Straight Talk: Addressing Racism [Video]
NORTHBROOK, Ill.—June 16, 2020—In this edition of Straight Talk with Jeff Cross, Alonzo Adams, chair of the Association of Residential Cleaning Services International (ARCSI), discusses how racism impacts our communities, our industry, and our businesses. Adams acknowledges that this is a tough topic, but he believes that what we are seeing in the protests is the effect of suppressing these issues for many years because we keep avoiding these uncomfortable conversations. It’s time for some straight talk on addressing racism.
“As a black man, I’m tired,” Adams said. “I’m tired of people saying that they’re leaders and they understand leadership, and they’re not being a leader, and they’re not saying what needs to be said to address the issues. As a leader, you have to address issues—and that’s inside your community, that’s inside your home, that’s inside your business—you have to address those issues; you have to do what’s uncomfortable.”
Adams also notes that for this nationwide and worldwide movement to be gaining momentum like we’ve seen in recent weeks is a sign that a critical mass of white people are also joining the cause and becoming more aware of the issues that people of color have been facing for centuries. “This is unity; this is people together that are tired of what’s happening,” Adams said.
Adams says people are calling for change, and that addressing racism is necessary in big societal institutions like our governments, elected officials, and police forces, but it’s also necessary in the smaller corners of society like our own businesses and industry. As for what business owners and industry leaders can do in this moment, Adams says first, you must listen to understand where people are coming from and what drives the calls for reform.
Adams notes that Generation Z, the youngest members of the workforce, cares deeply about issues of social justice. “They want companies that are transparent; they want companies that are socially responsible; they want to feel that they are part of something that’s going to make a big difference in the world. They’re about change. They’re about revolutionizing the world,” Adams said. “They’re not looking just to start something; they’re looking to get the job done, they want answers.” To attract these workers, companies will need a strong stance on social justice issues.
When it comes to running a business, Adams says what’s needed is a genuinely equal playing field for Black workers and workers of color. “If you’re going to say I have a shot at a promotion, let me believe that it’s true,” Adams explains. He asks business owners to consider what your company cultures and the makeup of your leadership staffs and boardrooms tells a person of color about their chances for upward mobility in your organization.
Adams points out that these problems persist because the full and honest history of slavery and civil rights has not been taught and most white people don’t have a complete understanding of the institution of white supremacy and its effects on society. He points out that we need to learn this history, but we also need to go to where the people are who are most impacted by these issues to see the disparities firsthand. Making our industry and our workplaces more equitable begins with seeing and listening to understand the racism inherent in our social structures.
Alonzo Adams also has an article called “We the People” that further explores ideas about addressing racism in the upcoming issue of ISSA Today.
Watch the complete episode of Straight Talk with Jeff Cross below, and find more Straight Talk episodes on cleanfax.com. Take part in the engaging online conversations on industry topics by joining the Straight Talk Facebook group today.
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February 21, 2023