George Floyd’s life was tragically stolen due to cultural bias, racial stereotypes, and overall absence of accountability for systemic racism.
It would be easy for one to believe that within the fields of building and design these issues do not directly impact our industry, or if they do, that the impact is minimal. This couldn’t be more wrong.
Far too often, professional dreams are crushed and stolen, due to the very same cultural bias, racial stereotypes, and overall absence of accountability for systemic racism within our very industry. A logical mind may resist a statement of this magnitude; after all, we are thought to be in a merit-based business where hard work and determination are rewarded without prejudice.
As a project manager with nearly 10 years of experience, I know the rigors and rewards. I am an ambassador for the building and design industry. I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to meet, mentor, and inspire many who are pursuing a future within the profession. My life has changed for the better due to construction. Yet, when these very individuals return – now more than ever – and share with me painful stories that have left them scarred, their ambitions battered and bruised, I can’t help but to feel that I’ve sold them a dream turned nightmare.
When a black male architecture student is presenting a project in front of his faculty and is told, “It looks like you have a gun behind your back,” when a black female construction professional has her hair critiqued as “too indigenous” for the industry, when the son of an engineer, a scholastic standout possessing a resume that jumps off the page and glowing references is told, “Maybe this isn’t the industry for you,” I’m struggling mightily to make sense of it all.
I choose, however, to believe in the good of this industry. I choose to advocate for an increased cultural understanding and to be a catalyst for diversity. I choose to shine a light on the issues, the unmistakable realities that people who look like me face every single day within this business, while also initiating solutions. Dialogue is necessary. But who is listening?
By Adrian Russell ’11, Construction Management
Project Manager at Mattcon Gerneral Contractors, Inc.