Recently, our fellow commercial real estate organization, ULI Philadelphia, hosted a discussion with Herman E. Bulls, Vice Chairman, JLL. Having sat through many a webinar during the pandemic, I was expecting to learn but I was not expecting to be captivated, inspired and motivated. Mr. Bulls was the first person that articulated what I had been feeling in 2020: that our country and world was facing two pandemics…Covid-19 and Racism. Calling Racism a pandemic I thought was profound, but so accurate, because racism is pervasive, prevalent and global.
Covid-19 has been tragic for much of commercial real estate. We have seen many of our colleagues and their families suffer job loss and death of family members and friends, some projects have stalled, and we are all concerned about what’s next. All devastating. And we are grateful to the abundance of resource that has poured into finding a path to resolution of this biologic war. As we end February and move into March, there is hope that we will hopefully resume our lives and the Covid-19 pandemic will be behind us, just like the flu pandemic in 1918.
However, as Mr. Bulls pointed out, the other pandemic that we face, racism, is not as easily conquered as Covid-19. Instead of focusing on what we cannot do, Mr. Bulls made clear that there is a path to “cure” racism. Its cure will take discipline, resolve and commitment from us all. The path requires each of us to look at how we can work towards equitable growth and inclusion of all. Mr. Bulls charged each of us to be very self-reflective and ask yourself, “are you part of the problem or part of the solution” and this recent McKinsey article: America 2021: The opportunity to advance racial equity, provides excellent insight into the challenge and opportunity.
Our chapter, through our Diversity Equity and Inclusion Advocacy Group is looking at how CREW Greater Philadelphia can be part of the solution. They have begun to dig into our chapter practices and expect to recommend what we can do differently to make a difference on issues of diversity, equity and inclusion. While they do their work, you might ask yourself what you can do to learn more and begin to be a part of the solution. There are several resources: take advantage of the many education opportunities being offered through CREW Network, our chapter and other organizations, think about where you work and what you can do to assure broader representation of our community, read about people from other cultures and their contributions and take the time to make connections with those you do not know.
When Dr. Carter G. Woodson established Black History Week in February 1926, it was part of a larger effort to transform race relations. He believed by encouraging the study of black history, there would be focus and as a result respect for the countless Black men and women who had contributed to the advancement of human civilization. Dr. Woodson’s belief is still true today. To collectively and individually work on stamping out the so aptly named Racism Pandemic, it will take discipline, resolve and commitment from us all to study, learn and respect the history of all our contributions and push for equitable growth and inclusion.
Carol Horne Penn
2021 CREW Greater Philadelphia President