A few years ago, my wife and I adopted two beautiful children. They're both black (my wife and I are white), but when we adopted, diversity wasn't on our radar. We wanted children, and these children badly needed parents. 'Nuff said, far as I'm concerned.
When I look at my kids, I just see my kids. I don't really see the color of their skin. And yet, as they've gotten older, and I can see that they're going to face some challenges in the business world, simply because of the color of their skin.
I can truthfully say that although I've been in many work environments, I've never run into anybody who is openly racist. Not one single person. While I know such people exist, they're probably too stupid to land a job where I'd interact with them.
Every company I've ever worked with has had an "equal opportunity" policy. In every large company where I've worked or visited, there have been black employees who were seemingly treated like everybody else.
That being said, there's something wrong somewhere. Consider these facts:
I never thought about, or even knew about, such statistics before I had black children. Now they loom large in my plans for my kids' future.
Take my son, for instance. He's kind, sweet-tempered, funny, smart, athletic, and mischievous. He's a good kid and has lots of friends in the cocoon of our small New England town.
Here's a true story that illustrates his character. When he was about 18 months old and barely talking, my wife was at the grocery store with him in the shopping cart baby seat. When an obese woman walked past, he looked at her and said: "her beautiful!"
The woman stopped, shocked, then asked almost in a whisper: "What did he say?" My wife repeated his words. The woman began to weep and through her tears said: "Nobody has ever called me beautiful."
My son is still like that. He's what my late mother called an "old soul." However, in a few years, he'll stop being a cute little boy and become a young black male. As he enters the workforce, will he be at a disadvantage when he tries to get a good job?
I have a horrible suspicion that no matter how much education my son gets, or how well he dresses, or how kind his personality, some percentage of white people, when they see him, will automatically assume he's a thug.
I now have worries that I never before imagined. If my son gets a job in an all white neighborhood, will he be pulled over for "driving while black?" If he protests or reaches suddenly for his wallet, will a cop shoot him?
For my daughter, I have fewer worries. She's an incredibly athletic dancer and plays two musical instruments, one of which is the violin. She's fierce, determined, unstoppable. And yet... will she be held back because of the color of her skin?
So what I learned about business from having black children is that they will need to be twice as good, twice as smart and work twice as hard as their white peers. I'm doing everything I can to make that happen, but it's a bitter pill for this dad to swallow.