Published: June 2, 2020 By


namesAmerica is in crisis and our hearts are breaking. It isn’t just one thing. It is the combination, and the fact that things are all happening at the same time: the disproportionate compound risks faced by communities of color, the structural disparities in access to health care, personal safety, and opportunity based on race, the data showing that African-Americans are dying at three times the rate from COVID-19 as white Americans, and that Indian Reservations - if they were to be counted as states - would have the top 5 death rates from the novel coronavirus, with NYC coming in at #6. The crisis isn't just the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and so many others, or the fact that black American men are 2.5 times more likely to be killed by police than white Americans. It is everything at once that is so intolerable and so combustible. It is the fact that these current intolerable injustices are just the latest in centuries of violence against black and brown people on this land.

At CESR we work on issues of Justice, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Identity. Our focus is on the business environment. But the business world is a reflection of society. Who gets a seat at the table is first established in childhood with access to education, with how teachers treat children and the ways they respond with opportunities or punishments to children’s behavior. It starts with the neighborhoods we live in, the ways policy and finance shape access to upward mobility, and the ways our public officials respond to the need for safe water, housing, high quality food and jobs. This is the context in which corporate diversity and inclusion programs operate, and which makes them necessary.

We are heartened to know that our school is committed to creating an environment in which all students can reach their full potential, which believes that diversity is strength, and which actively works to instill a sense of purpose and strong values in future leaders. In that spirit we are sharing with you some words of wisdom and insight from thought leaders at the Leeds School of Business and First Peoples Worldwide, as well as a roundup of resources that we urge you to use in your own journey toward justice. We are grieving alongside communities of color, and recognize that their anger and pain are far greater and more important than our own. We believe fundamentally that we can make the world better, but not without those of us who benefit from racism and systems of oppression recognizing our responsibility to fix what is so broken in our society and taking meaningful action. 

As CESR Interim Director, Julie Waggoner, says “We need to recognize that we are a white-woman-led organization, and for all white folx social and racial justice has to start with the internal work of recognizing our own racism and constantly questioning and challenging our own thoughts and actions. Asking not the unhelpful ‘Is what I just thought/said/did racist?’ (if you have to ask, the answer is likely yes), but rather ‘How much did my own racism play a role in that thought/statement/action, and how so?’”

We invite you to join us.

Phil DiStefano, CU Boulder Chancellor:

As I see national news stories about the death of George Floyd and other recent acts of racism, I reflect on the conversations I had earlier this year with our students about these very issues. 

Even though a global pandemic is keeping us apart from each other, I share in your pain, anger and sadness. When we see acts of racism, it affects us deeply and takes a physical, mental and emotional toll. We must reach out and support each other as we process what has happened. For me, I will not lose hope. . . These intolerable injustices, whether they happen in Minnesota, New York or here in Colorado, strike at the core of everything we believe. Let me be clear: I am committed to diversity and inclusion of everyone on our campus. . .

As a campus community, it is incumbent on us to encourage civil discourse that lifts us all from this darkness. Universities can be, and must be, at the heart of social change. As a campus, we continuously work to cultivate a diverse, inclusive and welcoming community. We best illustrate this through our moral actions when we see injustice, close to home or far away. . . 

Carla Fredericks, Director, American Indian Law Clinic, University of Colorado Law School, Director, First Peoples Worldwide, University of Colorado and Faculty Affiliate, Center for Ethics and Social Responsibility, University of Colorado Leeds School of Business:

Native Americans are disproportionately impacted by both the negative effects of COVID-19 and the under and over-policing of their communities. Historic and ongoing human rights violations have created conditions such as under-resourced health care systems and lack of access to running water that have predisposed Indigenous communities to the worst impacts of the global pandemic.

Additionally, Native Americans experience a disproportionately high rate of violence and death from police interactions. The militarized use of force that we are witnessing across the country is reminiscent of the force used against the water protectors during the #nodapl Dakota Access Pipeline movement.

First Peoples Worldwide is collecting resources and suggested reading on the website and have also written a couple articles including:

Additional Recommended Resources include:

Sabrina Volpone, Director, Diversity and Identity Management Lab, Leeds School of Business:

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for society -and organizations- to consider the topic of ethical leadership and to do so through a diversity and inclusion lens. This need is illustrated with statistics that show successful COVID-19 crisis-related outcomes (e.g., reduced hospitalizations, infection rates, and deaths, the ease of country-wide lockdowns) are associated with the type of leadership that heads of state are exhibiting. Ethical leadership focused on diversity and inclusion could truly make a difference in society and in our organizations. For example, COVID-19 is disproportionately affecting Black and Native American communities. This is in addition to ample reports of overt and subtle racism that many members of the Asian community have endured related to COVID-19 and the concerns about domestic violence victims confined at home with their abusers through stay at home orders. These societal concerns impact organizations and workers alike, but there are further employee-specific concerns that show why the topic of ethical leadership and diversity are needed in our organizations specifically to address additional concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic. For instance, requirements to wear masks in workplaces present barriers for the deaf and hard of hearing community (many of whom use lip reading and facial expressions as key elements in their communication) and the trend to work from home has shown that women’s careers have been disrupted as they become increasingly responsible for childcare and homeschooling while also working from home. These are just a few examples to show why organizations need to focus on the topic of ethical leadership and to do so through a diversity and inclusion lens.  

Ruby J. Batalla, Director, Office of Diversity Affairs, Leeds School of Business:

I’m having a hard time processing George Flyod’s murder on top of Ahmaud Arbery being hunted and killed-  and what has unfolded over the past week; the killing of a bystander in Louisville, KY, the attack of our press at rallies, peaceful protestors being cleared out for Trump to have a photo op and his continuous threats to communities of color. It’s a lot! And I think that’s what I want to share with you. Being from a minoritized group, with family members with mixed status, it continues to be exhausting being in an elevated and constant state of fear, on top of helping family survive (physically, economically, emotionally) through COVID-19. Trump’s policies were clear as he was campaigning and he’s delivering on them. To attack, vilify and kill all people of color in a variety of ways. That’s why I hope (and I’ve seen instances of this hope), that our white allies will become comrades in the fight and protect our brown and black bodies against his aggression and violence that he’s inciting. They have the most power to make necessary changes, they are in those positions of power to make it happen. And I ask that they continue to show up, not just when a public lynching happens.

Want to take learn more or take action? Check out these resources below. This is by no means an exhaustive list, it is just a way to get started.

Read some of the responses to current events from Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) practitioners, public leaders and news outlets:

What can you do? 

Want training, or to join a conversation about race and justice? CO based resources:

  • The Equity Project tools and trainings for businesses, local governments, nonprofits and community organizations 
  • The Denver Justice Project (DJP) works with historically marginalized communities to address systemic racism by transforming law enforcement and the structure of the criminal justice system
  • SURJ Denver (Showing Up for Racial Justice) offers training and action for white people who work for racial justice
  • Soul2Soul Sisters is a fiercely faith-based, Black Womxn-led, racial justice organization focused on Black healing and Black liberation. 
  • Creative Strategies for Change offers training and consulting on racial justice and related issues
  • Race Talk University run by Dr. Timothy Tyler, the Pastor of Shorter Community AME Church, Denver & Dr. Nita Mosby Tyler, The Chief Catalyst/Founder of the Equity Project, LLC and the HR Shop, is a 9 -week study action group on how to lead active conversations about racism and white supremacy 
  • The Second Tuesday Race Forum is a place to learn about Race in our lives through monthly conversations
  • CIRCLE/STAMP - “Connecting Inclusive, Responsive Communities Leading Education” promotes a commitment to diversity and inclusiveness 

Follow or get involved with Colorado based organizations working on racial justice:

Some resources that have been helpful in our journeys:

For educators working with children: