Jon Joffe
Posted in Charlotte Resident

Jon Joffe

Jon Joffe moved to Charlotte in 2011 and noticed something pretty quickly about the city.

“The community is friendly and personable, but there is a sense of being an outsider,” Jon said. “It struck me that in a beautiful community like this there were such clear pockets – and clear groups of people who didn’t feel empowered, respected and included.”

He grew up in the Midwest, born in Northern Indiana. His family was a lower-middle class family, and his grandparents worked in a General Motors plant. He says he understands what it’s like to feel on the outside looking in.

When Charlotte was ranked last among the 50 largest cities in the U.S for upward mobility, Jon wasn’t surprised.

“There are areas of Charlotte that clearly are not getting resources,” he said. “Having lived in Colorado and Chicago, I always felt like Charlotte was a bit closed, especially from the standpoint of connectivity.”

Jon shared that as a white male executive in Charlotte, he’s still trying to determine how to best engage with communities of color.

“They see me as an outsider that they may not be able to trust. I always have to explain my contribution. Race can be a tough issue and it’s not as easy for people to see that I grew up lower middle class. I would have been considered “white trash” — we always had food and clothes but not much else.”

“Now that I’m in a position of authority when I walk into a room, I always have to wonder whether people see me only for my privilege.” Jon said. “I don’t know, and will never know, what it’s like to be a young black female. It can be tough to balance helping versus interfering, and that’s the question for white men of influence.”

Jon spoke candidly about issues of race in Charlotte, and how more men like him must be active change agents before the issues can truly be addressed.

“White men must be active and thoughtful,” he said. “I see a lack of advocacy from white men in circles of influence to change the way of the game. It’s uncomfortable, and many often become defensive. As I look at my colleagues and peers, I want more from them.”

When Jon speaks to what Carolinas Healthcare has done specifically, he says that the organization has always been an active community member and advocate for those in the community facing challenging issues.

But the events of September 2016 helped CHS re-evaluate and refocus their efforts.

“Instead of generalizing groups, we began to look more closely. We reached out to partners like [Community Building Initiative] and Urban League. We looked at what were we doing and asked ourselves whether we were doing enough. What CHS could do to be more impactful, how could we be more intentional? Going into 2018, we have some really great programs and initiatives that we are excited to create.”

Jon says the events helped make the dialogue a bigger priority for Carolinas Healthcare Systems, so that the company could continue to the journey.

“We needed to be different. We needed to be more of an advocate.”

“There are too many people talking and not enough people listening. Leadership is viewed as being vocal. We need to move less, talk less, and be better listeners. Don’t answer the question before it is asked. Then we will be more empathetic.”

Jon Joffe

He also shared that he wants another circle of influence – that of his family – to also be a place for open conversations about the reality of inequity in our community.

“I have three girls and I have to think about what I am telling them. Do they understand all that is happening and am I doing enough?” Jon said. “Can I really articulate why certain populations of people don’t have what we have and how do I help my daughters experience and understand that?”

Jon also said he thinks that commitment should be shared among all parents – to ensure that children understand and recognize the need for systematic change to policies and programs that impact people.

He also noted a specific behavior that needs to change citywide – and that is the ability to listen.

“There are too many people talking and not enough people listening. Leadership is viewed as being vocal. We need to move less, talk less, and be better listeners. Don’t answer the question before it is asked. Then we will be more empathetic.”

Comments (3)

  • Your comments have no substance. NO ANSWERS. What are YOU going to do? I get so tired of liberals saying that the “inequality and divisiveness ” is the white mans fault. WHAT IS YOUR ANSWER MR. JOFFE??? Everyone white, black, yellow or blue can go to school and become something if they want to. There are NOT the barriers aagainst certain races that liberals claim. If ANYTHING there is misplaced affirmative action.

    Cindy
    Reply
    • YOUR comment,cindy, is EXACTLY the type of thinking he’s addressing in this article that the cuty of charlotte does NOT need! your privilege allows you to criticize him for seeing something that charlotteans have seen for GENERATIONS here! if you seriously think the solution is THAT simple cindy,then i truly feel sorry for you because you are LOST. he’s speaking absolute truth—this IS a conversation that needs to happen amongst the demographic he mentioned! where is the lie?! be better,not bitter! be apart of the solution,not the problem! or get out the way. because its BEYOND time for charlotte to change. and this is a start! BRAVO mr. joffe! BRAVO!

      Dani
      Reply
  • Being inclusive takes a conscious effort but in order to change the game, I have to get out of my blackness and you have to get out of your whiteness. This is not about Affirmative Action. This is about recognizing the different experiences and challenges we all have and allowing each other the opportunity to better understand what’s in each other’s ground. This conversation and many others is a catalyst to create the kind of change that’s necessary and required NOW for Charlotte to thrive and for the next generation to be more equipped to embrace the change that will impact Charlotte in the future.

    Jon’s points are spot on. I truly appreciate his authenticity willingness to use his voice to elevate the elephant in the room and to bring attention to this reality of white privilege. His call to action is challenging his peers to leverage their influence both at an organizational and individual level to change the narrative.

    Cathy
    Reply

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