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insights culture 02.15.2023

the light we shine

how we can all do our part for a more equitable future

ira brown
DEI lead & manager, product training & enablement

Black History Month always seemed a bit unusual to me as a child. A former Army brat settling in South Carolina at age eight, I couldn’t fathom that I would be rejected by the “civilian” world; and yet for the first time in my life, I was now seen differently. I felt it in the school hallways and in everyday public spaces. I heard the inappropriate language in reference to me. Black history was rarely mentioned in school, and when it was, it was in brief, carefully crafted lessons on pioneering leaders who fought for our rights – taught by the few black teachers who occupied our classrooms. So how was I to fully understand our history’s significance?

In many parts of the United States, there remains little emphasis on black history. Today, many states have introduced bills or have taken measures to restrict and limit the teaching of Critical Race Theory – the study of racism at the systemic level. This means racial history is effectively being removed from the classroom, and black boys and girls are being deprived of learning about the great black leaders before them. Many landmark milestones, inventions, events and creative pieces would not exist without the likes of Maya Angelou, an inspirational writer; Arthur Ashe, a tennis champion; Muddy Waters, the “father of Chicago Blues;” Garrett Morgan, the creator of the traffic light; and Ruby Bridges, the first black girl integrated into public schools. The influential contributions of our black communities have had an undeniable impact on our society and culture, and yet are repeatedly and tragically unacknowledged and overlooked.

Placing a direct light on acts of oppression, like Critical Race Theory bans, is an important focus of Black History Month. Hiring bias is another recent example. Black men and women are often subject to racial discrimination in the interview process, sometimes just based on their name. Microaggressions against hair prompt derogatory and negative attitudes around a lack of professionalism. This list goes on…

If we are to resist and shift the dial, I believe bias on a person’s background – unconscious or conscious – needs to be eradicated from the hiring process. Anonymous hiring, a concept to come out of recent studies, helps to solve this. It removes a candidate’s personal information, like name or where a person is from, to eliminate bias during the screening phase. The challenge, however, is tackling bias in face-to-face interviews. This is where I feel education and awareness need to be amplified, tested and reinforced regularly within an organization.

At Choreograph, our people are being trained on unconscious bias in the workplace. Knowing how these biases show up and supporting our teams with the tools to address them, will enable our people to have greater awareness and understanding of each other’s uniqueness. But this is just a start. As lead for Choreograph’s DEI employee resource group, we have goals of introducing new and engaging ways to develop our skills, adjust our behaviors, and ensure that we facilitate an inclusive environment to every individual who is inspired by our technology, services, products and people.

The road ahead is a long one, but it begins with shining a light on racial inequality. From our places of work to our society at large. We can all work together to dismantle systemic racism and move forward in our thinking to lay the groundwork for a better world.

Ira Brown is the DEI lead and manager of product training & enablement for Choreograph. He is dedicated to the enrichment of young people, the amplification of black and LGBTQIA+ issues, whilst gaming and enjoying Korean hip-hop and pop music.

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