Black man is seen working on laptop. The camera sits behind a white mans head.

Looking to fight anti-Blackness? Take action at work

Featured Image by Nappy Co, founder Jacques H. Bastien

Hate crimes against Black Americans like Ahmaud Arbery and Eric Garner spark an outpour of support for and interest in the Black experience from all kinds of people. 

For the Black community, there has always been police brutality and a need for allyship. For myself, widely publicized cases demand personal reflection. 

I am privileged to be a light skinned Black woman from a mixed race family. 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 other Black people live with and explore how I can live in ways that lift them up. 

The experiences of Black folks is unique and varies by appearance, 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 store exit, receiving racial slurs, being held back at school, interpersonal violence and police brutality – racism can take many forms. Acts of racism shape how we respond to cases like Ahmaud Arbery as well as the work Black people put into showing up in “normal” spaces like a running trail, the mall, school and the workplace. 

Workplace equity is needed to fight Black oppression.  

Representation of Black Adults in the US 
Fortune 500 CEOs - 0.8%
Executive/Senior level officials and managers - 3.2%
Professionals - 8%
College degree holders - 10%
Being Black In Corporate America, Center for Talent Innovation

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 the 15% of white professionals. If we look at a pyramid of professional success, Black representation is low. 

But improving the Black work experience is difficult and demands a lot of intentional work from outside the Black community. People leaders, colleagues, and consumers all have the power to improve the workplace for Black professionals every single day. I put together just three ways you can help out your Black colleagues today. 

1. Educate yourself from people with lived experiences 

There are many knowledgeable Black writers, researchers and leaders that create quality educational content. It is your responsibility as a consumer to seek out content from people with lived experiences. When you do this, you are not only receiving true information, you are fighting appropriation and supporting the Black community by amplifying voices that are often silenced. 

You can find a list of Black reports and publications that amplify Black videos here. 

2. 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. We need allies when there is not a highly publicized incident; we need Linkedin posts of support to raise awareness of under-watched cases and micro-racist aggressions at all times. In committing this way, you are contributing to an ongoing anti-racist conversation and ensuring that the need to be anti-racist and to support Black people is always on the mind of leaders. 

Ways you can be openly anti racist: 

  • Stand against seemingly “small” and “big” racist encounters. Structural and systemic racism is fuelled by small microaggressions, discriminatory interactions and racist thoughts. We need support during big and small encounters to end racism. 
  • Comment and like content shared by the Black community. You can start with these 9 Black American Advocates fighting against racism. 
  • Comment and like content shared by the Black community. You can start with these 9 Black American Advocates fighting against racism. 
  • Check in with your Black friends. The Black community is  mourning. Simple messages that say,  “I am thinking of you, I am here for you and What do you need from me?” can help Black folks deal with  emotional burden. 
  • Honor Black historical moments like Martin Luther King day, Black history month. The fight for black safety and black rights is not new. While we are looking forward towards 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. 

3. Demand your workplace implement diversity and equity 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 Csuite, an owner – your actions inform the decisions of employees who look up to you. Team members, supporters and other employees – your actions inform your colleagues and shape HR practices as your workplace 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. 

Ways you can demand DEI (Diversity Equity and Inclusion) efforts at work

  • Ask your employer to support Black colleagues. You can use this template created by Whitney Evans to start the conversation.
  • Start an ERG (Employee Resource Group) for BIPOC employees. Employee Resource Groups are groups of employees who join together based on shared interests 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.  You can use this guide created by Janice Gassam.
  • If your company does not have one, ask your HR department to create a D&I policy 
  • Report discrimination at work. We can’t change what is not measured. As you demand DEI efforts at work, it is important to make 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.

Every few months a publicized horrific act against the black community unleashes an outpour of support. You have the power to continue your support beyond the news-cycle. The three proposed ways to fight anti blackness at work are a fraction of the world of change you can create for Black folks 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 following brutality 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. 

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