Equity by personal accountability has never been more important

Scales of justice
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We’ve all borne witness to yet another unnecessary and tragic death. George Floyd's May 25 death was followed by both peaceful and violent demonstrations calling for change. These divisive and troubled times demand a certain heightened understanding, gentleness and attention to detail that is sorely lacking in our industry. But the lessons for our industry are simple and require a recommitment to humanity.

Racial discrimination comes in many different forms and rounds of severity. As someone who was born in Puerto Rico, but raised in the United States, I have been subject to racial discrimination from both sides.

My Puerto Rican mother’s white skin meant she did fine in “white neighborhoods,” but would be beaten up in the Puerto Rican part of Brooklyn, where she grew up. I had similar experiences during middle school and was targeted because of my skin tone.

To this day, I still get called “gringo,” a pejorative term for a white person in the Latino community. Sometimes I feel like an outsider in an area of people with my ethnicity.

The same thinking applies to my chosen profession, which lacks diversity and inclusion. But as someone who’s clearly in the minority among other employee benefit brokers and advisers, I have a responsibility to help pave the way for positive change. While some underrepresented groups establish professional councils to support one another, the irony is that their push for inclusion creates an organization that excludes others.

It’s clear that we all need to do more to promote inclusion, diversity and equity. Personal responsibility and accountability for one’s decisions and actions are hugely important. If we were more curious to learn about people who are different from us, then the world would be such a much better place to work and live in. The question then becomes, what are you prepared to do differently to make a positive impact during these negative times and help be an agent of change?

It’s always important to walk in someone else’s shoes or assume their circumstances. We must be open-minded and empathetic to people of different backgrounds. Just because someone looks, acts or dresses a certain way, doesn’t mean they’re who you think they are at their core. None of us knows what another person has gone through in life or what’s truly in their heart.

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Diversity and equality