In 1917, my maternal great-grandmother, Margaret Wilkerson, was murdered by the Ku Klux Klan. Her only crime was that she was a black woman, born and raised in the Jim Crow era south when society and policies were not kind to African Americans. Her perpetrators were never brought to justice. My grandmother was just three years old at the time. The only memory she had of her mother was old stories told to her by the distant relatives that raised her. Being just a toddler, there was no way she could understand the magnitude of what happened. But that pivotal moment was only a precursor to the hardships and pain she would endure in her life.
Although those events took place over a century ago, the pain is still ever present in my heart. Watching the horrors of Charlottesville pulled the scab off of old wounds. I’ve spent many nights crying and wrestling with my inner turmoil, finding it so hard to understand how this kind of blind rage and hatred continues to persist in 2017. I wish I could say I understood. I wish I could say it doesn’t hurt. It hurts. Deeply.
And therein lies the issue. Separation causes pain. Inequality causes pain. All of this corporate talk around diversity and inclusion really tries to make sense of behaviors and actions through a rational lens. When in reality, it comes from “feelings” and truly stems from the human experience. What you feel. What you felt. What happened to you. What you want to happen to you.
But the story doesn’t end there. It merely begins there. And this is where all of our communication practice comes into play. First, we listen. Then, we seek to understand. Then, we ask clarifying questions. Then, we assess. Then, we start all over again.
I have been working in the corporate world for almost two decades. Within that time, I have worked for three international companies and several domestic. I have had the privilege of seeing some of the best in human behavior and the displeasure of seeing some of the worst. As the lead communications business partner for our diversity and inclusion efforts at Cardinal Health, I am responsible for driving messages to our over 50,000 employees and our various external stakeholders. Undoubtedly, these employees and stakeholders come from all walks of life, backgrounds, social statuses and cultures. There is no “one size fits all” solution to inclusiveness. But there are some great ways to learn, share and grow from best practices and improvement opportunities.
One thing I always say is “You can argue facts and figures all day, but you can’t argue someone’s feelings!” Inclusion is all about feeling valued, supported and respected. And how those three things manifest is different for every person. Want to know more? Then join me as we “Expand the inclusion conversation” at the 2017 IABC Heritage Region Conference in Pittsburgh.
Lachandra B. Baker, MBA, ABC, CTA is a communications business partner, working to improvethe culture, morale and engagement of Cardinal Health and its global workforce of 47,000 employees in 70 countries. She received her bachelor’s degree from Central Washington University in hospitality management and communications, and her master’s degree from University of the Southwest in business administration and marketing. Lachandra is also an award-winning communicator and four-time TEDx performer and speaker.