Cruddy cultural competence or an honest mistake? Bedrock’s next move is what matters

Cruddy cultural competence or an honest mistake? Bedrock’s next move is what matters
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Bedrock Financials’ display of all white faces on a vinyl graphic on the Vinton Building at Woodward and Congress this past weekend was certainly a gaffe, in and of itself. But it’s not the first misstep by the Detroit behemoth, which was taken to task along with Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores  in 2016 by then-BLAC Magazine Editor Aaron Foley, for promoting renderings of a proposed downtown soccer stadium depicting mostly white patrons in a piece titled “Let’s count the Black people in the Detroit MLS stadium renderings.”

Gilbert deserves credit for his quick, decisive action and for showing personal accountability in the matter. But, frankly, what matters most is what comes next.

The decision to put the all-white-face Vinton graphic up first in a marketing series called “See Detroit Like We Do” was certainly in poor taste and should never have happened. The tagline also further stoked the ensuing social media storm and was compounded by 50th anniversary remembrances of the ’67 riots.

So how does Bedrock really view Detroit?

Although a quick apology from Chairman Dan Gilbert was issued on Bedrock’s Facebook page, this most recent action will surely focus additional attention on the Detroit organization’s cultural competence — and should.

“The graphic that was completed Friday was, unfortunately, not diverse or inclusive when looked at by itself,” Gilbert says. “The remaining graphics were scheduled to be installed and completed early this upcoming week.”

Bedrock has since cancelled the campaign.

The entire graphic package, scheduled to be installed and completed this week, was removed entirely at the direction of Dan Gilbert .

Gilbert deserves credit for his quick, decisive action and for showing personal accountability in the matter. But, frankly, what matters most is what comes next.

For Gilbert, that begins with greater understanding of not only the offense, but the business mandate to better understand and promote diversity.

We all should care about how Bedrock sees Detroit and, as important, how we see and treat one another.

What is important is that Detroit comes together as a city that is open, diverse, inclusive and redeveloped in a way that offers opportunities for all of its citizenry and the numerous new residents that will continue to flock here.

How can Bedrock play a greater role in making the city an energized, growing, job-producing town where grit, hard work and brains meld together to raise the standard of living for everyone?

Bedrock’s status as one of the city’s largest developers and employers should be directly tied to diversity and inclusion as core values in a greater mission of helping grow population and consumer activity, increasing economic opportunity for all. Recognizing and accepting this role can pay dividends for both the corporation and the community.

Since its founding in 2011, Bedrock and its affiliates have invested more than $3.5 billion in developing more than 100 properties in downtown Detroit and Cleveland, and show no signs of dissipating. New investments include a slew of residential housing developments heralded for meeting the city’s affordable housing goal of 20 percent.

By 2021, it is estimated that Bedrock’s tax contribution will exceed 9 percent of the city’s total tax base, according to Chris Leinberger, a land use strategist and visiting fellow at The Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., quoted in a 2016 Mlive interview.

Yes, Gilbert has certainly done a lot for Detroit.

Such expansive investment brings elevated responsibility.

Certainly, there are many who will be watching what’s to follow this widely-publicized matter. Some will even try to benefit from Bedrock’s mistake, but that divisive mindset is a part of what impedes Detroit from truly becoming a world-class city.

True healing will happen only as a result of deeds, not words. Market-driven advances in minority employment, supplier and community economic development are a “given” for any business hoping to foster long-term prosperity in Detroit, including Bedrock Financial.

Detroiters need to see continued and increased business and efforts to promote new opportunities, not banners.

Gilbert understands this and we do, too. Let’s move forward Detroit.

Editor’s Note: Jackie Berg is the founder and publisher of TheHUB

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