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A Good Investment for Our Community

Diversity training is a step we should embrace

Roy Jay | 7/17/2014, 11:42 a.m.
Roy Jay

Most recently, there have been articles and comments about Mayor Charlie Hales, Chief Police Mike Reese and other police officers attending a race diversity conference for white men in Welches that cost an estimated $56,000.

Now there two sides to this coin. Critics complain that taxpayer’s money was spent for a few days to have a select group of white men, in a remote location, hear and feel the message of being comfortable with diversity. On the other side, there are some people of color in an uproar as to why the conference only included white men.

Let’s face facts, Portland and Oregon are known as the whitest city and state on the west coast. It’s nothing to be ashamed about nor nothing to brag about. The secret here is how both public and private sector leadership know how to be inclusive rather than exclusive.

But the demographics of Portland and the entire state is changing. This is not your grandfather’s state. You can’t use the same methods in today’s game. By learning about diversity, Mayor Hales, Chief Reese and others have taken some important steps in a journey that will help make our entire community better.

Many people do not realize that diversity in your workplace and neighborhoods affect you in many different ways. A well-known Portland law firm told me several years ago that one of the reasons that they were able to land a huge national retailer was simply because they had a diverse workforce including women, gay, lesbian, African American and Latinos. They went beyond traditional “good faith” hiring efforts and decided to walk the walk and talk the talk. It paid off in big dividends.

When strategic evaluators are looking at cities and regions for business expansion, investment and other opportunities they look far beyond the customary facts and figures. Is your company, your city, your organization a leader or a follower?

So let’s get back to the $56,000, a drop in the bucket and good investment for the future of our community. After all, I have seen charity golf tournaments that cost five to ten times more with little if any benefit for the end user.

A retreat to help you become a better leader and grasp issues of race with a much clearer understanding and appreciation speaks volumes.

Please do not think that Chief Reese and Mayor Hales are taking bold steps. Simply go to DiversityInc.com and read the articles entitled “Ask the White Guy.” This website, magazine and blog were started well over 30 years ago by a white guy who recognized the need and benefit of inclusion. He simply decided to take it to the next level and has millions of readers and partners.

It is important for everyone to try and have an understanding of our neighbor’s culture. Every day you need to put on a jacket to embrace others of different genders, cultures and lifestyles.

Portland is changing and the old system will kill us all and put us further behind other cities that are not drinking the same old Kool Aid. At the same time, hopefully, the next step is to have a diversity workshop retreat in which people of color can also sit and become more informed and educated about how to live in a more harmonious atmosphere.

This cannot be a one day street. Anyone that simply tells you that it’s all the white man’s fault has the same dumb mentality as the person that points to African Americans and Latinos and want to label them all as “less than.”

Yes, Portland has many Donald Sterlings in our community. They are in all colors, shapes and sizes. It is our community responsibility to help remove the cancer of racism before it spreads to our children and grandchildren. A weekend retreat on diversity for city officials is just a start, but commended.

Roy Jay is President and chief executive officer of the African American Chamber of Commerce as well as the Alliance of Minority Chambers.