Leadership

Morehouse College president: Most U.S. leaders are not prepared for dialogue about race

Key Points
  • Morehouse College President David Thomas told CNBC that most U.S. leaders are not well-equipped to navigate honest dialogues about racism.  
  • "The leaders of most organizations in our country are not prepared to lead the kind of conversation that needs to be taking place," Thomas said on "Squawk Alley."
  • Thomas said his research at Harvard Business School revealed "most white male executives only had white men in their networks." 
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Morehouse College pres. David Thomas on civil unrest across the U.S.

Morehouse College President David Thomas told CNBC on Friday that most U.S. leaders are not well-equipped to navigate honest dialogues about racism.  

"The leaders of most organizations in our country are not prepared to lead the kind of conversation that needs to be taking place," Thomas said on "Squawk Alley."

Thomas, who became president of the country's only HBCU for men in 2018, said that is because too many of the white men in top jobs have close professional networks consisting of people just like them. He said this became apparent in research he conducted while he was on the faculty at Harvard Business School

"We would ask executives to literally draw their network of close relationships that they rely on when they're looking at issues of human capital and career, and most white male executives only had white men in their networks," Thomas said. "Therefore, they don't have relationships with people of color that they can turn to to get counsel about how to move this conversation forward." 

Thomas' comments Friday come as nationwide demonstrations against racism and police brutality continue in the wake of the recent death of George Floyd, who died after a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on the unarmed black man's neck for nearly nine minutes. 

Many businesses and organizations across the U.S. have put out statements in response to Floyd's death and expressed support for addressing racial inequality. 

Morehouse president David A. Thomas speaks onstage at Morehouse College 30th Annual A Candle In The Dark Gala at The Hyatt Regency Atlanta on February 17, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia.
Paras Griffin | Getty Images

Thomas, the former dean of Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business, said he believes students at Morehouse are "fully engaged" in the current call for police reform and anti-discrimination policies. Morehouse, located in Atlanta and founded in 1867, has nearly 3,000 students. 

"The great thing about Morehouse College is that everything about our education, without there being a crisis, has been preparing our students for this moment," Thomas said, noting that some of its students led a march Sunday that ended up drawing thousands of people at Atlanta's Centennial Olympic Park. "So, unlike many places, I think Morehouse won't need to adjust what we do."

But, Thomas added, Morehouse's mission will surely be intensified by the current moment. 

"Our faculty are already engaging our students, our staff and helping our students stay focused on [the fact that] this news cycle will pass and we have to be thinking about how we move beyond it and create real change," he said.