Together, we can make a difference: A 12-step plan to address racism and unconscious bias

June 16, 2020

By Kimberly Ellison-Taylor, CPA, CGMA for Journal of Accountancy

Tragic, sad, and unbelievable are just a few of the words to describe COVID-19. Those words apply as well to the most recent events involving Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Christian Cooper, and George Floyd. The events involving Black and African Americans have been hurtful, shocking, and polarizing.

But here is where the similarities stop. With the COVID-19 pandemic, there is targeted funding, expected outcomes, and accountability, as well as the best and the brightest minds working together on treatment plans and a vaccine. With over 100,000 pandemic-related deaths in the United States and more expected, COVID-19 requires a basic understanding of the threat, consistent safety precautions, individual accountability, and new thinking about how we work and interact.

We need similar resources and focus to address the consequences of systemic racism and unconscious bias. Instead, in the pre-pandemic environment, we noted more than a few cases of “changing direction” in diversity and inclusion with less funding, reduced headcount, and less organization-wide emphasis. Further, in many instances, diversity and inclusion was managed far below the top leadership, and its approach has been mostly risk-management-based, with a focus on what “not to do” rather than how to achieve lasting change.

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