Helping and Converting one Person at a Time if Necessary!
Intimate Conversation with Black Pearls Magazine
Mr. Harris learned and enhanced his skills and processes for dealing with bias and racism over 30 years in the high tech workplace. As an executive for a minority managed public company, Mr. Harris dealt with customers such as GE, Apple, Philips, and AT&T often times as a partner and confidant to their management teams. His background at IBM and WANG got him started, but his experiences and learning heralded in this book give unique and valuable lessons and strategies for success with todays’ issues of bias and backlash in the workplace and our communities.
Mr. Harris is a passionate believer in every individual’s right to ‘thrive and survive’ in the business community. He continues to work as a consultant; coaching organizations and individuals seeking a better understanding and success in the business community.
BPM: Welcome Mr. Harris and congratulations on the new book. Can you tell us a little about your passion for writing and your inspiration for pursuing your dream of publishing?
My passion for writing this book has always been there. Growing up watching civil rights and experiencing poverty, racism and discrimination, I developed a passion for competing and outdoing my majority peers. Being an ardent reader, I imagined as a youth what the world could be like. While in college, I started developing story ideas for fiction and nonfiction books. Those ideas stayed with me in the ensuing years, and this first book has been on top of the pile for a decade.
BPM: Walk us through your journey to success. How did you get to this point? What has been your greatest challenge and how did you overcome it?
My journey to success starts with a proud black high school and HBCU (Morgan State) where strong positive influences brought me out of my shell and gave me a passion for continuing to develop myself and others. I went to work at IBM with confidence and communication skills (particularly an ability to talk to other cultures) that gave me opportunities to learn and prosper within their system and similarly with WANG Computers.
Ault Inc., a minority managed but publicly traded company, gave me a unique opportunity when WANG faltered. That opportunity (VP Sales and Marketing) has given me situations in management with employees, board members and with customers that required creative development or application of strategies to overcome bias and discriminatory practices (in the very vanilla hi-tec industry) almost daily.
Learning and developing those strategies kept me on the road to success and enabled me to stay Black and Proud regardless of the ignorant, biased and/or racial attitudes in the marketplace.
BPM: Was there anyone early in your career that recognized your talent and help cultivate it?
Fred Green was President of Ault and hired me. He recognized my skills for listening and analyzing business situations and individuals. He would turn me loose to improve processes and coach on people issues.
BPM: How do you stay on top of your game professionally?
I continue to read and educate myself almost daily.
BPM: How can one live authentic life, true to self, personally and professionally?
1) find a job occupation congruent with the best picture you have of who you want to be. 2) pursue your passions and embrace those on a similar path. 3) keep your family and who you are first in your life.
BPM: Could you tell us something about your most recent work? Give us some insight into your primary message within the book.
Overcoming Bias And Racism In Your Workspace: A Primer For Minorities In The Business Community is focused on keeping true to yourself while succeeding in business and converting racist and biased individuals and processes for the success of the individual and business. The message is 'To thine self be true', plan for success and convert the biased/racist/ignorant one person at a time if necessary.
BPM: What group of people should purchase your book, Overcoming Bias and Racism in Your Workspace: A Primer for Minorities in the Business Community?
Any minority by race, gender or economics who is looking for help, relief, or an edge in improving or starting their climb in the business world. I view this book as a worthy tool to help minorities for years to come. I want to make it available to graduating students and currently employed minorities, so that they can create a sound foundation for their futures and those coming behind them. .
BPM: Let’s spend some time defining the ills of our business sector. I’ll start with this question: Are we in a post-racial culture?
LOL. As long as we have racist, discrimination and prejudicial systems and behaviors (which we do in plenty) we are not! Many of the systems for racism and discrimination still need to be dismantled. All people need to understand and embrace other cultures. At the least, respect them.
BPM: Define racism. How are racism, sexism, and internalized racism defined?
It’s best defined by Alvea King, “Racism springs from the lie that certain human beings are less than fully human. It's a self-centered falsehood that corrupts our minds to believing we are right to treat others as we would not want to be treated.”
Internalized racism is when we take those lies and believe them, resulting in a self-hate and occlusion of who we really are.
Sexism is the same as racism, someone believes their gender or sexual orientation is by right superior to another.
BPM: How does racism manifest itself? Please share one way to stop racism.
Racism manifests itself in how one person treats another or another group of people. Most often deplorably. When it comes to racism in business, the first way to halt it is to thoughtfully call it out and challenge the other person on why they would do this. Ask them if would they do this to themselves, family, children or parents if they were in the position.
BPM: What kind of place would the world be if there were no racism?
People could have their opportunities, lives and success based on their personal performance and not skin color. That and an elimination of religious prejudice and perhaps there would be no more wars.
BPM: Have you ever been hurt by racism? Do you think that racism will ever go away?
I remember twice as a 7th grader in a small town and in 11th grade as part of an all black high school debate team hearing the following comments, as white people talked who didn't care if they were overheard:
"Yes he's better than the other three, but we're gonna cut him from this team. Hell, he might not even make it to high school, he lives on the other side of the tracks in coon town and he's got no family up here watching the try outs. These other dads would be pissed if we take him in front of their kids when we never have colored on the team."
And at a debate/speaking conference in Southern Ohio we heard “..stack them against #one and #two teams and get them outta here. Never gonna give a speech award to a black team.” “Never thought they would show up here. Make sure they lose quick and get them on their bus.” Those hurtful racist adults and their ignorance has been remembered.
BPM: What’s the difference between saying “racism” and “racial bias” in the workplace? Racism usually refers to an act or behavior that has a basis in explicit racist thinking (conscious) underlying the act or behavior. Racial bias is usually implicit bias, a demonstration of unconscious beliefs in play, i.e., (the belief) in stop and frisk laws used on African Americans.
BPM: What is meant by implicit bias?
Implicit bias, everyone has it to some degree. Bias that is based in our subconscious making us perceive or react to other individuals or situations in a particular and often learned way. Most are learned and reinforced early and may exist regardless of later educated beliefs and conscious commitments to different behaviors.
BPM: What would you say is the current trend over the past 20 years regarding discrimination?
Implicit bias still drives many of the decisions and practices employers use. Many of the current executives/mangers learned their bias 50 years ago. In addition, there is a growing amount of white backlash in response to diversity inclusion, college recruitment programs etc., witnessed by new minority limiting voter laws and the increasing amount of negative rhetoric towards minorities and immigrants as witnessed in our current election. The backlash has been especially prevalent in political activities over the last 20 years (drug laws, voting rights repeal, Supreme Court selections etc.) and more so now with the general population as economic issues affecting the majority underclass (jobs and income) in their minds caused by diversity, immigration and minority education programs. These 'beliefs' are continually stoked by some politicians and naysayers.
BPM: What is the difference between race discrimination and racial harassment? Discrimination is often passive, such as limiting a person by setting unfavorable laws rules and guidelines. Harassment is the direct action against people to dissuade, persecute and sometimes abuse.
BPM: How can employers avoid racial discrimination in hiring and promotions?
Blind hiring/interview approaches, equitable review systems with appropriate reviews by compliance and diversity professionals. Dismantling old processes and procedures that allow subjective and preferential decision making.
BPM: What should an employer do when someone has complained about race/color discrimination?
Take it seriously, initiate a 3rd party investigation.
BPM: What tips do you have for people facing racial discrimination at work?
Document, document, document. Escalate with management and involve HR immediately. If not blatant, still document, but learn how to react and deal with the individual or situation based on good people and business process. Read my book!
BPM: What were your goals in writing this book and how well do you feel you achieved them?
I feel good that I've created a book that can help people immediately. Employed or entering the work force, they can have the tools to meet the challenges of bias and racism head on. I don't want people to lose themselves or opportunities for growth and success as I've seen others do.
BPM: What advice would you give to a new business owner?
Create an open, caring leadership style. Make sure there are team building and structured activities for people to know each other and understand other cultures. Create an environment that embraces diversity in your workplace.
BPM: Do you feel as if your writing is making a positive impact on the world?
Absolutely! My review group and peers are pleased and using some of my strategies to excel in their professions. They have shared their opinions on social media by saying my book would help anyone who picks it up.
BPM: How can readers discover more about you and your work?
I will have excerpts available on my website. I would love to connect with readers online at: gregharrisauthors.com, @gharrisauthors, @glassociates, and Gregory Harris on FaceBook.