Black Meetings and Tourism

July/August 2014

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B M & T ••• July/August 2014 ••• 28 D iversity initiatives are an imperfect pendulum that sways to and fro from action to complete and utter indiffer- ence. It's a motion where the balance appears to rest strongly on the side of indifference, only to be pushed towards action when some cosmic event forces the industry to act. Once that cosmic event dissipates, the gravitational pull of indifference reemerges with a vice grip like hold on the pendulum. Kind of like our current political climate, but I digress. Here is an example many of you might remember. The NAACP Economic Reciprocity Initiative and the resulting Hotel Industry Report Card was widely reported on and dis- cussed both inside and outside the hospitality industry. Using the mus- cle of the NAACP, this report, and its results seemed to spark a media feeding frenzy back in the late 1990s. The ubiquitous nature of media reports led many to believe, we just might see this diversity thing through to the other side – a utopian land- scape where race no longer mat- tered. Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me. Well, we've been fooled so many times that I don't even know how to quantify shame. When the initial hotel industry report card was published several hotel chains were in the midst of widely publicized racial discrimina- tion lawsuits. The most infamous among them was the Adams Mark Hotel chain. Back in 1999, the Adams Mark Hotel Chain was charged with discrimination by the U.S. Justice Department for systematically charg- ing Black guests higher room rates for inferior rooms and restricting access to services freely provided to other guests. The NAACP called for a boycott of the property. Stories of the lawsuit made national news headlines both in print and on television – the Washington Post, CNN, etc. Suddenly, a flurry of diversity ini- tiatives appeared on the horizon to combat what many feared would lead to an industry wide indictment. Then, just as suddenly as those diversity ini- tiatives appeared, that pendulum swung back to indifference and got stuck. As the first decade of this century progressed, we've heard very little about racial discrimination in lodging, but a quick Google search revealed several lawsuits pending in the courts. Even the NAACP and its all-pow- erful report card disappeared from the horizon for several years. It reap- peared a few years ago stronger than its previous iteration, but the fanfare associated with the 1990s version is simply not there for this newer ver- sion. Are we tired of talking about diversity? Have we as African- Americans run out of energy, or are we retooling our efforts to deal with new realities in the 21st Century? I don't have an answer to any of these questions, but one thing has always bothered me – our inability to sustain the effort it takes for long-term change. In Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s famous "I Have a Dream" speech, King was discussing the real promis- es of democracy for all Americans as emboldened in our Constitution and the progress of Civil Rights to that point in history (August 1963) when he said, "This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradual- ism." Unfortunately, it often feels like we've overdosed on that drug. The Civil Rights Movement didn't start in the 1950s and end with pas- sage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964. The movement was decades in the making prior to the Act, and it can definitely be argued we are still fight- ing for civil rights, under a different umbrella as witnessed by the rash of new voter restrictions. Today, many of the large hotel chains have diversity programs. The major brands; Marriott, Hyatt, Hilton all have diversity plans in place that deal with hiring along with supplier and vendor relationships and even hotel ownership possibilities. We WHAT HAPPENED TO ALL OF THE INDUSTRY'S DIVERSITY PROGRAMS AND WHY ARE THEY OUT OF VOGUE ?

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