While Canada differs from the US, in that race issues are not as galvanizing as they have been since the days of slavery, our society if not immune from prejudice. I remember the bad old days of Employment Equity (also the years of ‘Rae Days’, the rubber-shoed know-it-all policy wonks and salary freezes that messed up our pensions). I’d competed for and won a promotion. Why? Because I was qualified. But some twit (actually, a middle-aged white guy who came third) commented that I got the job because I was a woman and a ‘woman of colour’ who spoke a bit of French. I wasn’t even offended because he was such an idiot, but it did tick me off to be so disrespected by someone who had no clue. I figured he had un cerveau d’un sandwich au fromage (the brains of a cheese sandwich). Next.

I’ve never been particularly hung up on race and/or colour. Until high school, I was the only black kid in class but I never felt/was made to feel different. Perhaps it’s because I’ve never felt inferior to anyone else. Maybe I was just oblivious and there was a storm of nastiness swirling around me. Maybe that’s what motivated me to be an over-achiever? Don’t know; don’t particularly care – I was the ‘shiny new penny’.  For a while in the 80s when equity and affirmative action were all the rage, I took issue with the use of the word ‘black’ to signify evil – black-hearted, black knight, blackballed, black heart. No one seemed to understand why it annoyed me. Eventually I gave up tilting at that windmill, in part because I couldn’t rev up enough passion for it. There was no way I was going to have any impact on history. Time to move on. Here’s a woman who is eloquent about what remains a sensitive and divisive issue – the ‘conversational third rail’ about how you are treated when you are ‘different’ and the significant economic and societal disparities that still exist.

The subject of race can be very touchy. As finance executive Mellody Hobson says, it’s a “conversational third rail.” But, she says, that’s exactly why we need to start talking about it. In this engaging, persuasive talk, Hobson makes the case that speaking openly about race — and particularly about diversity in hiring — makes for better businesses and a better society.