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The Way Forward

Headshots of Sharriea and DeLinda

By: Sharriea Williams Project Coordinator & DeLinda Forsythe Founder/CEO

June 5, I received a note from Sharriea Williams. She inquired what ICE would do or say in response to the recent protests against racism. I had been struggling with this question myself, reading superficial posts issued by various CEO’s and organizations; all performative, none of which resonated any substance at all.

Sharriea has always been thoughtfully engaged at ICE through her group emails that raise awareness and celebrate a variety of organizations. Though a more internal person, you know where Sharriea’s heart is and I appreciate that. Together, we drafted the ICE Statement on Inclusiveness.

In the last 3 months non-business-related issues have taken the forefront in corporate America from COVID, to political partisan divisiveness and now racism; first against Chinese and now Black Americans. There is a titanic absence of thought leadership and training to prepare America’s corporate leaders on how to respond authentically.

I have reached out to black and white leaders alike for insight into how they are approaching this situation within their own companies.   Considering that CEO’s have not experienced a social justice climate such as this, it is not surprising that none have suggestions for a clear path in which to move forward.

We have entered new, uncharted territory.

In this dearth of information, as a white woman lacking personal experience with racism, I asked Sharriea to help craft a substantive message that offers all of us at ICE understanding, healing and a plan to move forward.

Let’s start with Sharriea’s email:

“Being half black this movement directly affects myself and my family and if I don’t speak up then I’m contributing to the silence that has allowed history to repeat itself. Knowing how powerfully driven ICE’s voice can be it’s a little bit disheartening to know that we, as a company, choose to stand by in silence…There is no unity or agreement in silence on this issue and our individual voices do not carry more weight WITHOUT the additional support of our businesses/employers. History has never been changed by staying quiet on the sidelines. We, ICE, had a voice when it came to COVID and protecting the human race and saving lives. Why is saving Black Lives not as important to speak out about or support?

I do not mean this in an offensive way at all. You all are very aware of how much respect and love I have for ICE and I know and believe that ICE does not support racism in any way. Which is why it’s so important to me to hear your view/stance on this issue and why ICE chooses to stay silent. Whether it’s voiced publicly or not.”

Even with our organizational culture that encourages staff to find and express their voices, that is a scary email to send when businesses are struggling to keep everyone employed and unemployment in the black community is incredibly high.

More of Sharriea’s perspective:

“I wanted to bring awareness of the humanitarian cultural and ethnic crises; as scary as it was and specifically to the Black Lives that have been affected. As our newly appointed culture committee leader I plan on implementing ideas that increase racial awareness that expand our already diverse and inclusive culture at ICE. I want to promote education and understanding of the enormous impact this crisis is having on the black community and to use that knowledge to help support not only the black community but all minorities who have had to endure racism.

Having experienced racism as a child by a few family members I know that education and knowledge alone goes a long way. You’re not born to be racist; you were taught. And just the same it can be untaught.

ICE has already created a culture of safe space and openness where your voice can be heard and had it not been for this culture, I might not have had the courage to voice my opinion on this matter. I’m grateful to work for a company that not only provides that space, but listens, and responds genuinely.”

I let her know how grateful we were that she had the courage to send this email, then we went to work. We started by both attending Daymond John’s ‘Real Talk Business Reboot’ webinar hosted by Inc. magazine, then watched a panel discussion hosted by a friend of Sharriea’s, Dr. Antipas Harris titled “A Dialogue on Racism in America”.   Then we talked, deeply, about what we learned. 

Together - we crafted the following:

  1. Our goal is to take racism out of obscurity and shine a light on its destructive nature.

  2. We will encourage internal sharing of our stories at ICE about our personal and our family’s racist experiences, seeking to offer perspective and clarity on.

  3. We will seek to increase awareness and education in regards to the humanitarian crisis on race utilizing the safe open platform we have at ICE to encourage our employees to have the hard conversations about race and any other social concerns.

  4. As an organization we do not tolerate racism as is clearly noted in our employee.

  5. We will continue to offer employment and leadership positions at ICE that attract and empower minorities, adding that to our website so our position on these issues is vibrant and well-defined.

  6. If there is interest, we are willing to host a weekly Toastmasters program at ICE to help others find and learn to use their voices to make an impact in society.

  7. Children are not born identifying race, gender, or ethnicity in a negative way; they are taught racism. Kids are very aware of ways we differ and exposure to books that promote diversity is something we can encourage through our existing ICE book club to include children’s books for our parents about racism, and inclusion.

As limited and imperfect a list as this is, it’s a start as we all attempt to find a way forward in all this brokenness that deadens our spirits and attempts to steal our joy.

No one can change the past but we can learn from it to shape a more inclusive future.

Let me end with this observation. Sharriea notably raised my awareness by referencing a quote from Archbishop Desmond Tutu: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor” and I’d like to add this gentle reminder:

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” — Dr Martin Luther King Jr

Thank you,

Sharriea and DeLinda

"We believe that business is good because it creates value, it is ethical because it is based on voluntary exchange, it is noble because it can elevate our existence and it is heroic because it lifts people out of poverty and creates prosperity. Free enterprise capitalism is the most powerful system for social cooperation and human progress ever conceived. It is one of the most compelling ideas we humans have ever had. But we can aspire to do even more."

DeLinda Forsythe_TheWayForward
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