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Wednesday, 22 February 2017 15:59

A Little Less Conversation (About Race), and A Little More Action Please

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A Little Less Conversation (About Race), and A Little More Action Please

by Bill Catlette (title by Elvis)

 

First things first, I’m delighted that President Trump visited the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, and afterwards made some solid statements about “bringing the country together” vis-a-vis race and anti-semitism. (Good job, @CraigMelvin) It’s a good step for him, one he’s been needing to take. Now it’s time to back up the talk. 

That said, I would submit that, generally speaking, we should have fewer rather than more “conversations about race.” Conversations about race in this country somehow seem to devolve to everyone doing their own little uncomfortable dance on the head of a pin. In reality, they aren’t conversations at all, but awkward sessions marked by lots of emoting and very little listening, resulting in bumps, bruises, and too little observable progress.

Truth be known, Americans aren’t especially good at having conversations of this sort. Some would maintain that we had such a national conversation in 2008, resulting in the election of President Barack Obama. Au contraire. We had no such conversation. Rather, we had an election. Translation - We’re much better at rolling up our sleeves and doing something than sitting around talking about it. That’s one of the chief reasons so many of us remain in a permanent state of agitation over the goings on in Washington, DC. They talk, we do.

In that vein, here’s a thought – Why don’t we concentrate our efforts on actually fixing something, like, say... Detroit? No disrespect intended, but as opposed to being an ideological burr in our national skin, Detroit is a big, hairy tangible problem that needs fixing, now. We can see it, touch it, and it will hold still long enough for us to take a picture of it. The picture isn’t pretty. It’s a problem that cuts across all ethnicities, demographics, religions, and political persuasions. And it’s a puzzle we need to solve before cities like Memphis and Allentown follow suit, and before tens of thousands of children in Detroit grow up with a world view more akin to those who have lived in Somalia than in the world’s most prosperous nation. Moreover, I dare say we’ll develop a far better appreciation for one another by working together on a worthwhile endeavor than having a conversation.

What would happen if we declared Detroit “too big to fail” and gave it some of the same consideration extended to many of our largest financial institutions eight years ago? What if we did more to encourage the type of development work that Quicken Loans CEO Dan Gilbert is doing in the city? What if we said that, for the next 5 years, anything legitimately stamped with the words, “Made in Detroit” (even stuff with four wheels and an engine) will not be subject to state sales tax anywhere in the U.S.? Five years later we could pick another U.S. city for that type of economic tailwind. What if we also twisted some airline and Amtrak arms and made it a lot cheaper for people to visit Detroit this summer to go to a Tigers game, or just get out of the heat? What if we all decided to hold one of our next meetings in Detroit?

I bet if we all buckled down and did what we could to lend a hand to the people of Detroit, we would find ourselves having more cause for national celebration, and less for awkward conversation. More pride, less problems.


Your thoughts as always, are welcome.

Bill Catlette

Bill Catlette, @ContentedCows is an executive coach and business author who helps clients build lasting competitive edge by eliminating blind-spots and improving leadership habits.

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