when this worker, Reggie Harris, came into his office and confronted him with what sounded like a challenge.
“You’re a good guy, but you don’t know crap about building a car, do you?” Harris asked his new boss.
Roberts, who once worked on the assembly line of an aerospace parts manufacturer but began at GM after college as a management trainee, admitted to Harris that he didn’t have intimate knowledge of the automotive assembly line, to say the least.
The line worker nodded, and said, “We’re going to teach you.” Over the next several weeks, Harris and several other black workers did just that. After hours, they took Roberts through the process. “They taught me how to build a car,” he recalls. “They wanted me to succeed.”
Those assembly line workers may have worn blue collars, but they had more vision and a deeper understanding of what it’s going to take for African Americans to secure economic independence in this country than many executives I know. It’s going to take that kind of spirit of cooperation.
No matter where you are in your career or business, there is always something you can do and someone you can help in order to strengthen the entire black community. None of us can afford to say, “I’ve got mine. You get your own.” Anyone with that attitude, and we all know people who have it, should be aware that the day will come when he or she needs help and there will be no one there.
The attitude that all African Americans in business must adopt if we’re all going to compete for opportunities is that of mutual assistance. If you reach the upper rungs in your own business or in the corporate world, you must feel duty bound to reach out and point out. Why are there no black lawyers in the firms we deal with? Why does this airline have so few black pilots? Shouldn’t some of these contracts go to black- owned subcontractors? Open doors, ask questions, push the point when it needs