A few days after the U.S. Election, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos received what he described as a “heartfelt” email from one of his employees, asking on behalf of the nine affinity groups at Amazon, if the company’s leadership will continue to support diversity and inclusion given the election outcome. The Affinity Groups have already been through a lot and they are seeking assurance.
Bezos responded quickly, stating his continued commitment to diversity and inclusion, and zero tolerance for harassment of any kind. He also wrote, “We’re a company of builders whose diverse backgrounds, ideas, and points of view are critical to helping us invent on behalf of all our customers. But it’s not only that diversity and inclusion are good for our business. It’s more fundamental than that — it’s simply right. These are enduring values for us—and nothing will change that.”
When I first read this story on GeekWire, I felt unexpectedly moved. I could see myself as that employee asking the powers that be, “Are you still in? Are you still with us or do we need to just fend for ourselves?” I was impressed with Bezos’ response to the employee: Yes, of course. Not because of a bunch of business reasons – though they are valid – but because it’s the right thing to do.
As a person of color, I find myself wondering what will happen to diversity and inclusion in my industry (tech) in the years to come. I wonder about the global talent pool on H1 business visas, whether or not they will continue to want to, or be able to, come to the US. I wonder about the gender and ethnic numbers, whether funding will continue for programs and training to help managers be aware of their biases and grow in cross-cultural leadership. I wonder about ethnic minority employees and our continued flourishing in predominantly white organizations.
As a follower of Jesus, I find myself wondering the same for white churches, denominations, seminaries and institutions. White churches may acknowledge their lack of ethnic diversity, but few commit to making it a priority. For white seminaries and institutions, there’s at least a metric for ethnic diversity, and some are actively working to improve their numbers. But still, for most of these institutions, no one is held accountable for these numbers. Where I currently work, the senior leadership’s compensation is tied to our diversity and inclusion metrics. I don’t think the same can be said of white Christian institutions.
But these are just numbers – the tip of the iceberg. Racial equality and justice will require much deeper work.
Just as the Amazon employee asked Jeff Bezos, I believe we as followers of Jesus are asked by our co-workers, our neighbors, if we are still in, if we are still committed. Jeff represents the leadership of his company, we represent a Just and Gracious God.
Church, are we still in?
In the coming months and years, let’s continue to ponder what this means for us at work, in our neighborhoods, churches and institutions. We need to be deeply engaged in each other’s narratives and lend our voices to groups outside our own. Let’s act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our God. By our words and actions, may we show the world that we are ALL in.
“He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8, New Revised Standard Version).
Schlosser, K. (November 14, 2016), Jeff Bezos email reaffirms Amazon’s commitment to ‘tolerance and diversity’ after Trump win [Online article], Retrieved from: http://www.geekwire.com/2016/jeff-bezos-email-reaffirms-amazons-commitment-tolerance-diversity-trump-win/