2020 has been an unprecedented battle for the country, as we face the challenge of flattening the curve and confront difficult conversations on race. The pandemic has reached epic proportions and nationwide protests by the Black Lives Matter movement show no signs of stopping. At the intersection of health and racial inequity, there is increasing evidence that ethnic minority groups are being disproportionately affected by the pandemic and dying at higher numbers.
On top of social and health challenges, the United States economy is facing historic declines. The virus has only worsened the country’s economic divides, and vulnerable populations across the country are being hit the worst. Members of some communities can work from home, while those in others have to meet the public face to face and some have seen their jobs slashed during quarantine. Some businesses are able to open, some are still shuttered. The lines between winners and losers is distinct. Wealthy parents, for example, have the resources to teach their kids while schools are closed, while poorer families must juggle work and childcare on their own. More and more people face the possibility of intensified poverty and immense social harm at the current trajectory of the nation’s pandemic economy.
And instead of unifying the country against the coronavirus pandemic, our politicians on all sides have stoked polarization for their own re-election interests. In the lead up to the 2020 presidential campaign, the crisis is being defined by division, whether the issue is social distancing, government restrictions, or the integrity of mainstream media. It’s not surprising then, that political polarization amongst the population has reached record levels.
Why care? Instability is a national security issue.
The instability of this situation is a security risk to us all. As the protests in Portland and Wisconsin have shown us, the line between peaceful expressions of free speech and violence can be paper thin. We have been set up, pitted against our neighbors and stoked into action. Over masks. And whether or not it is safe for schools to open. And how we police ourselves in a way that is fair for all. Before we raise our pitchforks over our heads and destroy everything we have built, perhaps it’s time to step back. We are America, people! This isn’t how we do it!
It’s time to reframe the problem and unify America against our common enemies: the coronavirus pandemic and systemic racism. It shouldn’t be a question of Democrat vs. Republican, or masks vs. no mask – it’s all of us against this situation. History has shown that when Americans rally against a common enemy – like Nazi Germany during WW2 — we can produce something extraordinary. Americans rallied to support our troops overseas; housewives knit socks, children did scrap drives, women learned factory jobs, and everyone rationed. Our success as a nation happened because we came together. And it is our argument that our policies of inclusion won the war: We were only able to defeat authoritarianism due to the wealth of skills, experiences, and ideas that our diverse communities brought to the table, including the Jewish-American led Manhattan project team. Yes, we still disagreed, but we didn’t let that turn us against ourselves.
Let’s once again rise above the party lines and find common ground in what unifies our country: a shared devotion to diversity and the liberty of all individuals. It’s ok to disagree – different opinions are terrific – but let’s not let our disagreement make us enemies, distracting us from the real problem. To move forward in the current political state, we need to stop the infighting, which means walking away from debates that only serve to provoke polarization rather than produce constructive conversation. Next, we need to engage all voices, bringing the best and brightest to the table and listening to them. Let’s roll up our sleeves and create novel solutions that address all of our stakeholders. Finally, we need to shift to triple bottom line thinking: People, Planet, Profit. It’s in all of our security and self-interest to ensure nobody gets left behind.
Inclusive Leadership Skills Required
Now more than ever we need leaders with inclusive leadership skills. Our new book, released this week, “The Next Smart Step: How to Overcome Gender Stereotypes and Build a Stronger Organizations, identifies these skills and provides practical ways of cultivating and measuring them. We also train leaders to be more inclusive with our popular workshops and online courses. The first step, however, is to get inspired. Every one of us has the potential to lead the people they influence through this pandemic, to reject divisiveness and seek more inclusive solutions. What about you – are you with us?
You can take our Inclusive Leader assessment to get an idea of where your current mindset fits with the inclusion taxonomy. To learn how to address workplace diversity, check out our asynchronous course, Difficult Conversations about Race and Gender, and our Inclusive Leadership programs. Contact Us to learn more.