By Dave Yochum. Chris Hailey, who ran for Mecklenburg County Sheriff as a Republican in 2010 and 2014, is black, but chairing the Diversity Council has been an eye-opener for him.
“When I became chairman of the diversity council, it educated me to the point where I was not as conservative as I used to be. My whole attitude has changed, getting to know people from the lesbian and gay community. I have grown more as a person, than at any point in my life. There are so many people in so many categories that suffer,” Hailey said.
“During Black History Month, we not only should celebrate those who have made North Carolina a better place to live for everyone, but we should also acknowledge the deep
sacrifices people made to get us to where we are now.”
—Gov. Roy Cooper. He declared February Black History Month in North Carolina
The diversity council, an outreach of the Lake Norman Chamber, holds regular events like “Lunch and Learn” that focus on topics like inclusion, a key component of a pro-active approach to diversity. Gone is “Chicks with Sticks,” a golf tournament for women.
“Simply put, diversity involves who we are as a people based on our age, gender, race, color, ethnicity, country of origin, religious beliefs, marital status, family status, sexual orientation, gender identity, mental and physical ability, veteran status, education level, record of conviction and economic circumstance,” Hailey, 53, said.
Diversity is all about Inclusion, which is all about involvement and empowerment.
“It’s where the inherent worth and dignity of all people are recognized, valuing and practicing respect for the talents, beliefs, backgrounds, and ways of living,” Hailey explains.
“Belonging” is the new term in the diversity lexicon. “You can include me all day, but what’s more important is that I feel like I belong,” Hailey says.
Hailey himself exemplifies diversity. He grew up in a family of 10 children in Wadesboro. Both parents worked in manufacturing and to help boost the family income, his mother was a small business owner—a beautician—on weekends. He won an athletic scholarship to Brewton-Parker Jr. College and Shaw University to play both basketball and baseball. He studied adapted physical education and kinesiotherapy and got a master’s in Organizational Management from Pfeiffer University in 1999.
After college, he joined the Raleigh Police Department and later the North Carolina Highway Patrol. He went on to Central Piedmont Community College as director of public safety training, retiring two years ago. He is currently working for Securitas USA and as a private consultant focusing on security-related issues.
Hailey says his perspective as an African-American is one of many diverse perspectives we have as unique individuals. “It’s circular,” he says. “You have to get out of your whiteness and I have to get out of my blackness.”
But it has to be genuine to be effective, to tap into diverse markets. Business decisions are more informed when they’re made with diverse thinkers.
“With the continuing growth of diversity in America and our local communities, as a diverse people, we must learn to live together by exhibiting mutual respect and acceptance of one another’s differences, values and beliefs,” Hailey says.