Expert: Now is the time to talk about race in the workplace

This moment in history calls for a broad reimagining of societal institutions, says UB expert Henry Louis Taylor Jr.

Release Date: June 29, 2020

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Portrait of Henry Louis Taylor Jr.
“One of the beautiful things about a lot of the reforms that we’re seeing is that people inside corporations and institutions are making demands or recommendations for change. ”
Henry Louis Taylor Jr., professor of urban and regional planning and founding director of the Center for Urban Studies
University at Buffalo

BUFFALO, N.Y. — As people across the U.S. take to the streets to protest racism and support Black Lives Matter, changes taking place inside workplaces, corporations and other societal institutions are equally powerful, says Henry Louis Taylor Jr., an expert at the University at Buffalo.

“The movement is not just on the streets. It’s throughout society in all of these different institutions,” Taylor says. “In location after location after location, there is an upswell. There are conversations, discussions going on, that have not taken place in years.

“I just want to really stress that at a moment like this, there really is a place for everyone. People can contribute to this movement in all kinds of big and small and subtle ways. That’s the beauty about this moment. One of the most important things that people can do today is voice their opposition to existing policies in their workplaces and institutions and say, ‘Can we do something about that?’”

Taylor, PhD, is a professor of urban and regional planning and the founding director of the Center for Urban Studies in the UB School of Architecture and Planning. His research focuses on a historical and contemporary analysis of underdeveloped urban neighborhoods, social isolation, and race and class issues among people of color.

Taylor believes this is a special moment in history: Mass protests are shifting public opinion, and COVID-19 has created a “transitional” period where businesses, schools and other institutions are already reinventing the way they operate, he says. As people and leaders reimagine what society should look like during and after the pandemic, racial justice should be at the forefront of discussions, he adds.

“Moments like the moment we’re going through are rare, and they don’t happen often,” Taylor says. “But when they happen, as I tell friends, whatever was on your agenda three weeks ago, get rid of it and create a new agenda, because now you have some possibilities to make things happen that simply did not exist before. And I think it’s a time to move boldly. We have the chance to create something that’s fundamentally different than what we already have.

“One of the beautiful things about a lot of the reforms that we’re seeing is that people inside corporations and institutions are making demands or recommendations for change. People inside these institutions know what needs to be changed. If we stay focused and continue to work in that capacity and step outside of our comfort zone, I think for decades to come, people will remember this moment as a turning point in U.S. society.”

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