Much was written in the early days of the racial unrest about how best to support Black employees, colleagues, and friends. Companies near and far had uncomfortable and courageous conversations. Dialogue circles were created along with new and re-energized Diversity Councils. Those were the right actions at the right time.
Now, when the headlines are starting to fade a little, the need to engage and support Black people has grown stronger than ever. Black professionals are looking to their companies and their leadership to keep these conversations going and ensure they evolve. The time to react has passed; it’s now time to respond. Many people are asking themselves “What does that mean and how do I continue to evolve my own thinking and be the ally that is needed?
Here are a few ideas for you to consider:
1. Continue the education efforts for all employees. Black History is complicated, but still worth understanding. Learn what terms like red-lining, white supremacy and white privilege really mean so that you can better understand why your Black employees feel the way they do. Take a look at former NFL player Emmanuel Acho’s YouTube series “Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man.”
2. Commit to and start taking anti-racist action. To be anti-racist does not make you an activist. You don’t need to put a sign in your yard or office building or march in rallies, but you can take small steps to interrupt bias when you see it and advocate for others when they can’t advocate for themselves. You can make sure that Unconscious Bias training goes farther into your organization and leads to behavior change by all. Keep in mind that it isn’t a one and done. Once you’ve launched Unconscious Bias, create a steady slate of programs that create a consistent drumbeat and get your company to the point of anti-racism as a value.
3. Support Black-owned businesses, personally and within your business and supply chain. In addition to helping the economy, it will give you a chance to interact and learn from Black people in their own space.
4. Recognize that Black people can’t fix institutionalized racism and implicit bias. It’s a structural issue not a Black people issue. To be frank, White people started this problem and it will take all of us, working together, for a long time, to fix it.
5. Recognize the power you have as a leader and engage in socially conscious leadership. Business leaders have a tremendous opportunity to be a central part of forging positive societal change. Use your power within and beyond the walls of your business.
2020 is turning out to be a pivotal and historic year for our country. What has been playing out in front of us month after month is unprecedented. One thing is certain, there’s not going to be a new normal, there’s going to be a complete reboot and it’s anyone’s guess what it will look like. 2020 will either be the year of resiliency and when our country turns the corner on racial injustice and inequity, or it will be the year where we continue with the status quo. Like me, I hope that it will be the former. It is time that America reckons with it’s structural racist past so that we can all move forward. I can’t speak on behalf of all Black people, but what I do know is that we aren’t looking for charity or revenge. What we want now and forever is equality in every way.
Charlene Wheeless is a communications expert, author and speaker.