Adonis Hoffman, Alfred Liggins and Michael Powell deserve a collective nod for agreeing to talk honestly and at length with Multichannel News about the state of diversity in the media and elsewhere.
The three executives — Hoffman, a former Federal Communications Commission staffer now chairing Business in the Public Interest; Liggins, CEO of Radio One, which owns cable-TV network TV One; and Powell, a former FCC chairman and now CEO of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association — are the subjects of this week’s Q&A cover story, with more to come in next week’s issue.
The conversation was an important one to have. There should be more frequent and serious attempts to define and encourage diversity in the workplace.
As neither an African-American nor a captain of industry (or policy), I went into the talk with a certain lack of familiarity on the topic. But that was part of the reason for doing it. As much as I wanted others to hear the participants’ stories and observations, I wanted to get schooled myself.
I can’t know what it’s like to walk even a few steps in their shoes, but one takeaway was that racial justice still requires beating on some closed doors that should have already been opened. Another is that success is both a sword and shield: A sword because, increasingly in business, success is dictated by the color green above all else; a shield, because the more successful you are, the harder it is to deny opportunities to others.
Speaking of career advancement advice he received from Judge Harry Edwards, one of the first black appellate judges in the U.S., Michael Powell says in the next installment of the Q&A that excellence is the best response to racism: “Make sure you beat people so significantly that there is no explanation for you not rising other than race.”
Diversity is just as good for business as it is for building that post-racial shining society on the hill, particularly if we are aiming ahead of the target.
Society is becoming increasingly diverse and, unless Donald Trump succeeds in replacing Lady Liberty’s torch with a stop sign, it will become only more so.
No one is saying to hire the wrong person for the job. What they, and we, should be saying is, take affirmative steps to include diverse voices in the conversation and put diverse faces in front of the camera, behind the camera and in the C-suites and boardrooms.
That includes using government relationships, as well as its levers, to bring minorities into conversations they were systematically excluded from when licenses were handed out and big media companies were built.
It is ultimately equality of opportunity that will build a more inclusive society, that and recognizing that attempts to stereotype people, any people, are borne of ignorance and fear and are ultimately doomed to the dustbin — and rogues’ gallery — of history.