“[George Floyd’s death] really puts us in position to look at something else that rears its ugly head all too often—not just in a macro sense, but in a micro sense at Fordham University, [in] corporate America—and it’s called racism,” said Carter, who retired as vice president for global diversity & inclusion and chief diversity officer for Johnson & Johnson in 2015. “We have to call it what it is, and we have to understand we all are affected and afflicted by this sin called racism. And we have to come together collectively to do something about it.”
A frequent lecturer and writer on the topics of diversity, inclusion, and social justice, Carter was a member of Fordham’s Diversity Task Force in 2015 and supports the University’s CSTEP program. He grew up in the South Bronx in a family of 10 children. His son Dayne is a 2015 Fordham graduate.
In part of the June 18 interview, Carter reflected on how his Fordham baseball cap helps protect him from people who may misjudge his identity and “take a cheap shot” at him.
“Outside of what we do, we still have to find ways to protect who we are,” Carter said. “I often use [this] example. I have a white cap, and it has a beautiful Fordham emblem on the front of it, and on the back of it, it says Board of Trustees. And I put that hat on like every other trustee with a sense of pride … But I also put that hat on for protection. I put that hat on because I don’t want anybody to misjudge who I am and take a cheap shot at me. Because absent that hat, I could be set up in circumstances that are unfortunate simply because of the color of my skin.”
In his role at Fordham, Zapata focuses on the support and strategic development of practices that promote racial justice, gender equity, disability access, and full participation in the life of the University among all members of the community. He’s a native New Yorker of Puerto Rican descent who grew up in the Chelsea public housing projects and attended Rice High School in Harlem.
Along with Carter, Zapata spoke about how Fordham is working on addressing racism within its ranks.
“At Fordham, we have … one of the oldest and widely respected African and African American history programs in the country … But not everybody’s going to be an African and African American studies major,” said Zapata. “What we’re trying to do at Fordham is [figure out]how do we integrate substantively and authentically issues of race throughout the curriculum in introductory classes? It can’t be an extra class, a one-credit class, or a zero-credit class. It has to be integrated into the curriculum.”
Achieving meaningful change is a process, said Zapata.
“What people think are the solutions are usually just the beginnings, and that includes hiring a chief diversity officer. That includes even getting a diverse student body, which we have not achieved yet. We’re still working on diversifying the faculty and administration and staff, which we’re working on. It’s a slower process. But we can’t pat ourselves on the back,” said Zapata. “We’re not there yet. And we have a long way to go.”
Watch Carter and Zapata’s full conversation in the video above.