Stephon Clark: The Clapback and Aftermath

After Stephon Clark was shot at 20x by police who suspected him of breaking into vehicles in a Sacramento neighborhood.

Faith Linthicum was fired from Kaieser Permanente after posting on her personal Facebook Page the following “Yeah but he (Stephen Clark) was running from the police jumping over fences and breaking in peoples houses… why run??!!! He deserved it for being stupid.”

In response: “Kaiser Permanente does not tolerate hate or discrimination and has a long history of embracing diversity and inclusion – it remains a place where we welcome everyone,” the company told SFGATE in a statement. “We want to emphasize that the comments expressed by this employee, who is no longer with the organization, do not in any way reflect Kaiser Permanente’s views or actions.

Sacramento Kings Owner,Vivek Ranadive after seeing the crowd of protesters outside of the Kings’ arena before an NBA game in March 2018, said “I saw the crowd outside. I saw the police standing there. And I had different, complex emotions, because I have boys. I have a boy right now, actually, in the military (his 30-year-old son, Andre, is in the Army). And I have young boys, and the thought that your boy could be out in the yard and somebody shoots him, how horrific is that?”

Free speech.

I’m sure an employee or two in your workplace has made comments regarding this case.  Should employees be allowed to discuss these polarizing events in the workplace?  Do you go about business as usual and/or do you create a safe space for your employees to discuss societal issues?  When do conversations and social media posts deserve disciplinary action up to an including termination?  Questions that at minimum require consideration.

Incidents involving the police, like Stephon Clark, are national in attention, happening frequently and have impact in our workplaces.  How they are addressed (or not) by Leadership will have ramifications in building or erasing the atmosphere and culture of the organization.  Far too many leaders avoid saying anything at all, hoping silence will drown out the reality of people being affected.

Not every incident warrants pursuing an uncomfortable conversation format or posture, yet to close our eyes ignoring all of these very public events is not healthy.  The underlying emotional and psychological stress on people of color is real.  And to be clear, the conversations on social media do make it to coffee breaks, cubicles and desks all across the country.

There’s an awesome video of AT&T’s CEO Randall Stephensondiscussing race with his Employee Resource Groups.    Showing the type of courage that builds connection and to some degree lessens the burden of showing up in the workplace.  Structured conversation allows employees a safe space to talk about situations that effect their engagement and pursuit of productivity.

Admittedly, these police killings, far too many to list, are anger inducing and taxing.  To have to worry about how I’m perceived in communal spaces, how my sons are perceived, my nephew and uncles are perceived is taxing.  And far too often white people walk around oblivious to how we are feeling and why.  Tend to exhibit an absence of concern, empathy or interest and often times projecting same sentiments as Faith Linthicum.

And while I’m not in a workplace on a regular basis, I can’t help but wonder how other people of color are feeling when these events pop off.  Do they feel muted, suffocated like they are facing Black Codes and Reconstruction once again?  I get it, everyone has experiences and layers that add to their day to day.  As a black man, I try and share some of our experience through my perspective as to assist in building connectedness, empathy, and interest.

We are in a time that demands at all levels that more of us must speak out and up.  The silence is what facilitates our slipping back into a destructive and nasty repeat of history in our communities and workplaces.

Just last week Starbucks closed for a day to have conversations around race relations after two black men were arrested for not purchasing any products but asking to use the bathroom in a Philadelphia location. What was meant to be show of compassion and empathy was met with criticism both internally and externally, but I will write more on that later.

Torin, what’s your point?

That we should be building B-Corp minded companies that care about more than just profits.  That we shouldn’t have to recognize an Equal Pay Day because women are doing the very same work as men.  And that for the life of me, we shouldn’t be writing about young men being shot at 20x by those sworn to protect and serve.  Not in 2018.

And I don’t believe Faith should have been fired. However, we are flirting with too many aspects of history that should NEVER be seen as normal.  People like Faith and others must know that we are not going to be silent.  And that when you exercise free speech, we will respond in kind.

Silence is not an option.