Why Employers Should Participate in Black History MonthFebruary 11, 2021
While we’d like to start off by saying, “As we all know, February is Black History Month,” we can’t. The reason we can’t say this is because there are so many people throughout corporate America that don’t know what Black History Month is or why black people are being celebrated throughout the shortest month of the year. This is discouraging because February actually gives employers the unique opportunity to not only show their commitment to diversity and inclusion in the workplace, it can also be an educational, cultural, and celebratory experience for those in the workplace—especially if there are historical blacks that had contributed to that particular industry’s success. Honoring Black History Month in the workplace not only shows that the company values cultural diversity, it also tells their black employees that the company cares about them and their cultural history. In addition, managers and company leaders are in the privileged position to be the educators that their employees may have never had and be the caregiver that shows the empathy, compassion, and emotional and cultural intelligence that they’ve never experienced.
Being an adult in America and not being aware of Black History Month is problematic in itself but do these adults really have no one in their lives that can shine some light on the importance of February to the black community? Looking at what recently took place in North Ogden, Utah, where a charter school offered parents the option to have their children to “opt out” of Black History Month instruction and activities, it’s no wonder that so many adults aren’t aware of the mere existence of the observance. The ignorance had to start somewhere. Cultural inclusion is the responsibility of every human in this country and many companies are taking steps to show their support of the Black community. Growth doesn’t happen on its own and the true leaders in this country – educators, parents, caregivers, and especially managers – can help make it happen. There are some that have pledged financial efforts while others increased their inclusion and diversity practices. Bath and Body Works recently made a Facebook post showing their support of their black employees and black communities for Black History Month. Sounds good, right? Well, the sentiment was missed. The majority of the comment thread criticized the brand for supporting divisiveness and exclusion. Others took the time to try and educate the misinformed about Black History Month but many were still offended. In the spirit of the cancel culture, some even threatened to abandon the brand while a significant portion asked when they would begin to show support for their communities. They wanted to know when there would be a “white history month” for the white, Irish, and German. Huh?
Black history is American history. The milestones reached by historical black Americans run along the same timeline as the milestones reached by historical white Americans. Raising awareness during Black History Month shouldn’t be excluded. In this age of instant information, ignorance is no longer an excuse. If employees are encouraged to wear green on March 17th or dress up on October 31st, then they should also be encouraged to participate in activities that surround Black History Month, diversity, and inclusion. Employers have the obligation to make all of their employees feel valued and respected. No one should be singled out and no one should be overlooked. The contributions of black people need to be communicated because they have been heavily overlooked due to the racially unequal history of this country. More of our historical influencers need to be celebrated.