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REFLECTIONS

WHAT IS YOUR

WHITE-PRIVILEGE

FOOTPRINT

We might make more progress on institutional racism by treating it like another overwhelming problem: climate change. BY BRIAN SHERWIN

M

any conscious business leaders are committed to fighting climate change. What these leaders recognize is that companies, through their business activities, contribute to carbon emissions that harm the environment. In fact, we all continue to learn how our collective human activities systemically contribute to climate change and harm the environment — and many of the world’s most vulnerable people. Here’s the difference between fighting climate change and fighting institutional racism: we seem to be much less defensive about our role in perpetuating climate change. Sure, some Americans complain that they don’t want to be made to feel “guilty” about their individual choices (the car they drive, etc.), but many of us are willing to consider that while we are “good” people, we may be making decisions that are harmful

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to the environment. And so instead of being paralyzed by guilt, many of us have decided to change our behaviors. Why can’t White people regard systemic racism in a similar way? That is, why can’t we recognize that well-intentioned people happen to participate in racist systems that bring harm to others? While we’re addressing our carbon footprint, we could also start addressing any “White-privilege footprint.” But before we can consider this approach, we need to recognize that institutional racism is a problem that even conscious, intelligent White people have trouble acknowledging.

THE GREAT CONSCIOUSNESS GAP As a progressive entrepreneur, I have been devoted to conscious business and leadership practices

CONSCIOUS COMPANY MAGAZINE

since the moment I learned about them. But, as a White person, one of the most challenging awareness efforts I’ve ever undertaken is to become conscious of institutional racism and White privilege. I’ve worked in complex IT environments for about 20 years. I spend time with lots of people who are far smarter than I am. But when I ask my smart White colleagues why there are so few Black and Latinx people in most IT departments, I get blank stares. While many of my White co-workers understand intricate computer systems, they seem completely baffled by the dynamics of racism. And they typically get defensive when I bring up the subject. For White people, White privilege is one of our greatest consciousness gaps. And the challenge for most intelligent, progressive White people is that we can concoct highly sophisticated concepts to avoid confronting our participa-

Profile for Conscious Company

Conscious Company Magazine | Spring 2019  

The Q2/Spring 2019 issue of Conscious Company is all about the racial wealth gap, diversity as a competitive differentiator, game-changing f...

Conscious Company Magazine | Spring 2019  

The Q2/Spring 2019 issue of Conscious Company is all about the racial wealth gap, diversity as a competitive differentiator, game-changing f...