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are dying because the people who have them are not White. How can we compete, as a nation, when we’re holding back a whole segment of our society based on race?

WHITE DEFENSIVENESS Facing such stark evidence about systemic racism, White folks, including myself, are prone to throw up our hands and retreat into our blissful privilege. We go home to our White neighborhoods and leave racism as a problem for someone else to fix. As educator and author of “White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism” Robin DiAngelo points out, one of the reasons White people get so defensive stems from the way we define racism. When White people talk about racism, we’re generally talking about individual racist behavior — individual White supremacists or individual racist police officers. Racists are “bad” people, and since we don’t consider ourselves bad (we’re conscious and spiritual!), we get defensive about the idea that we might think and behave in racist ways. This defensiveness is what’s called “White fragility.” If you’re a White person, I invite you — in the spirit of conscious self-awareness — to pause, take a couple of deep breaths, and notice if you’re feeling defensive while reading this article. If so, I invite you to consider that this discomfort is an opportunity for personal growth. If we’re going to make any real progress on racial inequity in this country, White people are going to need to start getting more comfortable with being uncomfortable. At the same time, we could also potentially reduce our defensiveness by expanding our definition of racism to include the institutional racism that well-intentioned people participate in.

WHAT WOULD A WHITE-PRIVILEGE FOOTPRINT LOOK LIKE? So, let’s step back from individual acts of racism and consider the bigger

picture. As an example, let’s look at Google, a powerful, affluent company with broad social influence. The tech giant is in the process of opening a new campus in Boulder, Colorado, because the city offers a population of highly educated people and a lifestyle these people enjoy. Seems like a smart business decision, right? We can be certain that in building its Boulder campus, Google had to carry out various environmental impact studies and there were significant costs involved. Google is committed to

Google has created new job opportunities in such a way that these jobs are more likely to go to White folks for whom taking them is probably convenient than to Black folks for whom taking them is probably inconvenient. Google’s unofficial motto, “Don’t be evil,” still appears in its employee literature. Given the company’s commitment to decreasing its carbon footprint, it isn’t unreasonable to conclude that “Don’t participate in systems that do evil” is included in that motto. So does opening its Boulder campus

“To say that one racial group is disadvantaged, don’t we have to admit that another racial group is advantaged?” environmental sustainability. In 2017, Google reached its goal of 100 percent renewable energy for operations, an admirable achievement. But let’s look at this new office through the lens of racial inequity. Google — a wealthy company with an employee population that is only 2 percent Black (as of 2017) — is coming to Boulder — a wealthy city that is only 0.9 percent Black. No individual racist behavior seems to be overtly involved in this event, but by making a critical yet subtle shift from personal to institutional racism, how might our perspective change? Consider that by opening a new office in this city, it will be harder to recruit Black employees both because few live nearby and because those who don’t live nearby might not want to relocate to such a place. In other words,

inflate or decrease Google’s maintenance of White privilege? If we conclude that this event expands the company’s White-privilege footprint, then what could Google potentially do to fix or offset it? This is not to imply that Google is “evil” — this is about asking powerful companies like Google to bring the same commitment to fighting institutional racism that they currently bring to fighting climate change. “Wait just a minute,” you — and Google — might say. “When did it become Google’s responsibility to take on the burden of fixing structural racism in America? Isn’t that the government’s job? After all, Google follows fair hiring practices; plus the company recently gave $11.5 million to organizations fighting racial injustice and inequity.” As Anand Giridharadas recently



Q2 / SPRING 2019


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...