Nearly 80 colleagues attended the first installment of the Living (IT) While Black: The Boardroom series on Friday, March 12, 2021.
Big thanks to Richard Outten and Jeremy Bandini for their courage. Richard and Jeremy, both managers with direct reports and hiring ability, began by acknowledging their discomfort as white men talk about race – and then they dove right in!
“I’m not necessarily in the boardroom but I do participate. I see what people look like and the lack of diversity. I’m uncomfortable because I’m a white guy. It’s a sensitive subject and I want to treat it with as much respect as I possibly can,” Jeremy said.
It was a powerful kickoff to the series. The following are highlights from the conversation.
Please be sure to join us next Tuesday for the next installment of Living (IT) While Black: The Boardroom with our next event:
Mary McKee & Nick Tripp
3 – 4 p.m., Tuesday, March 23
Meeting ID: 966 1090 2507; Passcode: 076046
Living (IT) While Black: The Boardroom
Richard Outten and Jeremy Bandini – Excerpts from the March 12th Discussion
On the impact of Living (IT) While Black series:
Richard: This series got me thinking. I grew up playing basketball in middle, high school and college. During those time, I had posters of Black men all over my wall. Michael Jordan, Dominique Wilkins, Hakeem Olajuwon. I looked up to them but didn’t realize the pressures and challenges they went through.
I have a daughter who is a senior in high school. It’s been easier for me to relate to the struggles of women in tech because I have a daughter. The Living (IT) While Black series caught me a little off guard … hearing the stories brought up memories of what I didn’t talk about with my Black teammates.
Jeremy: Our hands are a little bit tied by the way the system is set up. What I’ve learned from Living (IT) While Black and the murder of George Floyd is, I think I understand and have empathy but when I stop and listen more, it’s not just hearing what you said, it’s feeling what you said. And I know for a fact that this particular series had me really listening to heartfelt stories.
Can they do more as leaders?
Jeremy: Each time something happens like Tamir Rice or Breonna Taylor, it reinforces what I already know. Each time I’m less surprised. Those shocking things that I am reading about and discussing with my family and telling my children about, made me very aware of my position.
I’m going to have to look for ways to do better using my privilege. In the past I thought HR takes care of diversity. All I’m doing is hiring a person to do a role. Then I think it’s self-evident that I could have done better.
Richard: This all goes back to basketball and coaching and bringing the team together. Everyone has things they can contribute. In college we had a diverse team of various skills and you kinda didn’t want it to end. We worked together so well, how can we keep this going? In a roundabout way that’s what I’ve tried to apply here at Duke.
On feeling what Black colleagues might feel:
Richard: I went to camp in Georgia for all star players. I was one of few white players. …But it was one time and for a few days, but to have that impression [of being the only one] every time you go into a meeting…
On not seeing Black people in leadership meetings:
Jeremy: Now it’s getting silly. I have definitely noticed when the room is white. It needs to be relentlessly pounded in. I pay more attention to how the person is treated. I learn from women, my sister, my wife and daughter. I’m always aware of how women are treated, like when someone talks over a woman. Now I am aware of how Black people are treated. … I think looking out for people is good.
On normalizing talking about race:
Richard: I felt like I always had to tiptoe around it. Like, is it African American? This series allowed me to just say Black. That’s what resonated with me with the series. We can do better by keeping this conversation going.
Jeremy: Make things awkward. I don’t know how many times I’ve been out somewhere and someone says something racist and looks to me for validation on their racist thing. Now I’ve challenged myself to make people uncomfortable. I just make it so terribly uncomfortable for them. I’m ready to be supportive.
Director of Communications