When Smart People Do Stupid Things

Why does Halloween bring out the stupid in people – especially smart people.

The President of the University of Louisville is a smart guy.

According to President James R. Ramsey’s official biography, he has served as “Senior Policy Advisor and State Budget Director for Kentucky and Senior Professor of economics and public policy at UofL. He has served as Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration at both the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Western Kentucky University.” Dr. Ramsey’s biographical venerations go on and on, including this objective:

Dr. Ramsey also has set the tone for encouraging diversity on campus. UofL has reached or made substantial progress on all eight of its goals set in the Kentucky Plan for Equal Opportunities.

So how does Dr. Ramsey – who remember is a very smart man and president of a major university – obtain such amazing progress in diversity?

Dr. Ramsey is in the colorful serape. Others in the picture are the President’s staff – who by the way thought this was a good idea too!

Kudos to all the University of Louisville students and the student newspaper who called Dr. Ramsey on his ignorant, thoughtless, and racist behavior.

Dr. Ramsey’s initial response was to give one of those “sorry but not sorry” apologies –

“I want to personally apologize for the recent incident and any pain that it may have caused our students, faculty, staff and the community.”

Not really an apology, right? Crisis Management 101. Ding! It seems the President hasn’t learned much since the college’s last embarrassing incident.

Dr. Ramsey’s second response (after no one bought his initial mea culpa): hire more Latinos!

Yup, that’ll fix it.

Okay, I’ve had my fun.

Lesson. For those who think bigoted barriers don’t exist for people of color and women, take a look at a prime example right here.

Oh, Those Annoying False Narratives

One of the more annoying arguments in the immigration debate is that undocumented immigrants coming to this country take jobs away and have a negative effect on the economy.  These recurring arguments make terrific sound bites and usually appeal to the emotional and uninformed voter, especially during hard economic times.  And yet these are the false viewpoints that still guide today’s immigration policy debate.

Over the years there have been numerous studies which debunk these false narratives. Here’s another by the Urban Institute.

In short, this study and others demonstrate that immigrants help to fill gaps in our labor market, immigrants complement rather than replace existing workers, and increase, not lower, wages and productivity.

The Urban Institute’s study again helps to quash the notion that immigrants are “stealing” American jobs.  In fact, as the study points out, many low skilled immigrants and native workers aren’t competing for the same jobs.  If this isn’t enough evidence, a recent study by PEW suggests that immigrants are “much more likely than U.S. foreign workers to be self-employed.” From a Latino perspective, immigrants were nearly twice as likely as U.S. born Latinos to be self-employed.  So in other words, the PEW study suggests that immigrants are in fact job creators (aka entrepreneurs) not job takers!

So don’t fall into believing this overused false narrative.

And while it seems that immigration reform won’t happen anytime soon, when it does, let’s hope it’s developed based on facts – not fiction.

No Equity in Sight

If you’ve not had a chance to read through Fast Company’s Strong Female Leader series, I’d encourage you to do so. Gender equity topics regarding leadership, pay, and entrepreneurship paint a picture of how much more work is still needed in the corporate world.

A recent addition examines the gender pay gap by industry. Consider the following statement and then review the graphic below.

There is no industry where women earn equal to or than men overall, even when controlling for all measured compensable factors.

Graphic via PayScale.com

Diversity & Inclusion: Because It’s 2015

Human resources has traditionally been viewed as the talent gatekeeper for an organization. HR practitioners therefore play a significant role in developing, nurturing, and communicating a culture of inclusion.  Furthermore, most HR professionals appreciate that organizations are no longer composed of a homogeneous workforce.  So it was with great interest that this tweet by Tanya Odom regarding Elevate 2015, a virtual HR conference aimed to “inspire HR and other business professionals,” caught my eye.


The Elevate 2015 web site touts a roster of “industry leading experts and visionaries,” famous authors, HR thought leaders, and leading business executives who promise to provide attendees the tools they need to “free themselves and their people to do their best work.”  Unfortunately, of the 62 industry leaders and visionaries, only three seem to be people of color.  Moreover, in reviewing the event’s agenda, diversity and inclusion doesn’t seem to be considered a “new idea” or “effective trend” within the themes of Growing People, Seismic Shifts in HR, Talent, Leadership, and Culture.

Fifty-six HR topics – not one included the importance of diversity and inclusion.

When Tanya’s tweet began to gain some traction on Twitter, this was HR.com’s reply:



As Tanya noted – a “1990’s” response. Indeed, this organization should know better.

With increased globalization and multicultural workforces, a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion is a core HR responsibility.  Professional HR organizations such as HR.com and Elevate 2015 sponsors need to do better, especially since they influence those who are responsible for finding, developing, and retaining corporate talent.  If professional HR organizations are truly committed to promoting diversity and inclusion, there needs to be a fundamental paradigm shift regarding diversity from those who lead them.

Perhaps HR.com and the organizers of Elevate 2015 can learn a lesson from Canada’s new Prime Minister?

Is Ignoring Race, Ignoring Racism?

A question asked by Zach Stafford based on his experiences with those who say they forget “he’s black” — and somehow mean it as a compliment. He takes them to task:

When I point out that their eyesight had never left them, that my skin has never changed colors, and that they probably did not really forget that I am black, they inevitably get defensive. First, they try to argue that it was a compliment; the smart ones quickly realize that complimenting someone on not being black is actually pretty racist, so they switch gears.

I don’t see race! is usually their next tactic, followed by I am colorblind, though they never give credit to Stephen Colbert. By “colorblind” they don’t actually mean that they can’t see green or red; rather, they are suggesting that they can’t ever be racist, because they don’t register skin color at all.

This ideology is very popular – like a racial utopic version of the Golden Rule – but it’s actually quite racist. “Colorblindness” doesn’t acknowledge the very real ways in which racism has existed and continues to exist, both in individuals and systemically. By professing not to see race, you’re just ignoring racism, not solving it.


Latinos and Women Still Earn Less

Latinos, women, and other people of color still earn less than white men, even with similar education levels.


Among workers age 25 and older with at least a bachelor’s degree, median weekly earnings in 2014 were $1,385 for men and $1,049 for women. Black or African American workers with at least a bachelor’s degree had median weekly earnings of $970 in 2014, compared with $1,219 for White workers with the same level of education. Asians with at least a bachelor’s degree had median weekly earnings of $1,328. The median for Hispanic or Latino workers with that level of education was $1,007 per week.