As I write this, America is in turmoil. News and social media feeds across the globe are telling stories of protesters marching to increase awareness of social injustice and racial inequality. We have been inundated with accounts of devastating and inexcusable acts of hatred, threats and violence, as well as individuals who are bent on agitation. Even more shocking is the fact that much of this is exhibited by some who are supposed to lead and protect us. We must address these injustices.
While I have immense compassion for those who suffer as a result of systemic inequality, I have not lived it. I have not witnessed a pandemic raging through my neighborhood at an enormously disproportionate rate. I have not been a frontline worker putting their own well-being at risk in service of others. And I have not experienced recession as a black person trying to survive in a nation that distributes its wealth and opportunity so unjustly.
When problems are this immense, we may feel helpless, but we can make a difference if we focus on those things we can control. I know in my heart that the global supply chain community has the power to create a better world. I’m reminded of a quote from a colleague, Saif Rivers, vice president of global business services at IBM. I met Rivers at ASCM 2019 when he was honored with our Diversity and Inclusion award, which recognizes a professional who fosters business environments that value equality and individual differences. He shared the following: “The rapid change that we see in operational performance requires a different mindset, a different approach, a different set of skills, which can only be found by multiplying the voices.”
Words are often insufficient, but “multiplying the voices” is a powerful and important first step toward establishing real structural change. I also encourage you to talk to your colleagues about how to manage diversity into your supply chain, such as by recording and reporting on diverse supplier spend. And please consider getting involved with the ASCM Foundation’s diversity and inclusion initiatives, which strive to ensure that people of all profiles and backgrounds can do meaningful work, contribute unique perspectives and succeed in supply chain careers.
Diversity and inclusion is crucial — and something that we in the supply chain community can do right now — but it is only part of the solution. The income divide in the United States continues to intensify; in fact, the gap between rich and poor more than doubled between 1989 and 2016, with black households earning 61% of white households. This sustained erosion of wealth imperils upward mobility — the very premise that our country was built upon.
There is no doubt in my mind that access to education is the answer. It absolutely determines outcomes: When wealthier parents can invest in their child’s education and poorer parents cannot, the resulting disparity has tangible and appreciable consequences for America. We must reexamine and recreate current policies in order to generate opportunities for black people and empower them to change their circumstances.
Decades of research have shown that policies such as the GI Bill and student aid decrease poverty and social inequalities while enhancing the productivity, innovation and resources of the U.S. economy. A quality education for all begins with breaking down perpetual norms that obstruct equal access. We must play our part by electing officials who reflect our values and supporting intergovernmental agencies that are working to ensure parity.
Education without discrimination is a basic human right. There is no greater way to begin creating a nation of justice and equality.