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No. 5: 'Racism pandemic' coincides with local inclusion talks

2020 Business Year in Review

Posted online

A widespread call to end racism and social injustice, pinpointed by the alleged murders this year of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, erupted across the nation this summer.

In Springfield, thousands gathered downtown June 6 to join demonstrations elevating a message: “Black Lives Matter,” read the signs.

Protestors weren’t alone in their call for systemic change in Springfield, as several downtown businesses, including Civil Kitchen, The Coffee Ethic and Harbell’s, supported the demonstration.

Other businesses turned to social media with statements of solidarity, including Empower: abilities and Springfield Regional Arts Council. CoxHealth and Mercy also posted photos on Facebook of physicians kneeling for 8 minutes and 46 seconds – the length of time prosecutors say Floyd was pinned to the ground under a Minneapolis police officer’s knee before he died.

The racism pandemic – as declared by the American Psychological Association – also coincided with a Tough Talks series in fall 2020. Facilitated by Missouri State University professors Lyle Foster and Leslie Anderson, the discussions centered on race relations and were geared toward creating action items to address community issues, according to a news release at the time.

Anderson and Foster also this fall hosted MSU’s Facing Racism Institute, but this year it was held virtually due to COVID-19 precautions. Wes Pratt, chief diversity officer and an assistant to the president at MSU, said the university has held the seminar since 2016.

Pratt said in June the business community has a role in promoting fairness, justice and addressing issues of systemic racism. It starts with cultural consciousness, he said.

“We have these aha moments and people wring their hands, but they have to go beyond wringing their hands,” said Pratt. “The [racism] pandemic has been with us for 400 years. … Everyone has a role in addressing it and hopefully working to mitigate it.”

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