Magazine Online    The Authority On African-American Conventions, Incentives, & Leisure Travel
Issue: May/June 2014
Publisher's Message
By: Solomon J. Herbert

Over the last few weeks, the headlines have been dominated by reports of racist remarks attributed to LA Clippers' owner Donald Sterling and the ensuing legal battle he is engaged in with his estranged wife.  His outrageous rants, which included highly offensive references to African-Americans, were recorded and subsequently made public on news media across the nation, and across the world for that matter.  The reaction was predictable - demands for player boycotts, for stripping him of his franchise ownership, and for the imposition of hefty fines, to name a few.  Also predictable was the chorus of those who expressed utter shock and disbelief that anyone could still harbor such bigoted views in this day and age.  What they deem as a post racial society.

Really?  Is there anyone out there in our reading audience that truly believes Sterling is the only person who holds such abhorrent views?  If you do, you need to take off the blinders, and as Iyanla Vanzant says on her Fix My Life show, "Call a thing a thing!"  In my opinion, Sterling is not the only person who shares these views.  He was just clumsy enough and arrogant enough to be exposed.

You don't have to look very far to find other examples of similar behavior.  The treatment of President Barack Obama by those, including some elected officials, who have shown extreme disrespect for him and his office comes immediately to mind. The image of Arizona Governor Jan Brewer chastising the president in public while waving her finger in his face, Rep. Joe Wilson shouting out "You Lie" during an Obama Health Care speech before congress, a lawsuit brought against our president by House Speaker John Boehner or the mounting talk from the right about impeaching Obama would have been unthinkable during any previous administration.  But with a Black guy in the White House, the rules changed.  I doubt any of this would have ever happened had it not been for the color of our president's skin.

Which brings me back to our own meetings/tourism/hospitality arena and its historical lack of diversity and inclusion.  I know many gifted and indeed brilliant executives in this industry who are capable and prepared to take on positions at the highest levels, including heading up a convention & visitors bureau.  Yet, there are only 11 Black CVB presidents/CEOs out of nearly 500 convention & visitor bureaus.  That translates to only 2 percent.  And while we'd rather not address or even admit that bias exists in the industry that we love, if we are to ever achieve and embrace true diversity, we cannot continue to sweep this issue under the rug.

I believe that there are people of power and influence in our industry who consciously or unconsciously share some of Donald Sterling's views.  And while they may be few and far between, if the overwhelming majority of fair minded and progressive thinking folks do nothing or say nothing to push back against those misguided few, then they will prevail and little will change.

We must all take responsibility for helping our industry to reach its full diversity and inclusion potential.  The next time a position opens up in your shop, and the most qualified candidate competing for the job happens to be a person of color, don't be afraid to speak up and let the decision makers know how you feel.  And if you are ever again tasked with conducting a search for a CVB president/CEO or other senior level management position, be sure you don't forget to include outreach to the African-American segment as part of your due diligence.  You, your organization, and our industry will be all the better for it.

Solomon J. Herbert


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