By Carole Copeland Thomas, MBA, CDMP, CITM
If we’re not careful, the violence, destruction, and disruption our country is facing will permanently define the quality of life in America for generations to come. Hate crimes are on the rise and have been so since the November 2016 presidential elections. According to a recent article in Forbes Magazine:
“A news report from The Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, headquartered at California State University in Santa Barbara, has found that hate crimes rose 9% in 30 major American cities in 2018. That is the steepest rise since 2015, and the total number of hate crimes has now gone up for the fifth consecutive year. That is despite overall U.S. crime rates continuing to fall across the cities included in the report.”
This is no illusion. You just have to blink twice before the next mass shooting takes place. And there have been 250 mass shootings in America (where four or more have been killed) since January 1, 2019!
The latest guns-blazing tragedy in Dayton, Ohio left nine dead (ten with the shooter) and dozens injured. That’s nine dead in 32 seconds because of a high powered killing rifle.
Not to mention a young white supremacist drove more than 650 miles from Dallas, Texas toEl Paso, targeted a Walmart populated by back to school shoppers in a Latino neighborhood, and killed 22, leaving dozens more injured.
And don’t even talk about the countless school shootings our country faces each year. They embody the horrors of Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on February 14, 2018. Enter an ex-student who hated Jews, African Americans, Mexicans and Muslims, who executed 17 students and teachers and wounded 17 more with a semi-automatic rifle he had legally purchased to conduct his killing spree.
It would take ten more commentaries to detail the other horrific mass shootings that have happened all too frequently in the last three years. This does not minimize previous shootings and murders that have occurred in America. From the 2015 Emanuel AME Church hate crime murder spree (with nine murdered) to the Columbine High School tragedy of 1999 (15 dead), these incidences are all reminders that violent explosions of rage and hatred symbolize the worst of American people. Jewish Synagogues, Sikh Temples, Muslim Mosques, Yoga Studios, Movie Theaters, Night Clubs, and Hotel Complexes overlooking Country Music Festivals. Just a sampling of where these executions have occurred in recent years. Too many. Too frequently. Too commonly repeated.
It’s just hard to ignore that the frequency of these killings is up since 2016. And as a diversity professional, I can’t just stand by and say nothing!
I recently posted this self quote on my Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram accounts:
"Staying silent when others are mistreated signals your approval of the actions of the oppressor. Speak Up. Speak Out. Use Your Voice!"
Now more than ever, it’s up to reasonable and rational Americans to stand up and reject the violence that is ripping our country apart. Too often it’s gun violence manifested through weapons that should remain in the hands of military personnel, not civilians. Gun violence fueled by hateful and misguided citizens who have “drunk the Kool-Aid” of conservative cable propaganda news organizations. And too many misguided young white men who follow the rhetoric of the White House in an outrageous display of hatred, bigotry, anti-semitism, anti immigration and xenophobia, all in the name of “Make America Great Again.”
I cannot sit by quietly, because it could be my loved one next!!
A few weeks ago, it could have been my older daughter. She’s married, has two children, is gainfully employed, a homeowner, is an elected school committee member in her town, and has an earned doctorate in clinical psychology. Yet despite all of that, an older white man drove next to her car in a quiet Connecticut shopping center and blurted out the “n” word directly to her! Unannounced, with no provocation! THAT HAPPENED TO MY CHILD. It could have ended badly. Thank God it didn’t.
Who’s next? Who will stand up with me to denounce this madness?? Who has the courage to speak out against these atrocities in a fearless way that can push back on this cancer that has gripped our country?
If not you…WHO?
The great German theologian and Lutheran pastor, Friedrich Gustav Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) ultimately took a stand against Hitler, even though he initially supported his leadership. It cost him when he was thrown into a concentration camp until the end of World War II. Yet, he still spoke out against the madness of the Third Reich.
Niemöller said it this way:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
If we’re not careful, there will be no one left for us to protect and stand up for our rights. Gun violence, hateful white supremacy, and anti-immigration fear-mongering has to stop! If we don’t stand up and speak out, “there will be no one left to speak for me.”
Hate Crimes Rising:
The Number of Mass Shootings in 2019:
Top Left: Boston Red Sox Award Top Right: Adam Jones Bottom: Awardees Harvard Law School Professor Charles Ogletree & Carole Copeland Thomas
Full disclosure. As a native Detroiter who has lived in the Boston area for more than 35 years, I cringe when I hear stories about racism in my adopted city. As a diversity speaker and trainer for 30 years, the pain of these stories runs deep. For nearly a week, I have read the newspaper reports about a stupid local fan who yelled out the “n-word" during last week’s Boston Red Sox - Baltimore Orioles game at Fenway Park. The victim, Orioles center fielder Adam Jones, tempered his anger, even after the same fan or another one threw a bag of peanuts at him, missed and hit a police officer. The incident threw Boston back in the news as a city that can’t ditch racism no matter how hard it tries.
It's now become a national news story that forces us to remember that The Red Sox were the last team to recruit a black player in the major leagues. Its owner at that time, Tom Yawkey, had no use for black people, including rising baseball stars like Jackie Robinson and Willie Mays. That history was buried when the new owner, John Henry II, took a very pro-active stand to make his team more diverse and inclusive.
Other players have also been called the “n-word” at Fenway, which makes it even worse.
Those are the facts. Lingering racism remains with the diehards who just can’t accept the realities of a changing city and nation where multiculturalism is a mainstream choice for most.
Clearly, city and state elected officials have beaten the drums about making our region more inclusive. Boston’s Mayor Martin J. Walsh and Governor Charlie Baker immediately condemned the ballpark incident as intolerable, socially and morally unacceptable. The Red Sox team president, Sam Kennedy, stated, “I find it despicable. There’s no place for it.” And so go similar comments uttered in board rooms and community centers. Boston is NOT a city of hate. Boston rejects racism of any kind.
The fans made that point very clearly during the ballgame between the rival teams the next day. They gave Adam Jones a prolonged standing ovation to show their support for him despite the previous night’s ruckus.
There’s another side to consider when you look at what happened at Fenway Park. Boston HAS changed. I should know as a 35 year resident of the region.
Many factors have led to the transformation of Boston. Both governmental and private initiatives have worked diligently to mute the angry and hateful voices of the past. Take, for example, the efforts of the Greater Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau (GBCVB). They created a Multicultural Committee, designed to transform the image of Boston (www.crossculturalboston.com). The first committee was launched in the early 1990s as the city geared up for some high-profile national minority conventions scheduled to come to the city. One of them held in 1995 was the national conference of the National Black MBA Association. I served on the Multicultural Committee and as the local chair of that event that hosted over 5000 black professionals from around the United States and beyond. The efforts of the Multicultural Committee combined with support from corporate leaders and then-Mayor Thomas Menino led to one of the most successful conventions in the association’s history.
The Multicultural Committee took a hiatus for a few years in the late 1990s and relaunched in 2003 under GBCVB President & CEO Pat Moscaritolo. He appointed me as the committee chair, and we have been rocking and rolling ever since. Our committee of nearly 15 ethnically diverse business owners, hospitality leaders, and GBCVB staff meet every month except for July and August. We commit to serving in this volunteer role because we care about the image and reputation of our city. The committee formulates ways that we can support the Bureau’s efforts to attract conventions of color. We attend various functions and serve as a welcoming body when executive boards and association leaders come to town.
Our enthusiasm mounted in 2014 when both the National Association of Black Journalists and The Eastern Regional Conference of Delta Sigma Theta, Inc. hosted their meetings just weeks apart. Both groups left Boston with renewed levels of confidence that the city was embracing diversity and inclusion in powerful new ways. Other conferences, including The National Council of La Raza, The Asian American Journalists Association, Blacks in Government and The Urban League have all had national meetings in Boston, with much success.
One of my finest moments was a sunny afternoon in August 2016 when the Boston Red Sox and the Boston Church League honored me and several other civic, social justice and business leaders on the playing field at Fenway Park. We stood on that bright green turf, heard our names announced over the PA system and received the cheers from thousands of fans across the ballpark.
No-one shouted the “n-word.”
No-one threw bags of peanuts at us.
No-one audibly disrespected us.
Our families and friends cheered with the crowd in support of our achievements. It was a shining moment for all of Boston and us.
As a diversity trainer and speaker, I choose to look at the glass half filled. The days of forced busing in South Boston are long gone. The confrontations and racial divisiveness of the past have been replaced by a city that is now a progressive international destination that welcomes the world. We condemn the actions of ignorant fans who can’t let go of their racism. They have been ejected from Fenway Park and shouldn’t be accepted anywhere else. They do exist, and I grudgingly acknowledge their existence. But they do NOT represent the life blood of a city that’s turning the corner and closing the chapter of its racial past, never worth reliving.
Bostonians are resilient as evident during the 2013 Marathon bombing. And Bostonians rose up last week, delivered a standing ovation, and told Adam Jones and the rest of the world that it’s a city too big to hate and too proud to let the actions of a few stand in the way of progress.
As an award-winning speaker, trainer and global thought leader, since 1987, Carole Copeland Thomas moderates the discussions of critical issues affecting the marketplace. She has her pulse on the issues affecting working professionals and regularly consults with industry leaders. She has spent 30 years cultivating relationships and partnerships with local, national and international sponsors, including Walmart, Amtrak and Emirates Airlines. Carole has worked with clients throughout the United States and seven foreign countries. Carole is the past president of The National Speakers Association -New England Chapter and is on the board of the Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau. Carole is a blogger and social media enthusiast using various technology platforms to enhance her business development activities.
Carole has been featured in the New York Times, Boston Globe, Black Enterprise, ABC Radio and CBS News.
She is the author of four books and is the Past National Vice Chair of the National Black MBA Association
Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau Multicultural Committee
Members of the GBCVB Multicultural Committee. Standing Left to Right: Turner Skenderian, Dr. ErinnTucker, Tiffany Probasco, Darrell LeMar, Ola Akinawuni Seated Left to Right: Suzanne Grogan, Carole Copeland Thomas, Michael Munn, Donna DuPee, Kelley Chunn
What’s Training, Talent and Talking Got To Do With It? Diversity and Multiculturalism In Today’s Society
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What should have been topics long ago off the table are more important than ever. Front and center in our current presidential campaign are diversity and multicultural issues. In our corporate boardrooms: diversity and multicultural issues. In our classrooms and teacher lounges: diversity and multicultural issues. In our work cubicles, office spaces, field sites, labs, departmental divisions, police stations and executive suites: diversity and multiculturalism. They are the topics that thread us together for better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health.
Diversity and multiculturalism are who we are and how we connect. We just need to find better opportunities to bridge the gap between enhancing our educational awareness of each other to yield better and more effective cooperative collaborations.
We’ll explore these twin topics during today’s program in our conversation with educator and community advocate Nancy Thompson. She’ll talk about an upcoming Community/Police Forum that will cover everything from racial profiling to drugs in our street.
Then I will walk you about three new events my company is producing to help drive the conversations forward: The November 3rd Multicultural Conference and our upcoming public trips to India and Cuba.
Topics that should pique your interest. Topics that should expand your thoughts and actions in relevant and amazing new ways.
CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THE NOV 3rd MULTICULTURAL CONFERENCE
CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT OUR TRIPS TO INDIA AND CUBA
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