Megyn Kelly's problems began long before her 'blackface' comments. Corporate America needs to step up

The recent incident involving NBC's Megyn Kelly, whose ill-advised and historically flawed defense of blackf...

Posted: Oct 31, 2018 9:20 PM
Updated: Oct 31, 2018 9:20 PM

The recent incident involving NBC's Megyn Kelly, whose ill-advised and historically flawed defense of blackface has now led to her show being canceled by the network, is a prime example of why it is so important to have work environments that are not simply diverse, but inclusive and equitable.

These work environments don't simply come into existence. It requires planning, investment from company leaders at the highest level, and a commitment to supporting and nurturing diverse, inclusive work teams. It's something that NBC seems to be learning.

Celebrities

Discrimination

Diversity

Human resources and personnel management

Labor and employment

Megyn Kelly

Racism and racial discrimination

Societal issues

Society

Workplace diversity

While some might frame the Kelly issue as "political correctness run amok," in reality it demonstrates how an individual's blind spots, if not brought to light through dialogue and engagement with people who have various perspectives and life experiences, can lead to embarrassment and the all-too-familiar corporate apology cycle. Corporate mea culpas do little to alter the structures that created the problem to begin with.

Nobody has perfect knowledge of the social and political realities that everyone faces in our society. However, that doesn't absolve us of the need to constantly educate ourselves. And regarding an issue as obvious as the offensive nature of blackface, it speaks to an especially problematic blind spot for Kelly, who once previously declared that Santa Claus is white.

This is how white supremacy works: It blinds people with privilege to the skewed reality in which they reside.

The most effective way to defend against racist and stereotypical imagery is to create work environments where there is both representation and power held by individuals who have been historically oppressed. This goes beyond the tokenized "diversity hire." This is about reimagining organizational cultures that ask hard questions and engage in critical dialogues that result in outcomes that respect the humanity of all people.

The day after Kelly's comments, she invited two African-American commentators, Roland Martin and Amy Holmes, to a discussion about the impact of her comments. While a positive step, it leaves the question: Shouldn't Kelly's production room and staff feature voices such as Martin's and Holmes' on a daily basis?

Having the ability to talk through an important topic such as cultural appropriation, colorism and the legacy of Jim Crow laws before the cameras come on is a resounding endorsement for the power of workplaces that are not simply diverse — which is representation — but are inclusive, where historically marginalized populations are involved in decision making and the direction of the organization. An inclusive and equitable organization would have had multiple voices around the table discussing this topic. This may have resulted in a decision to take an educational approach: "Here's why blackface is problematic," rather than posing it as an open question on Kelly's show.

We need to step beyond just having people of different backgrounds in the room; that's not sufficient. An organization that brings in one person from a marginalized population risks tokenizing their presence. There's also the phenomenon of cultural taxation — placing the burden of all issues related to their identity on the shoulders of that individual alone — which can lead to burnout.

Kelly asked, "How do we talk about race and our country's history with race, and have a real conversation?" Holmes responded, "With information, with sensitivity, and with also the knowledge that as a country we have struggled — paid a very dear price, and we continue to do — to try to be a country where we have dignity toward each other and different racial groups."

I would add two other attributes to the list: humility and empathy.

Any organization with a focus on equity and inclusion will have to embody these qualities — both institutionally and in its leaders. Unpacking the societal baggage that contributes to racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia and ableism, for example, means that leaders will find themselves taking stands that challenge the status quo. But isn't this the essence of leadership?

At a time where many Americans are concerned that our moral and ethical compass is breaking, we are in desperate need of people and actions that articulate values of inclusion and respect for all people. We need bravery in confronting not only the extraordinary, but also the mundane and everyday ways that discrimination, prejudice and oppression are perpetuated in society.

Empathy is essential to understand that our identity greatly shapes our reality, and for those of us with an identity that is of dominant or majority status, we are often unaware of the realities for people whose identities are marginalized. Equitable and inclusive workplaces provide organizations and individuals with a bridge to understand those communities that resist oppression on a daily basis.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 61125

Reported Deaths: 1711
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds5269106
DeSoto332627
Madison229756
Harrison215232
Rankin214628
Jackson199434
Jones177457
Forrest164053
Washington149232
Lauderdale132988
Lee123930
Neshoba119788
Lamar112112
Oktibbeha105435
Lowndes98932
Warren96427
Scott95517
Bolivar94832
Copiah91724
Panola91211
Sunflower90822
Lafayette88111
Holmes84747
Leflore84059
Pike83232
Grenada81320
Yazoo78611
Leake76825
Lincoln74540
Pontotoc7377
Wayne73321
Simpson71227
Monroe70250
Coahoma66310
Tate65023
Marion60118
Covington58811
Adams58425
Marshall5718
Winston57115
George5475
Union53113
Newton51611
Attala49824
Tallahatchie49310
Pearl River48536
Walthall45318
Chickasaw43819
Noxubee41910
Claiborne40013
Smith38013
Calhoun3788
Jasper3768
Clay37013
Alcorn3574
Prentiss3426
Hancock33614
Tishomingo3204
Lawrence3135
Tippah31212
Yalobusha31210
Itawamba30710
Clarke30025
Montgomery2933
Tunica2786
Humphreys27111
Carroll24511
Greene22611
Quitman2251
Kemper22315
Perry2227
Amite2105
Jefferson Davis2026
Webster19912
Jefferson1936
Wilkinson18712
Sharkey1801
Stone1523
Choctaw1274
Benton1250
Franklin1162
Issaquena211
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 90890

Reported Deaths: 1611
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson11859225
Mobile9086191
Montgomery6249143
Madison501425
Tuscaloosa397463
Baldwin321023
Shelby305032
Marshall296630
Unassigned273453
Lee250540
Morgan222315
Etowah193026
DeKalb170113
Elmore160237
Calhoun15609
Walker147063
Houston131912
Dallas128823
Russell12331
St. Clair121712
Franklin119620
Limestone119613
Cullman114111
Colbert109312
Lauderdale107112
Autauga102420
Escambia97915
Talladega91813
Jackson8283
Chambers82138
Tallapoosa81478
Dale78520
Butler75235
Blount7363
Chilton7106
Coffee7095
Covington70920
Pike6607
Barbour5635
Lowndes55224
Marion54224
Marengo52014
Clarke4869
Hale45926
Bullock43811
Perry4294
Winston42911
Wilcox4059
Monroe3914
Randolph38810
Bibb3743
Conecuh37310
Pickens3679
Sumter36118
Lawrence3100
Washington31011
Macon30913
Crenshaw2863
Choctaw27412
Henry2453
Cherokee2427
Greene24211
Geneva2320
Clay2175
Lamar1982
Fayette1745
Cleburne1211
Coosa922
Out of AL00
Tupelo
Broken Clouds
84° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 88°
Columbus
Few Clouds
84° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 90°
Oxford
Few Clouds
81° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 84°
Starkville
Clear
82° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 85°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather