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Something to Think About: Our Seat at the Table

Op/Ed By Michael Vaughn –


new michael vaughnOne of the things  I have noticed is the importance of having our seat at the table when it comes to making decisions or having an impact.

When you don’t have a seat at the table, you tend to have decisions handed to you, and if there is an opportunity to change them, it can take a long time, and require many resources to do so.

I’m bringing this up because I have seen a few things which may hinder African-Americans opportunity to have their seats at the table.

The main thing that may stop us from having our seats at the table is simply our desire not to take the seat.

For example, there seems to be an overwhelming need for African-Americans to serve as jurors in our court system.

And, while I am not advocating that we should have a bias toward the “black” guy, I am saying that, as African-Americans, we may bring a different perspective to the jury pool than other races.

This perspective could make a difference in how these cases are decided.

In other words, we could be that voice in the deliberation process that helps steer away bias that may provide a disadvantage to African-American defendants.

However, there are many African-Americans who, when they are served with a jury summons, tend to ignore it for a variety of reasons.

I am not making an argument for why someone should serve on a jury, I am just sharing that the reality is, if African-Americans will not serve (or take their seats at the table); those seats will be populated by other folks who have their own perspectives.

However, I do believe that some of the verdicts rendered in our court system would be different if the racial mixture of the juries truly represented the peers of those who are being tried.

Consequently, while it is a sacrifice to serve on a jury, when the opportunity presents itself, we should not shy away from ensuring that we do what is necessary as part of the process.

Our perspective is valuable, and we need to be heard.

In corporate America, it is often important that African-Americans take on leadership roles as well. The reason for that is, in order to move forward, we need mentors, or someone who will vouch for us at higher levels.

Some may call this unfair, however, it is the same way Caucasian, Asian, and Hispanic folks move forward, etc.

There is someone who is helping them get to the next level and, when they arrive, they are mindful of bringing the next generation along with them.

And, when African-Americans make progress in corporate America, we tend to have more economic opportunity, which leads to better housing options, and better educational opportunities, setting the next generation up for success.

But, it starts with African-Americans realizing the importance of taking their seats at the table, so they can influence the decisions that are being made to ensure the growth of African-Americans throughout their organizations.

The second issue that may hinder African-Americans claiming their seats at the table is being overly aggressive and offensive.

It is wonderful (and needed) to have passion concerning an issue.

However, it is also good to be focused and targeted so that you will be invited to the table in the first place.

Or, if you are already at the table to begin with, this will ensure that you are not forced to leave your seat.

Our passion should effectively be turned into action that moves people toward solutions in a way that helps them want to own the results.

If African Americans are opposed to change, the light will shine brightly on our stubbornness, as well as on our willingness to be offensive and overly aggressive.

As a result, in order to continue moving forward in this society, we are going to have to work with others.

And, if we really want to see the change we desire, we will have to make people buy into our positions.

That will come through tact and discipline, and then we can use our seats to great advantage.

Ultimately, we need to have our seats at the table, in order to see lasting change occur, which also means we have to want our seats at the table to begin with, and, once we get them, we should not lose them!

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(Disclaimer: The views expressed on our opinion pages are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the position or viewpoint of the Minority Reporter.)