Author: Cassie Myers
Hate crimes against Black people and Black History Month, spark an outpour of support for and interest in the Black experience from all kinds of people.
For the Black community, Black History Month, anti-Black violence and the need for support have never ended. For myself, widely publicized cases and Black History Month demand personal reflection.
I am privileged to be a light-skinned, mixed-race Black woman. I benefit from appearing with a level of “whiteness” that allows me to feel safe in scenarios where others are attacked; to be treated better where others are disrespected, and to be afforded advantages where others find barriers. I continue to learn about the circumstances that other Black people live with and explore how I can live in ways that lift them up.
The Black experience is unique and varies by appearance, gender, disability, sexuality, economic status, network, religion, and education. But every single Black person I know has experienced racism or discrimination that they will never forget. A study of 101 Black teens reported over 5,600 experiences of racial discrimination in the span of two weeks. That’s an average of 5 instances per day, per person.
From being searched at a grocery store, receiving racial slurs, being held back at school to interpersonal violence and police violence, racism can take many forms. Experiences with racism shape how we experience cases like Ahmaud Arbery as well as the work Black people put into showing up in “normal” spaces like a walking trail, the mall, school and the workplace.
Workplace equity is needed to fight anti-Black racism
A job provides generational privilege through economic provisions, valuable networks and enhanced skill sets. When Black people are in positions of power, we have the resources needed to fight injustice, dismantle stereotypes about Black ability, and empower the next generation to reach beyond those before them.
In the United States, an average of 58% of Black professionals experience racism at work, compared to 15% of white professionals. In the United States, Black people represent about 13.4% of the population but only 0.8% of fortune 500 CEOs, 3.2% of senior managers and 8% of designated professionals.
Significant intentional work is needed to improve Black representation and experience in the workplace. While the work will be difficult, every single person, within and outside of the Black community has the power to contribute to this change. We outlined just a few things anyone can do amid troubling times and calmer days, during Black History Month and the summertime and every single day.
Educate yourself with Black-created knowledge
While it is empowering to see allies stand up for the Black community, It is painful to watch authors from outside the Black community profit from and share incorrect retells of the Black experience.
There are many available, and knowledgeable Black writers, researchers and leaders that create quality and research-backed educational content. It is your responsibility as a consumer to seek content from people with lived experiences. When you do this, you are not only receiving accurate information, you are fighting appropriation by supporting the Black community by amplifying the voices that are too often silenced.
You can find a list of Black reports and publications that amplify Black videos here.
Be openly anti-racist in good times and bad
It is incredible to see the outflow of support for the Black community amid difficult times and historically significant times. However, the Black community needs allies beyond Black History Month and when there is not a highlighted publicized incident. An ongoing anti-racist conversation helps ensure that racism is always on the mind of leaders and that they consider racism when making influential decisions.
Ways you can be openly anti-racist:
1. Stand against small and big racist encounters
Structural and systemic racism is fueled by small microaggressions, discriminatory interactions and racist thoughts. We need support during big and small encounters to end racism. Standing against racism in your individual interactions can look like disagreeing with a racist comment, correcting a false race-based fact and highlighting the efforts of Black folks when they are left out from moments of recognition.
2. Comment on and like content shared by the Black community
You can start with these 9 Black American Advocates fighting against racism.
3. Honor Black historical moments like Martin Luther King day and Black history month
The fight for black safety and black rights is not new. While we are looking forward to the future, honoring the past is how we remember the people who came before us and learn from their work. Recognizing important days in Black history helps create space for wider dialogue around Black experiences that can be a powerful force against racism. You can honour significant days in Black History by attending a Black-led event, re-sharing Black created content and encouraging your employer to do the same.
Demand your workplace implement diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) strategies
If you are in a position of power or privilege – you have an incredible opportunity to boldly stand up for the Black community and have your voice heard in a way that others cannot. If you are a board member, a manager, in the C-suite or an owner – your actions inform the decisions that impact employees who look up to you. Team members, supporters and other employees – your actions inform your colleagues and shape HR practices as your employer strives to retain the best talent.
It can be scary to be an advocate at work and not everyone has the ability to do so. But if you are secure in your role and have the platform, we need your voice to change lives. Our article on the 6 pillars of a DEI strategy key components of a DEI initiative that can inform your recommendations.
Ways you can demand DEI (Diversity Equity and Inclusion) efforts at work:
1. Ask your employer to support Black colleagues using this template.
2. Start an ERG (Employee Resource Group) for BIPOC employees
Employee Resource Groups are groups of employees who join together based on shared identity, interest or experiences. It can be anything from dog owners to Women at work and Black employees. ERGs can be a safe space for employees with shared experiences to talk about their barriers and combine efforts to work towards change.
Sometimes it might not be safe or feasible to create an ERG, in these cases professional networks are great resources for community and advice. Black Professional in Tech Network (BPTN) connects Black professionals in technology but is an amazing resource for all Black professionals outside of the technology space as well. You can join, or refer someone, to their community including a dedicated Slack group.
3. If your company does not have one, ask your HR department to create a DEI policy
A DEI policy is a source of truth that outlines expected behaviors, repercussions and resources all employees can use in response to discrimination. An enforced DEI policy creates a level of protection for all, but especially for Black and other underrepresented professionals.
4. Report discrimination at work
We cannot change what is not measured. As you demand DEI efforts at work, it is important to note when injustice happens at work to support your case for a better DEI foundation. Your workplace should have some avenue whether it is a form, an online platform or an email to submit complaints and concerns to HR.
The three proposed ways to fight anti-Blackness at work are a fraction of the world of change you can create for the Black community every single day. For myself I find conversations are difficult to engage in, the articles more challenging to write and the social media painful to participate in amid mourning in the Black community. I am committed to navigate past fear and use my privilege to continue the conversation until there is no need for one and encourage you to try to do the same.