning its mission with Pope Francis’ passionate challenge regarding the ill effects of capitalism? The title of our series makes no mention of any other economic system. The title of the series reads, “All Lives Matter! Protecting Our Future Together.” Racial Harmony merely adheres to the tenet that for capitalism to be sustainable, it should have a firm, moral foundation.
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Racial Harmony is about community; bringing the best out of every aspect of the community. This includes the business community with its entrepreneurial innovations and a diverse, labor force equipped with the skills necessary to compete in a global economy. For this to occur, business must have the incentive to invest, the skill level of the workforce must be enhanced, and those less privileged, those disadvantaged, and those historically marginalized by race or lack of education, must be provided a fair and meaningful opportunity to participate. Privileges and practices which perpetuate inequities must be identified and remediated.
Those in business need to educate us on the best practices to incorporate diversity, inclusion, and equality of opportunity. On occasions where business fails to do so, we must harness public opinion to compel it to do so. Business benefits by an expanding and vibrant middle class. All of us benefit when we encourage socially-responsible-investing, compassionate capitalism and creating shared value through collaboration of business with schools, non-profits, and governmental agencies. The private sector can lead or be burdened with the social costs of an over-criminalized and under-utilized segment of society. Illinois Supreme Court Justice Lloyd Karmeier noted at a forum on “The Mass Incarceration of Black Males” in East St. Louis on April 18, 2015, that the Illinois Department of Corrections is now at 150% capacity and had an annual cost of $1.3 billion. By attacking the inequities, we build a stronger, fairer, and more dynamic country. Justice Karmeier posed the question as what can “we do”--not what can “you do?” We are in this together. Nothing is more dangerous and more expensive than a person who believes he is without hope.
Billionaire and hedge-fund investor, Paul Tudor Jones, lamented: “This kind of gap between the wealthiest and the poorest will get closed. History shows it usually ends in one of three ways — either higher taxes, revolution, or war. None of those are on my bucket list.” Mr. Jones has created a non-profit, “Just Capital,” to identify corporations that pay their workers more fairly, make products more sustainable, and give more back to the community. In short, justice, fairness, and equal opportunity must permeate our schools, the work place, and our community.
While Racial Harmony does not have any billionaires on our panel, we are fortunate to have the following distinguished business leaders on the panel for our Dinner Meeting scheduled for Sept. 15 at 6:30 p.m. at the Belleville Parks and Recreation Building, 510 W. Main St., Belleville:
Jay Tebbe, BND; Jeff Couch, BND; Kevin Bouse, Landlord with Bouse Property; Geri Boyer, Kaskaskia Engineering; Paula Badger, Tree Hut; Tracy Sessions, Associated Bank; Nikki Turner, Bank of Edwardsville.
Come and hear their observations, advice, and recommendations. This event is free and open to the public. Complimentary food and beverages will be available. A donation to the food pantry is requested.
For a community to be vibrant and progressive, it must be involved. Silence and indifference will only serve to perpetuate the current status quo. Racial Harmony hopes to see you Sept 15.
Robert E. Wells Jr. is an ambassador for Racial Harmony.