In collaboration with the Financial Services Pipeline (FSP), The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago’s African-American Association for Professional and Personal Growth (APPG) hosted an event to inspire courageous conversations about cultural awareness.

Nearly 200 people attended “Understanding Privilege & Becoming a Better Ally,” a fireside chat on June 14 between Daniel Hill, author of White Awake: An Honest Look at What It Means to Be White, and Jeff Marcus, Senior Vice President and General Auditor. The event was co-hosted by the African American Association for Personal & Professional Growth (APPG) and the Financial Services Pipeline (FSP) initiative. More than 70 external professionals from the 19 FSP member firms attended.

The goal of the conversation was to empower attendees to be advocates for change in confronting the narrative of racial difference. Jeff and Daniel discussed the very sensitive topics of racism, diversity and inclusion, white culture and the impact of the country’s racial narrative both inside and outside the workplace. Both speakers displayed their passion on these issues and left attendees with enhanced knowledge of the topics and a lot to think about.

Daniel began the discussion by asking attendees to separate diversity and inclusion conversations from conversations about race. He went on to explain that while organizations can take steps to become more diverse and inclusive, there are larger, systemic issues around race and racial narratives that must also be addressed. At one point in the emotionally charged conversation, Daniel described the urgency and pervasiveness of the racial narrative in this country as a “sickness.” After observing the curious eyes and insightful questions from the audience during the Q&A portion of the event, it was clear that the conversation fostered a growing awareness of the importance of personal awareness and accountability in reshaping the narrative of racial difference and addressing that sickness.

If you were unable to attend the event, you can watch the recording on the FSP’s YouTube channel.  A slideshow of photos is available below.

About the Author

Daniel’s journey of cultural awareness began unexpectedly. After making an innocent comment about being envious of other cultures, Daniel was confronted with a surprising response. His friend replied, “Daniel, you may be white, but don’t let that lull you into thinking you have no culture. White culture is very real. In fact, when white culture comes in contact with other cultures, it almost always wins. So it would be a really good idea for you to learn about your culture.” This interaction left Daniel confused and unsettled. What it sparked was a journey of self-discovery, and an awakening of his consciousness to the privileges bestowed to white people, and the systemic racial injustices experienced by a multitude of historically disadvantaged groups.

About the Moderator:

Jeffrey B. Marcus was appointed general auditor of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago in November 2012. In this capacity, he serves as a liaison to the Bank’s Executive Committee and Risk Policy Committee, and is a member of the System Leadership Initiative Advisory Group. Mr. Marcus joined the Bank in 1982 as a financial analyst and subsequently held positions of increasing responsibility in finance, corporate planning, human resources, and information technology. Prior to his appointment as general auditor, he was the vice president, corporate controller, and senior procurement officer in the Bank’s Finance Department. He was responsible for corporate accounting, compliance, and financial operations and was the “third signer” on the Bank’s financial statements. He was also responsible for District procurement operations, including the Bank’s supplier diversity program. Mr. Marcus earned a BS degree in finance from Northern Illinois University and an MBA with a concentration in finance from DePaul University

Event Photos