With this interminable year almost behind us and vaccines promising an end to the COVID-19 pandemic by fall 2021, many are eager to get back to their pre-2020 normal. In at least one key respect, however, that would be a mistake.
Amid the tragedy of 2020, we saw a glimmer of hope. This was the year much of the business community realized it was time for them to put their shoulders to the wheel in the fight against racism in Massachusetts. This was the year that finally put paid to the idea that being blind to race was enough when Americans of color often have to work harder and longer to achieve the same successes as white Americans.
Many firms stepped up to the plate, whether through philanthropic efforts, political lobbying or in smaller ways within their own operations. But with the turning of the year and the passing of the pandemic, there is every danger that this year’s urgency will be forgotten.
Without carrying the same passion that so many felt to act in June and July when confronted with the grotesque reality of our racist present, key changes won’t happen. Important conversations about lending practices will trail off. Reforms to recruiting and personnel policies will fizzle. When we’re able to safely resume in-person interactions, more experienced members of the real estate and banking fields will forget to consciously broaden the circles of people who they mentor. And, most critically, many older, whiter business leaders may not feel the same obligation to implement fixes when staffers come to them with evidence about racial disparities in their workplaces or in how their company does business.
It’s steps like these that will be critical to building a more just society post-COVID; they will also be key towards making sure businesses are ready to compete as Massachusetts and America become more and more diverse.
Let’s not let 2020 go to waste by taking concrete steps towards a more equitable future next year and in many years to come.
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