Overdue change is coming

Cars aren’t the only things with blind spots. We all have them.

As we go about our daily lives, focused intently on the things demanding our immediate attention, many of us miss the most obvious things happening around us.

Consider this issue of Canadian auto dealer. It’s the first time we’ve featured a Black person on the cover in more than 10 years of publishing. I’ve been the editor for about a decade, so that’s entirely on me. I can assure you, it won’t be the last.

This issue’s cover features Emiliano Void, a remarkably confident and dynamic Black professional poised to become an industry leader. Sparked partly by the unrest and turmoil he witnessed in recent months, and by the few Black people he sees in leadership positions throughout the automotive industry, he spoke up.

He first went to his own organization, Cox Automotive Canada, where he found a sympathetic advocate in the company’s President Maria Soklis. Emiliano and others, like his colleague Pako Tshiamala, started an employee resource group, the Black Employee Network, or BEN, and led conversations about racism, and expanded opportunities for Black employees.

Soklis encouraged Emiliano to reach out to me, to see if I might be interested in helping start a broader, industry-wide effort to spark conversations and advocate for positive change. I sure was — as was publisher Niel Hiscox, who fully backed our efforts.

After several conversations, Emiliano and I reached out to other highly-successful Black professionals in our own network who might be interested in joining the cause. After several Zoom meetings, and lots of conversations, the group created Accelerate Auto — a new not-for-profit organization that is spearheading needed change for our industry.

You can read about the organization’s goals and ambitions in the cover story, but I thought I’d share a few personal thoughts.

The first few conversations about things like race, anti-Black racism, skin colour, cultural differences, biases and discrimination are difficult. Not because they are complex, which they are, but because most of us are unaccustomed to having these conversations, particularly in the workplace. But we have to get good at it.

Those of us who aren’t Black, can’t really feel the lived Black experience in Canada. But while I’ll never know what it’s like to feel judgment and prejudice on a daily basis, I believe I have a much better understanding of why it’s wrong, having heard it articulated by the group of amazing Black professionals I’ve been meeting with for months.

For those of us who aren’t Black, we might be able to define systemic racism or anti-Black racism, but we don’t know what it’s like to live on the other side of those words.

Accelerate Auto is starting an overdue conversation. I hope you’ll take part. The board members want to do it the right way, by extending a hand, sparking conversations, and seeking allies and partners also looking to drive positive change in their organizations.

I believe the will is there throughout our industry to change — now, we just need to see the action.

About Todd Phillips

Todd Phillips is the editorial director of Universus Media Group Inc. and the editor of Canadian auto dealer magazine. Todd can be reached at tphillips@universusmedia.com.

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