As I started reading Ijeoma Oluo’s new book, So You Want to Talk About Race, I reflected back on how we did just that at Amazon’s Seattle HQ last month during our inaugural Conversations on Race and Ethnicity (CORE) conference.
We had an authentic, honest conversation – in an Amazonian way – which meant we approached this topic guided by our leadership principles. We took Ownership while confronting the challenging content with humility and allowing ourselves to Learn and Be Curious as a community. We wrestled with our personal discomfort by seeking diverse perspectives and working to disconfirm our own beliefs.
We were honored to welcome an inspiring group of speakers, including Seattle-native Ijeoma Oluo, as well as Dr. Robin DiAngelo, author of What Does It Mean to Be White, Professors Jerry Kang (UCLA), Dr. Eve Ewing (University of Chicago), Dr. Anton Treuer (Bemidji State University), and Ian Haney López (UC Berkeley). Activists and researchers including Carmen Perez, Adrienne Keene, Rashad Robinson, Dorian Warren, Jamie-Jin Lewis, Michael Welp, and Dedrick Asante-Muhammad rounded out the group.
These individuals helped us unpack four key topic areas: Historical Context (immigration, education, justice system, and economics); Shared and Coded Language; Tips for Having Productive Conversations; and, How to be an Ally (in the fight for equity and inclusion).
This event was organized with the help and support of our Amazon affinity groups, which bring together employees from across the U.S. and around the world. In less than a year, what started as an idea between a few Amazonians became a two-day conference where nearly 2,000 attendees journeyed through conversations and workshops demonstrating how race impacts our daily lives.
Many found the event transformational, unexpectedly emotional, and productive. Based on the feedback and conversations I’ve had with fellow Amazonians, attendees are referencing what they learned at CORE by continuing the conversations in their homes, with their friends, as well as at work.
It’s still Day 1, which means we have a lot of work to do. We know that there is no quick fix for addressing issues so deeply ingrained in society, but we also know that every efforts counts. As the leader of the Diversity and Inclusion organization within Amazon, I believe we have the scale and the passion to make a difference inside and outside of our walls.
Learn more about Diversity at Amazon.