‘The only thing you have to fear is fear itself’: HR experts explain the value of diversity
From an office at the University of California, Los Angeles, you can see the campus, a huge plaza surrounded by green and gold buildings.
On a recent day, it looked as though this place was already on fire.
In fact, it was so far, the only thing that had ever burned this campus was a few candles on the grass, but that was the least of it.
Across the plaza was a giant fire pit with a giant black cat on top of it, a sign that said “RESCUE.”
“This is the only place in the world you can find people of color,” says Adam Bessette, a professor of sociology at UC Los Angeles.
“And there are a lot of them, so when they get killed, it’s just devastating.”
It was also the only one on campus that had actually burned.
Bessettes team, which has been studying the intersection of race, gender, and class for over two decades, was here to look at how this phenomenon of fire was affecting the lives of the people here and around the world.
Besson was in charge of the team’s investigations.
“We are trying to figure out, how are we going to get people who are already struggling in life to feel more confident and empowered and to feel that they are part of a larger community?” he says.
That’s a question that, for years, Besson has been trying to answer.
As an assistant professor in sociology at the university, Bessett has spent years studying how the human beings who make up the U.S. and its neighbors experience discrimination, racism, and inequality.
“I have spent years trying to understand how racism is expressed in everyday life,” he says, and he says he’s come up with a lot about how people think about race and class.
In his research, Besselues team found that one of the most common forms of discrimination in the U, he says is when people perceive race to be an important part of who they are.
People perceive racism to be more prevalent among those with a higher socioeconomic status, people with a white father, and people with African American mothers.
Besseles research also found that people often experience racism more directly than people of other races.
They’re often less likely to acknowledge it.
“If you have a black man sitting next to you and you say, ‘Oh, I know you are white, but do you know how much money you make?
How much money do you make in this country?’ and he doesn’t respond,” he said, “then he’s likely to believe that you are more racist than you actually are.”
But, for Besson, the most pressing question is how can we address racism when the majority of people are white?
He thinks that a lot needs to change, both in the way that we think about the problem and in the ways that we address it.
Bessees team focused on the question of whether or not people in this workplace are being discriminated against because of race.
“The idea that we’re trying to solve a problem is just wrong,” Besson says.
“There is a whole spectrum of oppression that exists within our society, whether it’s race, class, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression, and there’s nothing that we can do to fix it.”
For example, he points out that while people are not racist toward people who look or act like them, people do see it differently in many ways.
“You know, if you’re a white man in the workplace, that’s going to happen to you, regardless of what color your skin is,” he explains.
“When you’re white, there’s no way you’re going to be able to be treated that way.
When you’re African American, it is absolutely going to affect you in a negative way.”
The team also found a lot to be concerned about, because there are still ways in which racism can persist.
“It’s important that we do not overlook the fact that this is an American workplace,” Bessets says.
“[Racism] does exist, and it’s going on in all of our workplaces and all of the communities that we live in.
That should not be ignored.
So we’re looking at how we can be aware of this.”
The researchers have been studying racism for years.
They have studied the experiences of black Americans in this same workplace and the experiences for black men in this exact workplace.
And they have found that while racism is an ongoing issue, the way in which it manifests in this particular workplace can be particularly alarming.
When Besson spoke with The New York Times about his research in 2012, he said that it was one of those moments that gave him a “breather.”
“The thing that I think was so scary about this study was the extent to which it was focusing on this one workplace, and then all of a sudden, it became