This is a time for action+change: inside ourselves, our households, & organizations.
An Internal Call to Accountability for Corporate America: A Roadmap on Where to Start
As we write this new chapter in history, an important question to ask yourself is, “Will I be able to take pride in how I responded and how I contributed?”
Dear White and non-Black people of color,
Take a deep breath and work past the anxiety, shame and/or guilt you are feeling. You did not create racism. However, you CAN choose to admit the ways you benefit from it and acknowledge the power you have to change these conditions. This is permission to educate ourselves and grow. This is permission to forgive and say to ourselves: What am I going to do from this day forward? This is permission to become an even better version of ourselves; to become better partners, friends, co-workers, and co-conspirators to the movement for Black lives and equality for all.
If you are someone who identifies as not being racist, not “seeing color,” leading with love, and treating everyone as equals: this is for you.
It’s not enough to have good intentions and not be racist. You must actively be anti-racist, raise your children to be antiracist, and foster an antiracist company culture.
Let’s pivot from privilege to progress.
Racism is not a partisan issue; it is a question of morality. The scenes depicted on our streets are a deafening clarion call — it is time to evolve, not repeat. The best way to prevent racism is to address it head-on. We as allies tend to show a surge of support for the Black community, but then get burnt out with the constant flow of information. It is tiring to discuss racism, but even more tiring to experience it. Just remember we are in this together - you can be gentle, but consistent, in your journey towards antiracism. Unlearning bias takes time and uncomfortability, but you have the power to make the home, workplace, and land of the free a truly united, just, and kind space for us, our children, and the generations to come.
True change always comes from the inside — out. Examine racial bias within yourself and within your walls: home and office. Allyship requires an internal revolution before an external one!
Please bear in mind: burdening our Black peers with the responsibility of breaking things down for us as we embark on our antiracism work and take accountability for race-related issues, can be exhausting and re-traumatizing on top of existing social dynamics.
We can continue to build on the endless resources we have available at our fingertips and create safe spaces to share what we learn along the way, including: denial, despair, confusion, revelations, and of course, our desire for action.
Let’s start off by defining some key terms in an effort to not run away from a word, but instead — learn about it. I have seen and heard many misinformed takes on these terms, especially in the past few weeks. This is meant to be an introductory way of challenging the common ideas surrounding them, and should serve as inspiration to do more research of your own, as well as introduce the terms into open conversations within your leadership roles.
Black with a capital B
- Let’s talk semantics: the capitalization of the “B” in Black when it comes to race is a cultural, political, and spiritual act. Not all Black people are “African American.”
- Black is the more universal term. It recognizes and celebrates the race, culture, and lived experiences of people all over the world.
It’s OK to say “Black.” If you are unsure: start with Black, and then default back to African American if you are corrected.
- “Black, Indigenous, and People of Color”
- “POC” erases Black people and should be retired.
- “Refers to biased thinking: the beliefs, thoughts, feelings, and attitudes someone holds about a group”
- “A prejudice against someone based on race, when those prejudices are reinforced by systems of power.”
- This is important to remember, because we often inaccurately reduce issues of race in America to an individual character flaw– instead of seeing race and racial oppression as a part of a larger system.
- Aka structural racism or institutional racism. “Systems and structures that have procedures or processes that disadvantage Black Americans.”
- Systemic racism creates disparities in many success indicators; including wealth, the criminal justice system, employment, housing, healthcare, politics, and education.
- Ex: Housing — a disproportionate amount of BIPOC are homeless or lack housing security in part due to the legacy of redlining. Black people make up nearly half of the homeless population, despite comprising of only 13% of the US population.
Black Lives Matter
- Aka BLM. “An international movement, originating in the Black American community, emphasizing basic human rights and racial equality for Black people & campaigning against various forms of racism.”
- This is not a term of confrontation or an exclusionary demand. This does not mean only Black lives matter.
- It is a natural reaction to respond to one group centering its experience with, “But what about all lives? / Isn’t my safety important too?” Yes. But the truth is, Black Americans are disproportionately impacted by centuries of enslavement, race-based legislation, mass incarceration, infant mortality, and unequal wealth distribution that is systemic racism in our nation.
- Of course, all lives matter, which is why we need to come together to counteract the violence and discrimination that Black people face every day in the USA.
We are not all equal until everyone is.
- “Having a special right, advantage, granted immunity, or greater access to power and resources than other people [in the same situation] do.”
Having privilege does not mean you are racist, or a “bad” person, or that you have not had struggles, faced oppression, or not worked hard for what you have.
- It should be viewed as a built-in advantage, separate from one’s level of income or effort.
- Common misconceptions about privilege are so widespread that they frequently shut down our opportunities to truly digest and be accountable for our part in society’s injustice.
- Acknowledgement is awareness, and awareness is the first step to change.
- I implore you to read this exceptional book by Robin DiAngelo: “White Fragility.” It is the perfect starting point and segue into other life-changing literary works. It is illuminating, transformational and will teach you to identify your own internal bias in day-to-day life.
- “Someone who is expressing an antiracist idea or supporting an antiracist policy with their actions.” So what is an antiracist idea? “Any idea that says all racial groups are equal.”
- Antiracism involves taking stock of + eradicating policies (in daily life, organizations, and government) that are racist and have racist outcomes…ultimately working towards a much more egalitarian society.
“The beauty of anti-racism is that you don’t have to pretend to be free of racism to be anti-racist. Anti-racism is the commitment to fight racism wherever you find it, including in yourself. And it’s the only way forward.” — Ijeoma Oluo
- “A statement, action, or incident regarded as an instance of indirect, subtle, or unintentional discrimination against members of a marginalized group.”
- A key part of what makes microaggressions so disconcerting is that they are commonplace. They happen casually, frequently, and often without any harm intended. Most of us are guilty of them, and the first step is recognizing that no matter how subtle they may be, they have consequences and can feel like a hundred paper cuts.
- Ex: “You’re the whitest black person I know!” “You don’t even look gay.” “What are you?” “Where are you actually from?” is not a introduction.
The humanity of Black people is rooted in the dollar for so many Americans and we are completely missing the mark. This is not a moment, this is a movement. Sympathy is not all that’s needed, consistent action is.
Let’s not treat this like a PR crisis. Let’s not make this performative. No more talks about diversity and inclusion — it’s time to walk the walk. Stephen Covey said it well: “Be Proactive, Not Reactive.”
The following is not an exhaustive list, but it serves as a simplified overview and starter guide for those of you who are ready to move from performative to productive action!
- At home: the goal should be actively antiracist families. This entails having the hard conversations, diversifying your circles and media sources, and ongoing learning + growth.
- At school: the goal should be racial equity and the decolonization of education.
- At work: the goal should be diverse and equitable work environments. This encompasses creating an inclusive culture, combatting microaggressions, and prioritizing D&I efforts.
- In business: the goal should be increased representation and a closed racial wealth gap. This consists of holding businesses accountable, shopping BIPOC-owned/supported, and donating to community organizations.
- In government: the goal should be dismantling systemic racism and oppression.
It’s ok to accept that you may have been wrong and change your perspective after new information has been presented. Learn, adjust, and correct course. It takes humility to change the narrative from fighting to be right -to- fighting for what IS right. This is a fight for equality and basic human rights. This is an equal opportunity problem, but also a business problem — and now is your time to fix it. Nurturing a diverse workforce isn’t just the right thing to do; it’s a business imperative.
Your workforce is currently filled with brilliant minds in leadership, management, and direct reports who work individually and collaboratively on a daily basis to solve problems, strategize, and execute. This is a factor of your calling: to play your part in disrupting inequity!
Take the first step by looking inside. Engage in the uncomfortable work of confronting your own racial bias: listen, learn, unlearn, ask, support, acknowledge. Be teachable. Be correctable. Be patient. Be consistent. Then, take your time to understand history. The things that are happening now are not isolated incidents. Learn about the history of structural racism, and understand how current events fit into a larger pattern and history of viewing Black lives as “lesser than.” After this: continue to diversify your media feed, bookshelves, social circles, and workforce.
Within your organization: start by assessing your current workforce demographics — is your current number of Black employees reflective of national and local demographics? Set your goals, pair them with accountability mechanisms and credible incentives, then measure them ferociously against KPIs.
Recruit, attract, hire, and retain Black talent. Make space for black voices in your communities and your C-suites.
Foster inclusive culture for Black employees, and implement transparent grievance mechanisms for responding to + resolving instances of discrimination against Black teammates.
Let’s come together to create the new normal! Where we continue to desegregate the conversation by encouraging our team, stakeholders, and communities towards a better tomorrow. This is a marathon, not a sprint.
I will be traveling beside you on this journey en route to a more inclusive lifestyle, leadership and community.
Note: If you are more of a visual learner, please follow @unlearnclub on Instagram and Twitter. Here you can continue unlearning and relearning through several resources, including relevant information pertaining to Black Lives Matter, current and historical events, anti-racist books, movies, essays, and art.
While the bite-sized style of social media can often miss nuance, it is helpful for simplifying complexities into manageable pieces.
@unlearnclub aims to educate allies, and equip leaders, parents, + educators with tools they can use to support equality and wellness in their boardrooms, homes, and classrooms.