Talking about race, particularly in the workplace, can be tough.
“Well, you just have to be prepared to be awkward,” says W. Kamau Bell, who knows a few things about awkward.
The Berkeley-based comedian is the host of a new CNN travel show called The United Shades of America, which explores issues of race and culture through his unique socio-political lens. (His “meeting” with the president of the International Keystone Knights of the Ku Klux Klan is a must-see.)
But in moving from stand up to bigger media gigs, Bell has become a significant corporate player and leader in his own right. “I definitely didn’t see that coming.” So when we talked by phone for my recent feature, Leading While Black, he ended by offering advice to Fortune readers who wanted to advocate for changes, big or small, around racial diversity within their organizations: don’t let the human stuff stop you.
“It’s hard work to champion the diversity side of things, to highlight the inequity around you,” he said, no matter the shade you are. “You have to stretch the boundary of what’s expected.” And those conversations can feel awkward, at least at first. “Embrace it.”
So, we’re embracing it. RaceAhead, Fortune’s newest newsletter, focuses on the experience of black, brown, Asian, and Native American people in corporate America. At its heart, this newsletter will be a daily quest to aggregate and share data, stories, and news to help leaders make better, more informed decisions about racial diversity in their organizations and in the world.
Diversity means better business. “It’s impossible to overstate how important this conversation is,” says Bernard Tyson, the CEO of Kaiser Permanente, a health care organization with some $60 million in revenue. Tyson has been unusually candid for a CEO, and he continues to share his own insights on his LinkedIn profile. “People talk about a business case for racial diversity. In the 21st century, diversity is the business case. Our objective is to get the best out of everyone. And to do that we need to speak truth to power.”
We’ll hear directly from researchers who are discovering and sharing surprising insights into how racial bias is playing out in an increasingly global workforce, while cementing the case that diversity means good business.
I’ll be sharing conversations with educators, artists, cultural icons and other creative thinkers -like W. Kamau Bell – who by the nature of their work can inspire us to think more deeply about race, bias, and history.
For news, look to the “On Point” section. For deeper ways to think about race, culture and leadership, look to the section called “The Woke Leader.”
I’ll try to get Beyonce on the line, but I can’t promise that.
I can promise to highlight the work of the leaders at every level who are working hard to reap the real world benefits of diverse teams and leadership.
In fact, I believe that the greatest potential for raceAhead is to introduce allies to each other, in an extended network of weak ties who are talented, prepared, and committed to an equitable society that also delivers shareholder value.
Diverse workplaces generate better ideas, happier customers, and more revenue. But, as Brunswick Group Partner David Sutphen has made so clear to me, inclusive workplaces, when carefully tended, can offer deeper benefits that come with becoming comfortable with ‘the other.’ “A generous orientation can be cultivated,” he says. “When people feel safe to be their full selves at work, they are happier in every aspect of their lives.”