How To Succeed In Business Without Being White

Publisher Earl G. Graves gives Black Enterprisereaders an exclusive first look at the advice and experiences he shares in his new book

to be pushed. That is standing in harm’s way. It is the only way if we are to be in this game.

The racists will say, Why should blacks get preferential treatment? Why should we allow you to become millionaires? Your response to that is that we don’t want to be given anything. We only want the opportunity to run the race wearing the same track shoes they wear, rather than combat boots.

Affirmative action was intended to make opportunities available, not to guarantee success. Anyone who has administered it otherwise has corrupted the intent. Anyone who says it is something else is wrong. We don’t need guarantees–the pages of BLACK ENTERPRISE are proof of that. We only want to be free of the discrimination and racism that persist at all levels of business–the Texaco tapes are proof of that.

I believe it is abundantly clear that the bottom line today is this: The vast majority of white America doesn’t much care about whether you and I succeed in business, or even whether we make it home tonight. Nor should they, necessarily. But that leaves you and me with each other, and if I get mine and say the hell with you, that makes for two lost people.

PHOTO (COLOR): Passing the torch, Ebony’s John Johnson passed his seat on Chrysler’s Board of Directors to publisher Graves.

PHOTO (COLOR): Reaching down while stepping up the ladder is what made Roy Roberts B.E. Executive of the Year.

Excerpted from How to Succeed in Business Without Being White, by Earl G. Graves. Copyright Copyright 1997. Reprinted by arrangement with HarperBusiness. To order your copy for $25.00 plus $3.95 per copy shipping and handling, call 212-886-9622.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?
We must ask ourselves continually what we can do to help those coming up behind or working alongside us. Here are examples of how anyone can contribute to the creation of greater opportunities for all African Americans in business.

Be an opportunity spotter. If you hear of a job opening and you know of someone qualified, tell them, alert other African Americans to the opportunity, and if you are in a position to help them, go to the company’s employment office and recommend those you think are qualified. If no blacks are interviewed, it’s your duty to find out why by going to the supervisor and inquiring. You don’t have to be confrontational. Simply ask what you can do to make sure that blacks are given the same opportunities to succeed as others in the workplace.

Be a quiet champion for fair treatment. No matter what your business is or where you work, you can be vigilant, not only for opportunities for African Americans, but for instances in which you can improve the treatment of blacks. If you’re working at a bank and it’s discriminatory in making loans to black people, let your superiors know that even if they are not concerned with fairness, they ore missing a business opportunity by failing to recognize the importance of the black consumer market.

You can make your point with statistics rather than shouting or open confrontation. Show them the numbers. In the year 2000, you may not be able to sell “Do the right thing” to employers. That dog won’t hunt. But if you show them that it makes business and financial sense to include African Americans, they will be more inclined to see the light.

Monitor charitable contributions by your business or corporation. If you see that agencies and charities that benefit African Americans are not part of the giving strategy, push for inclusion by making the point that contributing to the betterment of black America is helping to build the nation’s overall strength. Again, it isn’t about being charitable to  African Americans in need, it’s about acting responsibly for the good of all Americans.

Try to help others understand the value of sharing the responsibility for fairness. I have been serving on corporate boards for 25 years, and there are times when it is simply better for someone else to carry the fight against discrimination and racism, or you don’t have the necessary clout. Sometimes, you’re not in a position to raise the matter. At those times, rather than doing nothing, go to someone you trust within your organization and help them see how it would benefit them and

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