What’s the Answer, Part II

Diversity Management blogBy David Feehan

As I thought about my previous blog, I realized that there is much I wanted to say but did not. I raised the issue of diversity in the parking industry and even looked to our leadership at IPMI to ask if we were doing enough.

But having just concluded a town meeting sponsored by Leadership Montgomery, the leadership program where I live, I realized that my life journey has a bearing on how I view the issue of race, and I wanted to share some experiences with those of you in our profession.

I am a native of Minneapolis. I grew up in a racially mixed community in that city’s Northside, and became acquainted with discrimination at an early age. My best friend, who was African American, thought we should look for jobs in a neighboring business district. But when I proposed a day of cold calling on businesses, he told me he had tried that and been told by several proprietors, “we don’t hire n***rs here.” He told me without a letter of introduction from the Urban League, there was no way that he would endure that kind of humiliation again.

When we started college, I found a job at a major downtown financial firm. When I told my supervisor I had a friend who needed a job and was a college student, my supervisor told me that if my friend was Black, he could apply for a position as a janitor or on the loading dock. This company did not hire Black people in sales or management.

These were only a few of the examples of overt racism I witnessed as the years went by. Redlining was common in housing; discrimination in employment was frequent and almost expected. Black business owners were few and generally limited to barber shops, beauty salons, and bars.

Today, I am 75 years old. I have been married to a beautiful African American woman for 32 years. We have two biracial sons and four multiracial grandchildren. But the recent incidents involving murders of Black people, sometimes by police officers, leaves me searching for answers.

The parking industry has made great strides since I joined IPMI’s predecessor back in the 1990s. The board has become more diverse, and I know CEO Shawn Conrad has worked tirelessly to encourage a more diverse industry at all levels. But perhaps the incidents of the last few days have made us aware that the job is not finished. We have the talent and the courage as a vital industry to look once again at what we do and seek new ways to welcome people of color into our field. Perhaps a partnership with HBCUs (historically Black colleges and universities) is worth exploring. I proposed that when I was president of the International Downtown Association, but it never came to fruition. Let’s put heads together and see what more we can do.

David Feehan is president of Civitas Consultants, LLC.