I grew up in what was, and what still is, the whitest county in the Baltimore-Washington Metro Region. And to this day every time I leave my North Carolina suburb and travel up to my hometown of Westminster, MD I am jarred by the complete and utter lack of cultural diversity.
The question about how a county within one of the most diverse metro regions in the nation could be so white, drove my intellectual interests through undergrad and into grad school. The naive and historically inaccurate response would be, “well it’s always been like that.”
But it hasn’t. Over the decades the county has grown with transplants from other parts of the metro region, and that growth has been overwhelmingly white.
But here in North Carolina’s research triangle, things are different…right?
There is a very large number of Indian immigrant families in and around my neighborhood, and that is reflected in the schools and local programs. As such, my daughter attends a school where she is not racially or culturally in the majority.
I work out of a co-working space that is filled with people who have very different racial and cultural backgrounds. A community that is very much reflective of the overall Triangle. Simply walking from table to table creates a portrait of the Triangle.
Living in a diverse community is something I appreciate…
And then I find myself in a situation where I am again surrounded by whiteness.
Why Hiring Clean Inc. Showcases a Common BlindSpot in the Triangle and Beyond.
RALEIGH, N.C. (MARCH 29, 2018) – Clean, an award-winning integrated branding agency, announced today it was named the agency of record for The Research Triangle Park (RTP), the largest high-technology and research park in North America and the home to more than 250 businesses and 48,000 workers. Clean will provide overall strategic branding and integrated marketing support to The Research Triangle Foundation, the nonprofit entity that manages RTP, as the Foundation undertakes the first major redevelopment in RTP’s history, the Park Center initiative.
The agency has everything you would expect from an award-winning integrated branding agency. The portfolio of clients is indicative of a highly successful and professional agency.
I mean just look at this list. It’s a true Who’s Who of the Triangle business/not-for-profit community.
So what is the problem?
I love the park and the Frontier has been my professional home for the last two years. The space has provided me with an incredibly high level of support, friendship, and community.
My business would not be where it is if not for the Frontier.
Just this week I had a fantastic conversation with a qualitative researcher employed by Clean Inc. who was looking to get a sense of the culture within the Frontier. Having been a daily work resident here, and past recipient of the prestigious “CoWorker of the Month” honor, I was more than happy to provide input.
I also had high hopes for their creative process as it mirrored my own qualitative-research based approaches. That is until I took a quick visit to their site.
Take a look at these captures from Clean, Inc’s people page.
I ask, what do you see?
All of these people could be brilliant. But that’s not what other people see.
I spent a couple of hours walking around the Frontier talking to my co-working colleagues. I pulled up the site and said, “I want you to look at my screen and tell me what you see.”
Then I started slowing scrolling down the people page.
1/3 -1/2 of the way down, they tend to point out that the team looks incredibly white.
At the end of the page I ask, “where do you think this team is from?” I hear…”North Dakota, Alaska, [other state that seems like it might be incredibly white].”
And I say, “no, that’s probably the top Raleigh branding company, and here is a list of their clients…”
And then our conversation ends with either quiet reflection or outrage.
Our race problem goes well beyond Hollywood.
“I have two words to leave with you tonight, ladies and gentlemen: inclusion rider.”
The quote comes from Frances McDormand’s 2018 Oscar Speech.
An inclusion rider demands a certain level of diversity on the sets of film. And this NPR article will give you a fuller background on the concept and how it works.
But the world that we see is constructed by what is often largely unseen. And for years, the creative industry has had a diversity problem behind the camera, the website, and the youtube video. And this lack of behind the scenes diversity is a factor that is rarely noticed.
We need inclusion riders in all creative contracts. And if the big companies complain about not having the creative talent they need to fill the quotas… well, that’s kinda the point.
Because the talent does exist and we can see it in the many diverse talented folks you will meet in and around the triangle. But if you don’t notice in your own backyard, or choose not to look, change won’t happen.