What 2020 Has Taught me about Race and Equality - Karen Boykin-Towns

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Karen Boykin-Towns, a change catalyst, and results-driven leader, recently attended a virtual panel discussion, A Conversation on Gender, Race, and Success hosted by Zoetis. Zoetis is the world’s largest producer of medicine and vaccinations for pets and livestock.

2020 has been a year of change. Things are happening — for the first time, people are openly discussing what racism looks like within their societies, offices, and lives. The movement across America calls for change beyond law enforcement. It calls for a change in mindset.

Karen Boykin-Towns shares what she has learned and observed in 2020, around the topics of race, gender, and success. You can watch a part of Karen’s conversation here, or read an excerpt below. There are three more short videos we’ll be sharing.

“The whole anti-racist movement that we are in, is one that is very uncomfortable. I have the privilege of working with a few universities, and across the country you see young people going to administrations and telling them the changes that they want. A lot of that can be attributed to curricula, and as a Black person growing up, nowhere in my education was I taught by a person of color, or about the history which kids are now learning about. This includes the 1619 project; these stories are now told in a way that was not earlier taught. As we are going through these discussions, we are dealing with things and truths that people had for which they are now being challenged.

“Some people are open to these new opinions, whilst some are defensive and want to push back. I think one of the things that I learned in this time is to try and recognize that through candid conversations and small-group discussions, you can create that safe space where friends who know and respect each other, can have these uncomfortable discussions openly.

“I feel this sense of obligation to advance these conversations that are needed. This window of opportunity will close at some point, so we have to lean in and try and ensure that there is understanding.

“I don’t think anyone is intentionally bad. Nobody wakes up and thinks ‘I am going to treat someone badly today or make someone feel not-included’. I don’t think people are wired badly, sure there are some, but most are not that way. If that’s the case, how do we extend grace? How do we extend grace to people who ask the questions, they are not always sure how to even ask? Many times managers don’t want to touch on this topic, they don’t want to be “canceled”. People today want to know, they want to be educated about racism and what’s right and what’s wrong, but are unsure of how to have these conversations. We need to find more ways to have these conversations.”

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