Black History Month here in America is really important, because it sheds light on the stories of many African Americans who have fought for justice — whether fighting slavery and for freedom, or fighting for voting rights and equal rights, or fighting for the right to just be seen as human. It’s terrible what African Americans’ ancestors had to go through here, and their stories should be told with honor and prestige — those who fought, those who died, and those who survived to see the success of today’s generations are all heroes.
Many brands use their influence to do something to honor those who have fought for equality, and Tesla is also doing something to pay tribute. The company announced on its LinkedIn page that in collaboration with its Black @ Tesla ERG, it’s proud to celebrate Black History Month by hosting educational and cultural events that honor the contributions that African Americans have made to the US.
Although we don’t know the details of Tesla’s plans for these events, we can speculate that Tesla is probably working toward not only honoring the contributions of African Americans in the past but also those who are currently impacting our present and future.
One such employee who was highlighted in Tesla’s 2020 DEI Report is Valerie Workman, who is Tesla’s Vice President of people. Her role is critical for Tesla’s executive leadership team and she leads its Tesla’s Human Resources, Recruiting, Workplace, Benefits, Diversity Equity & Inclusion and Employee Relations programs. She’s also a member of Tesla’s Covid-19 CRE Team, which developed innovative, employee-focused programs in response to the pandemic.
Workman was originally hired in 2018 and has been promoted several times starting from her position as Associate General Counsel, Compliance. She’s been the Head of Human Resources for all of North America, EMEA, and the Asian Pacific region (China excluded). She was promoted in July of 2020 to her current position.
“My promotions are illustrative of one of the things I love most about Tesla; here you are never type-cast into doing just one thing. At Tesla, excellence is seen as the core competency for any role and this perspective gives leadership the flexibility to provide employees with new opportunities to plug into the areas where their talents are needed. I also love the fact that we are a flat organization. Anyone, anywhere in the company is empowered to connect with everyone, including Elon if employees are facing roadblocks. We don’t believe in hierarchy. We believe in getting things done.” — Valerie Capers Workman, Esq., Vice President, People at Tesla.
Tesla’s CEO, Elon Musk, supports the Black Lives Matter movement — which was recently nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize — and follows the movement on Twitter. Tesla has long been known as a company that supports equality for everyone, and although it recently admitted that it has work to do, it’s working on being more inclusive in its workforce.
Tesla still has work to do with being more inclusive — something it admitted in its DEI report. One way we know for sure that Tesla is working on these goals, though, is through its partnership with Huston-Tillotson University, a Historically Black College and University (HBCU).
Some Thoughts on Racism, Inequality, Fossil Fuels, & Pollution — and the Links Connecting Them
It’s really sad that racism still exists today, and the events of the past 4 years with our former administration have shown just how deeply embedded white supremacy is in American culture. Although racism is a hot topic that isn’t directly relevant to CleanTechnica, it is one that needs to be addressed — I mean, if we can’t admit that we have this issue, then how are we supposed to admit that we have another big issue, the collective destruction of our planet? Both racism and pollution are societal sicknesses that hurt us, yet are things many people wish we would just stop talking about.
I think we need to stop making human rights a political weapon and focus more on education so we as a nation can learn. Regarding clean energy and racial inequality, there are several instances that show we have much work to do. For example, African Americans have higher health risks from petroleum pollution — and part of this is due to the fact that Black people are more likely to live close to oil and gas production facilities and then suffer from cancer linked to that.
This is especially true in Louisiana. Here in Cancer Alley, an area along the Mississippi with several chemical plants, it’s communities such as St. Gabriel, which is primarily an African-American community, that suffer. Last month I took a trip to the river and saw the haze from a chemical plant with my own eyes — and had to put my N95 mask back on because the chemicals made the air foul.
In that same article, I shared a story from our local news site, NOLA.com, about a woman named Hazel Schexnayder who was born and raised in St. Gabriel. Over the course of her life, she saw old plantations, shacks, and cornfields become fields of towering chemical plants with white plumes. These plants also oozed blue fluid into roadside ditches and poisoned the air.
We need to do better. We need to do better to respect the lives of all humans. And we need to do better to protect the lives of all humans.
Feature image credit: Markell Baldwin, Staff Engineer at Tesla
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