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What are the ramifications of racism among powerful people?

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The news of LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling’s racist rant begs the question of how many other team owners and CEO’s may harbor similarly warped views about society. Additionally, assuming this does occur among those in powerful positions, what exactly are the ramifications?

The impact of someone in an influential position exercising discriminatory viewpoints in their day-to-day business goes well beyond the obvious. If someone’s personal views are this destructive to society, it would seem almost impossible for the effect to not spread across their professional lives. This would not only mean that their racial views influence who they work with, but also who gets promoted, and which other companies they value and work with. Perhaps someone in power who has racist views would choose similar business partners, thereby isolating other business owners due to their twisted personal bias. It is important to note that even if an average employee never meets their company’s owner or CEO, their influence is still noticeable throughout all levels of the organization. This is why ethically sound leaders are vital to any organization.

The “glass ceiling” concept that most often applies to sexism can also victimize other groups. Many people in power who have strong personal bias will still hire or work with the group they dislike, but when it comes to promoting them to positions of true power, it becomes far more likely that they will promote someone of their preferred type, or “like them”. Regardless of the group that is victimized by this, it is deeply unethical, and sets the stage for groupthink and cronyism. For an example of how damaging groupthink can be, read about the Challenger disaster, and how a company full of middle-aged, white, male, engineers collectively decided to ignore a major mechanical flaw that led to the explosion of the shuttle and deaths of eight people.

The Importance of Diversity

In the business world, there are major advantages to diversity. Every type of person brings their own cultural experiences and wisdom, and companies that embrace such diversity have a much wider source of creativity and innovation. This is true across all industries and among companies of any size. Racism has a negative impact on society whether it comes from the janitor or the owner of a major corporation. It’s not enough to have your personal biases and try not to let them creep into your professional lives. Discriminatory biases must be overcome on all levels, and the only way this is possible is by calling people out when we witness it, and refusing to accept any type of discriminatory rhetoric against race, gender, or sexual preference. These biases are a damaging form of ignorance that can only be eradicated by educating people that racism is a societal disease that must not be tolerated by anyone.

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