Category Archives: Purpose

I accept white privilege

The hidden danger of saying “I accept white privilege”

I was at Seattle Poetry Slam last night. A slam isn’t a poetry reading, it’s a live performance of spoken word combining the best of alliteration, syncopation, meter, and emotion to shed light on truths we know but don’t hear.

In “Death of the Central District”, Ela Barton spoke of how gentrification forced people out. She spoke of friends forced to move too far for them to be friends anymore. And she spoke of a posse of 15 white people in the street, streets that used to be places you wouldn’t allow your kids to go to after 6 PM, in skinny shorts running “like they run our streets.”

It seems white privilege is the latest hot topic every liberal proudly rushes to admit exists. But if white privilege exists, if institutionalized racism exists, that means people of color who you see, are resilient. Somehow they found a way to stick around despite every institution and economic force synchronizing to move them out of the way for centuries. They mastered living resilient lives. They stuck around and wove a path that let them rise to take the stage and be visible in organizations.

Today scientist tout resilience as the solution to our communities and the path forward for sustainable ecosystems. They study the numbers and statistics and draw inferences from plants, insects, and monkeys living in rain forests and other exotic places. And they gleaned insights from these special places where plants and tiny creatures wove a path to do amazing things.

It’d seem that building resilient communities, that can survive climate threats, will require leadership with experience beyond book learning from plants and animals thousands of miles away. It will require leaders who know how to live resilient lives.

And there in lies the danger, we don’t have a common lexicon for this.   And that’s why I help organize events like Resilience at the Crossroads of Race and Climate Justice featuring Jacqueline Patterson, NAACP National Director of Environmental and Climate Justice.

Pensions create bleak future for cool jobs. Even Harvard grads worry.

Doing the right thing, is the wrong thing for most investors. That’s a surprising admission from the gold standard for MBAs.  But Clay Christensen and Derek van Bever of Harvard Business School have a more important admonition — not changing the standard could mean their students won’t find the exciting jobs they want.

In writing The Capitalist’s Dilemma, Christensen and van Bever crowd-sourced information from 150 alumni. And they point out financial measures like internal rate of return (IRR) and return on invested capital (ROIC) were designed when financial capital was scarce. But, capital is no longer scarce.

A recent Bain & Company concludes we have entered a new environment of “capital superabundance.” Bain estimates that total financial assets are today almost 10 times the value of the global output of all goods and services. And Christensen and van Bever think we are awash in capital, and should not fear scarcity.

More importantly, continuing to adhere to these measures will force corporations to focus on efficiency improvements which eliminate jobs, rather than market-creating innovations, which generate them. And worse yet, even pension funds, who should have a longer term view, suffer from the same nearsightedness.

So if a company pursued both purpose and profit, what would it look like? Google. They exemplify what it means to pursue both purpose and profit.


Photo licensed under Creative Commons from grmisiti on flickr