"I've had two law suits
in the past three years. . ."
When I started this business twenty three years ago, everyone looked like me or my brother Scott. We're not good looking by any means, but we're white, clean-cut, decent Americans with a respect for the flag, Jesus, and all the things that made this country great.
Over the years I've had to change up a lot of things. Because I didn't want to sky-rocket my wages, the people who work for me aren't what I'm used to.
Some of them are old, some are kids. I even got a guy in my plant who can't speak a word of English. He's from some African country - I don't think he even knows who his mother is. His father is still back in the jungle somewhere.
This whole thing has been a struggle for me. I'm ready to admit it. I have had two law suits in the past three years and that isn't fun.
I know there's lots of "training" out there for people like me. I've had them in my plant over the years.
But what do you say to a guy like me, Kristine? I'm an old dog, Some of this stuff is new tricks.
I like your Mad Men website - and I bet you've got a new take on all this.
Dear Byron - Bless your heart! And thanks for thinking that a logo of MADMEN indicates a new take on diversity. What a generous attitude!
Sad to say, you're wrong.
The only take on diversity I can offer is the same-old, same-old. And that's this - - the world is changing, Mr Byron. If you want to stay on board, you have to learn the lay of the land.
You may (or may not) know this - but I'm based in Minnesota; land of 10 thousand lakes, 5 thousand trout and several million Germans and Scandinavians. I was raised by immigrant Swedes.
Let me tell you - no one holds a grudge, keeps a prejudice or honors a promise better than a Swede.
There are many fine qualities about my people - we're great workers, wonderful wives and husbands and terrific citizens. Open minded? Not on your life.
I've spent most of my adult life recovering from the limited scope of my Swedish upbringing. I love my family - would never speak against any of them (well... except for my father, and only if you caught me in a weak moment) but tolerance and acceptance of differences were not part of their vocabularies. Instead, we worked to conform and to help others conform to our approach to life.
So, Byron - your willingness to learn is heart warming to me.
My suggestion is similar to the ones you have all ready heard, I'm certain. If you want to be a better citizen in this diverse society, you must do the following:
- Keep your heart open. Remember always, that our common walk is a difficult one. Those of us who are white, middle class and well spoken have an advantage over so many others.
- Honor your privilege - if you had not been born where you were, when you were and to whom you were, you would not be who you are.
- And share your resources. Watch for the many qualities in others that you will never find in yourself - the playfulness, joy, enthusiasm, tribal/family focus of the people who do not look like us.
- Open your heart to the impetuousness of those who are younger than you - and to the wisdom and courage of those who are far older.
- Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy the many differences among us.
Byron, as an employer you have a great deal of power. You can make the day-to-day lives of your employees heaven, or a fresh slice of hot and unholy hell.
Look always for new ways to appreciate your employees. I will remember always the man for whom I worked who brought donuts on Thursdays - - every Thursday, donuts for all of us. A little thing, and greatly appreciated.
Praise your colleagues in the presence of others. Pass public recognition on to those who are under you. Give credit to young men and women, honor to your elders, and more money to the people of color who work for you.
All of this will serve you well - - and, as the bible tells us, these people will "rise up and call you blessed."