Skip to main content

One Houston Together: Understanding Racism

Published Sep 01, 2020 by A.J. Mistretta

Many of us have specific ideas of what racism looks like, but we often don’t realize how pervasive it can be. Indeed, people of color face both individual and systemic racism in often subtle ways in everyday life. 

As part of its new One Houston Together initiative to address racial inequities in our city, the Partnership hosted Understanding Racism, the first in a series of conversations to help build knowledge and awareness, on September 1. 

The event featured Dr. Melanye Price, Endowed Professor of Political Science at Prairie View A&M University, in conversation with Partnership Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer Jenny Philip. 

We invite you to watch the full conversation by clicking the video recording to the right. Important topics included: 

  • The difference between systemic and individual racism and how each is defined. 
  • Examples of systemic racism—from how COVID-19 is disproportionately affecting communities of color to the prevalence of food deserts in predominantly minority neighborhoods. 
  • How the nation is reacting differently in this period following the murder of Houston-native George Floyd in Minneapolis than it has after similar situations in the past. 
  • What individuals should ask themselves when confronted with a situation outside of their perceived norm with the goal of not reacting based on someone’s race or other characteristics. 
  • How people from different racial and socioeconomic communities can perceive their city differently—i.e. a Black woman in Third Ward likely has a different view of Houston than a white man living in the Heights. 
  • Understanding the history and existing community of the neighborhood where you choose to live. 
  • Understanding where an individual’s questions about race come from—striving for perspective. 
  • Recognizing that racism does not always come in extreme form, like a Neo-Nazi or member of the Klu Klux Klan. Rather that racism can take many forms in everyday life—from what we see depicted on television and in the media to our workplace interactions. 
  • Having a consciousness about interpersonal racism will allow you to identify and help correct it when it occurs around you. 
  • The ongoing reality of voter suppression and how we can work to combat it to ensure all voices are heard this election season. 
  • The importance of surrounding yourself with a diverse community, one that looks different from you and allows for tough conversations. 

Learn more about One Houston Together

Upcoming One Houston Together virtual events that are free to register: 

Related News

Racial Equity

More than 100 Houston Companies Commit to Principles of Racial Equity

3/2/21
HOUSTON—More than 100 Houston area companies representing over 220,000 employees have committed to a set of racial equity principles developed by the Greater Houston Partnership. The principles clearly communicate a position on business behaviors and actions the Partnership and individual businesses can commit to in advancing racial equity within their organizations and throughout the community. Although many businesses have made their own individual statements and pledges, this unified approach sends an important signal about the Houston business community’s collective commitment. The Partnership’s development, adoption and call to action around the principles follows nine months of work to determine how the region’s principal business organization would engage and lead the business community on this important issue.  Amid the ongoing national conversation around racial equity and justice, the Partnership last summer launched One Houston Together, its commitment to leverage the power of the business community to address racial inequity in our region. While the issues of inequity and systemic racism are not unique to Houston, the Partnership believes the business community has an opportunity to lead the way in reforming broken systems, partnering with communities, offering support and removing barriers.  The Partnership began by conducting a series of listening sessions with leaders in the Black community last June to gain a greater understanding of key issues and challenges. The information gathered from these listening sessions helped define the focus of One Houston Together.  In August, the Partnership created a new board committee to guide the organization's actions through One Houston Together. The mission of the Racial Equity Committee is to harness the collective commitment and resources of Houston’s businesses and institutions to advance bold solutions to strengthen Houston as the most diverse, inclusive and equitable city in the nation. The committee is co-chaired by Ruth Simmons, President of Prairie View A&M University, and Gretchen Watkins, President of Shell Oil Co. Click here to see the full roster of committee members. “The Partnership has a responsibility to help ensure our region is a place where everyone has the opportunity to succeed,” said Bob Harvey, President and CEO of the Partnership. “We have to be more than just the most diverse city in the country—we must work to be the most inclusive city. By launching One Houston Together and forming our Racial Equity Committee, we now have a pathway to lead the business community on these important issues and realize meaningful change.”   “I have been greatly heartened by the robust collective enthusiasm of Partnership members for identifying concrete actions to address racial inequities in employment and business opportunities,” said Racial Equity Committee Co-Chair Ruth Simmons. “Their commitment bodes well for the future of our city.” The committee has engaged in a process of reflection, listening, and debate to establish the set of eight racial equity principles, which were approved unanimously by the Partnership’s board in December. The Partnership has asked its member companies to commit to the principles within their own organization. Since December, 120 companies have signed the pledge to demonstrate their commitment to the principles within their own organizations.   “The principles established by the Greater Houston Partnership will drive member businesses to attract, develop, and progress the careers of people whose opportunities have historically been limited,” said Racial Equity Committee Co-Chair Gretchen Watkins. “As we follow through with our commitment to these principles, Houston’s workforce and corporate leadership will more closely reflect this city’s brilliant diversity, while our professional culture becomes even more caring and inclusive.” In September, the Partnership hosted a series of conversations around racial equity under One Houston Together, featuring experts on topics including understanding racism, health and racial inequity, and developing equitable communities. The five events drew more than 1,830 participants and subsequent viewers. To help understand the existing landscape of diversity, equity and inclusion efforts among Houston companies, the Partnership conducted the first regional survey of member and non-member companies in November. It’s important to note that the survey results are not meant to be representative of the entire Houston business community, rather an indication of how DEI activity is progressing in the responding companies.  The survey found that 94% of responding companies have started DEI work within their organizations, with 54% having been on the DEI journey for five or more years. Roughly 90% of respondents have active recruitment efforts to attract minority job candidates. Almost 50% or respondents, however, indicated that they have no formal DEI plan and that there is a significant perception gap between CEOs and staff regarding DEI goal achievement. Normalizing conversations about race, opportunities to learn from others, and lack of metrics to assess progress on DEI were also cited as top areas of need at local companies. Over 60% of respondents indicated they have no spending goal for diverse supplier contracting, which is a theme the Partnership also heard in the early listening sessions with Black entrepreneurs.  The survey data helped the Partnership determine two areas for immediate action: enhance corporate DEI with a focus on advancing equity throughout the talent pipeline and supporting equitable entrepreneurship for historically underutilized businesses. The organization is in the early stages of crafting an action plan.  To support planning and implementation, the Partnership recently created a new executive staff position. LaTanya Flix, a veteran of DEI, strategy and community engagement in Houston and nationally, was hired in December as Senior Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Flix understands the importance of having a coordinated and intentional focus on equity to maintain economic growth and the vitality of the Houston region for all residents. She is leading the development and implementation of the Partnership’s internal DEI strategy and broader efforts throughout the greater Houston region. Flix also serves as executive staff liaison to the Racial Equity Committee. “The Partnership is proud to convene and lead more than 100 area companies committed to the One Houston Together pledge in taking concrete actions that create positive change for Houstonians,” said Amy Chronis, Chair of the Greater Houston Partnership and Houston Managing Partner for Deloitte. “As a business community, we have the opportunity to come together to promote equity, root out bias and take action against systemic racism and social injustice. I look forward to seeing what we can accomplish together.”   Quotes from Business Leaders Who Have Signed the Pledge  Houston’s incredible diversity gives us the unique opportunity to be a leader in inclusivity. The Partnership’s racial equity principles are the framework we need to educate and empower our business community to make meaningful change. – Uwem Ukpong, Executive Vice President of Regions, Alliances & Enterprise Sales, Baker Hughes   “It is past time that the corporate sector take a more deliberate and intentional role in bringing about further economic, racial and social equity. That is why Bank of America fully supports the Partnership’s efforts to make Houston the national leader not only in diversity, but in inclusive business practices and responsible growth.” – Hong Ogle, Houston Market President, Bank of America “As a corporate citizen of the greater Houston community for 25 years, Burns & McDonnell proudly joins the Greater Houston Partnership in its commitment to advancing racial equity throughout our communities, knowing our long-term success depends on our shared progress. We pledge to: practice and encourage behaviors building trust and understanding rather than resentment and bias; set measurable goals and practice rigorous accountability in our diversity, inclusion and outreach efforts and within our own institutions; regularly engage with and listen to underserved people and communities to deepen our understanding of the inequities experienced and seek to partner with them and create lasting solutions. Together, we stand united as One Houston.” – Leslie Duke, President, Burns & McDonnell Houston  “Current discussions around systemic racism, inclusion, and diversity demonstrate the importance of taking bold actions to create a more equitable and sustainable future.” – Antonio Neri, President and CEO, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Inc. “We are fortunate to live in a city of extraordinary diversity, and that diversity is a source of both excellence and joy that fuels the success of Houston. But we cannot realize that excellence and that joy unless we commit to fully achieving equity, opportunity and inclusion.  All of us, and especially our educational institutions, must play an active role in this endeavor.” – David Leebron, President, Rice University  “At Waste Management, we are family of nearly 50,000 from all walks of life and it is the richness of our diversity that makes us strong. Bound by our purpose of always working for a sustainable tomorrow, and with inclusion and diversity embedded in our company values, we are committed to making a positive impact from the inside out. From fostering an inclusive environment for all teammates to thrive, supporting supplier diversity, and partnering with community agencies to create a bridge to career opportunities, we are committed to being part of the solution.” – Jim Fish, President and CEO, Waste Management  ### Greater Houston Partnership The Greater Houston Partnership works to make Houston one of the best places to live, work and build a business. As the economic development organization for the Houston region, the Partnership champions growth across 12 counties by bringing together business and civic-minded leaders who are dedicated to the area’s long-term success. Representing 1,000 member organizations and approximately one-fifth of the region’s workforce, the Partnership is the place business leaders come together to make an impact. Learn more at Houston.org. A.J. Mistretta Vice President, Communications          (c) 504-450-3516 | amistretta@houston.org Maggie Martin  Senior Manager, Communications          (c) 832-690-0206 | mmartin@houston.org  
Read More
Racial Equity

Houston Ranks No. 5 in Nation for Minority-Owned Startups, But Hurdles Remain

2/4/21
The most diverse city in the nation is also a hub for minority entrepreneurship, according to a new analysis of Census data by the fintech company Self.  Houston ranks No. 5 among the nation’s largest metros when it comes to the percentage of minority-owned startups. The report shows that nearly 5,600 startups in the Houston metro region are minority-owned—or about 30% of all companies less than two years old. Together, these minority businesses employ more than 22,700 workers in the region.  But in a region where minorities make up 64% of the population, clear inequities in entrepreneurship remain in Houston that mirror the rest of the nation. “As 2020 has illustrated, opportunities to participate and succeed in the entrepreneurial economy are not equally distributed by race and ethnicity,” the report stated.   The first and most significant structural barrier for would-be minority entrepreneurs is access to capital. The report points out that minority households on the whole have lower pre-existing wealth and savings to put towards a new business while banks are often less likely to approve loans for Black and Hispanic small-business owners. “Without upfront capital to invest in a growing business, minority entrepreneurs struggle to run and scale their operations.”  Nationally, Hispanics represent about 18% of the population but just 7% of startup owners. For Black Americans, those figures break out to just 12% and 3% respectively. Meanwhile, Non-Hispanic Whites make up 60% of the U.S. population but own nearly 80% of the nation’s startups.  Despite the challenges, there are currently close to 170,000 minority-owned startups in the U.S. employing more than 700,000 workers and generating close to $100 billion in annual revenue, the report shows. Based on demographic trends, these numbers are likely to grow as the population continues to diversify. “As minority entrepreneurs, we are very good at our craft and our profession, however most of us have not functioned as a CEO before,” said Ed Ryland, President and CEO of Houston-based ARVO Realty Advisors. “I use this scenario to explain: I can be a great widget maker, however this does not mean I can run and build a great widget making factory. There are skills that need to be developed.” Ryland, whose company is a member of the Partnership, said he would rather be an entrepreneur in Houston than anywhere else because of the support city leadership has demonstrated for entrepreneurs and the tight network of diverse entrepreneurs that works to help one another. “We have come a very long way,” he said. “However, the research shows we still have work to do.” Ryland said there are steps Houston can take to help close the entrepreneur disparity gap. He points to stronger mentorship, better advocacy for minority businesses among corporate CEOs, new creative funding sources and a focus on attracting and retaining top talent to minority-owned firms.  To create the report, Self analyzed data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Annual Business Survey and calculated the percentage of all startup firms less than two years old that are minority-owned.
Read More

Related Events

Energy

Winter Storm: What Happened and Power Solutions

In an effort to support Greater Houston Partnership members following February's winter storm, the Partnership is hosting a special webinar entitled Winter Storm: What Happened and Power Solutions. This discussion…

Learn More
Learn More
Executive Partners