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OPINION

Diversity in business is about expanding networks

'Who ought to know about this opportunity?'

Maureen Alphonse-Charles (center-left) with her husband and two children.
Maureen Alphonse-Charles (center-left) with her husband and two children.Maureen Alphonse-Charles

Racism is not just about the haves versus the have-nots. It happens at the highest echelons and at the lowest, always showing its face in different, yet familiar ways. At the corporate level, there are still microaggressions. There’s still this notion of Black people being invisible. And there are still people saying, “Let me continue to always do things the way I have, with those that I feel are just like me.”

In recruiting efforts, for example, every time there’s a search, the conversation often turns to “Who do I know?” as opposed to “Who ought to know about this opportunity, and how do I expand my network to include those people?”

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The kind of careful work that we’re having to do with the police department is the same work that corporate entities need to do right now. Businesses and organizations need to understand that if we look around the table and all the voices are not included, then we’re missing the true dialogue. “Diversity and inclusion” is really about bringing those issues to the forefront in a careful way. Let’s look at our numbers, let’s look at the number of people in the city who are Black professionals or professionals of color, and let’s ask ourselves: “Is this organization really reflective of all of our communities in Boston?”

Twenty years ago, I ran race dialogues in my town. My children were on the way, and I was really concerned that people in my own community hadn’t had those conversations. I had the chief of police there, I had the editor of the newspaper there, and the community had rich dialogue for over a year. It eventually morphed into a lot of smaller conversations, but years later, the question remains: Is it enough to impact the system, so that we don’t get another George Floyd? So that my own children don’t feel threatened because of how they look when they walk through the door? It’s there, at the system level, where there’s still a lot of work to be done.

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At the time I started those conversations I felt like progress was being made, and so I try to remember that it has always taken many years for change to occur. I’m staying optimistic, in part because we have no choice. We have to believe in change in order for it to happen, and I do believe that it will happen. It’s just like the Dr. King saying goes: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

Maureen Alphonse-Charles is a business consultant in Milton. For more in this series go to bostonglobe.com/opinion/black-voices-now.