I once walked into an office in rural Louisiana as a VP of HR for a Fortune 500 company after we did an acquisition to do some meet and greet - you know, kiss some hands/shake some babies.
Of course, the goodwill tour had to have a major employee relations issue. The local manager had a picture on the wall behind the desk of himself. He was mounted on a horse in an outfit that looked like he was a Klan member.
"What is that picture?" - said the struggling artist known to the world as KD.
Plant Manager - "Oh, that's from the Mardi Gras parade last year. I was the marshall of the parade, and we go around town and collect the stuff we need to make a stew, everybody drinks and has a good time." (note: Rural area, different traditions. Killing chickens by hand was also involved.)
KD: "Does everyone from the company walk in the parade?"
Plant Manager: No. Some of the folks stay away from the parade, they say it's a voodoo event, blah, blah, blah."
KD: "Voodoo's not your problem. The picture needs to come down. You look like a Klan member whose car is broken down and has chosen alternative transportation to get to a meeting".
The point? You can be a swell guy or gal with limited bias and no racism of note, but if you've got relics from the past in your wardrobe or lifestyle, you might want to check yourself. Perception is reality, especially if you're managing a diverse workforce.
The NAACP is getting a taste of this related to an honor it recently bestowed on Kid Rock. More from Billboard.com:
"Critics felt it was inappropriate for the NAACP to honor Rock since he uses a Confederate flag in his stage shows and videos. Outside of Cobo Hall, where the dinner was held, a couple of dozen protesters marched with Say No To Kid Rock signs and at one point burned a Confederate flag over a garbage can. Adolph Mongo, a Detroit political consultant who was outspoken in his opposition to the award, said that the flag "stands for hatred, bigotry, racism, murder. "Every bigot and racist in this country loves that flag." He added that, "If Kid Rock was alive in the 50s in Selma (Ala.) he would have beaten up John Lewis and waving the Confederate flag." Lewis, a leading Civil Rights activist and now a U.S. Representative from Georgia, was one of the night's other honorees.
During his brief remarks, Rock -- who attended the dinner with his son, Bob Ritchie, Jr., brother Billy Ritchie and production manager Eric "Shakes" Gryzbowski -- told the crowd that "I've never flown that flag with hate in my heart, not one ounce." He explained that his use of the image was an "homage" to Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, who he's name-checked in his songs and whose "Sweet Home Alabama" was an ingredient in his 2008 mash-up hit, "All Summer Long." Rock explained that he made the donations to "turn a negative into a positive," and concluded his speech by saying that, "I love America, I love Detroit and I love black people!"
In presenting the award to Rock, Detroit NAACP President Wendell Anthony acknowledged the controversy as well as his organizations opposition to what the Confederate flag represents and noted that Rock "has stirred the pot" by using it. But he added that "we are not saluting the flag. We are saluting the works" that Rock has done in the community. "
Maybe that Lynyrd Skynyrd poster in your office isn't such a great idea. I'm just saying. I've been to a Kid Rock concert, he's diverse enough to have a black female on drums. Look around and see if you find that anywhere else.
Of course, that's not really the point. That Plant Manager actually told me he loved black people as well. I told him, "Great! Show your love by taking down the picture".
As far as Kid Rock goes, give me the classics. (email subscribers click through for video)