Owning my first home in Lake Tahoe, CA is revealing new experiences in unfamiliar territory. Recently, I learned that a black bear family broke into my home and ransacked the place. The local Bear League confirmed it was the work of Hazel and her cubs.
Hazel and the family literally ate everything, pulled the refrigerator away from the wall, and left their imprints throughout my home. After the initial shock, I couldn't help but reflect upon the extent to which the bears have experienced a change in their environment. It is likely Hazel's grandparents use to get berries all the time before we moved into the area. In the wakes of change, local bears have found ways to make use of available resources and to share their environment with humans. The bear league sited the occurrence as a normal act and attributed it to adaptation.
Similar to Hazel and her cubs, underrepresented communities are also in need to adapt to a new environment with the pending administration. Drastic changes in DC reverberate throughout the country with direct impact on local communities. As the new Administration takes office, it is clear that adapting to the political environment is both urgent and necessary. Unfortunately for many this process is filled with anger, resentment, sadness, and intense concern. With this comes a piercing conviction to make sure that ground is not lost for civil liberties and the needs of underserved communities. This conviction may ultimately prove to be more powerful than anyone would expect.
For the past eight years these communities gained leverage based on close ties to Democratic leaders. Now however they are adapting by leveraging ever- increasing power at the local, state and national levels and mobilizing their vast networks across the country. For example, The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) reports that the political climate has galvanized unprecedented public support for its mission of defending individual rights guaranteed by the Constitution and under law. The nonprofit group uses litigation, lobbying and advocacy to advance its goals of supporting free speech and an array of civil rights related causes.
This new environment is not limited to confronting the reality of government and underserved communities. Corporate America is square in the middle of this plight of needing to adapt. American communities are the customers, users, employees, vendors, partners and supporters of these companies with billions of dollars of purchasing power and "eyes" needed for generating massive amounts of revenue from online ads.
And so the predicament of adaptation continues. I can appreciate how this has also greatly affected my life. I learned to adapt and thrive in corporate environments under the leadership of both political parties. Serving as the only senior Latina in public policy roles for two Fortune 500 companies required me to adapt to changing environments quickly. These companies took a leap of faith in by supporting my passion to create multi-faceted partnerships that balance corporate interests and the needs of underserved communities.
Creating strategic and effective partnerships with leaders of underserved communities makes good business sense and creates great opportunities for the community. This passion continues to motivate me as I work with companies interested in inclusion and partnerships.
As underrepresented communities are adapting to the new environment there is indeed a sense of urgency. For starters, we are experiencing unprecedented rates of hate crime. The rate of hate crimes reported since the election appears to be even worse than what took place after the terror attacks in 2001. According to Richard Cohen, president of the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala., "The white supremacists out there are celebrating his (Trump) victory and many are feeling their oats." Also alarming is the fact that the list of incidents involving black children being told to get to the back of a bus and Latino children being taunted "build a wall" during middle school. This polarized climate is creating an overwhelming sense of urgency that is felt by many.
Like Hazel and her cubs, underrepresented communities and the people and organizations passionate about supporting them are adapting to the new environment through innovation, mobilization, and utilization of new resources. If Corporate America doesn't respond intelligently to this work, it is at risk of being caught in the middle, and suffering from the backlash of all of the tension that has recently been created.
Communities of color are in a heightened state of alertness to anything that appears to undercut their decades of work to create opportunities and economic stability. These communities and the organizations that support them are mobilizing on the ground and via social media in unprecedented ways.
Corporate America has the opportunity to step up as a key player in bringing this divided country together. Companies large and small, old timers and start-ups are needed to truly engage, reach out, support, and partner with community leaders of underrepresented communities. Solid action plans are needed. And simply put, it makes good business sense when effective partnerships are created.
Just as California bears can adapt--even learn to remove patio doors--we can all learn to adapt too. I am currently planning for bear-proof renovations and adjusting to life amongst bears. It is in our nature to adapt. And not just because it's the right thing to do, but because it's the smart thing to do. In doing so, we build better communities and a healthier society.
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