You’ve issued a public statement, now look inward
It’s time to do the real work. Now that the post on social media supporting the Black community, Black Lives Matter movement, acknowledging that you stand with employees and denigrate racism at all costs has gotten ample recognition, many companies who strategized on how they’d present the message and did so successfully, must now look at themselves with a critical eye.
Your message told the world one thing, but what is life like on the inside for your African-American employees and other people of color? Do you even know?
While there is much applause and accolades for the position you’ve taken, are employees secretly sharing screenshots among themselves with snide remarks about how your statement seems a bit hollow based on what they know to be true in terms of how you operate, how they’re treated and what they experience on a daily basis? Maybe.
I’ll admit that I thought about sharing one from a company where I once worked, reminding a friend and former colleague of at least four incidents including microaggressions, blatant racist statements and behaviors that made people uncomfortable – all of which came from very senior leaders. I knew she’d recall even more.
I am glad the death, no the murder, of George Floyd is getting this much attention which is prompting conversations, self-reflection and outreach from friends like I’ve never experienced. This is all progress and leads me to believe there’s a possibility of change.
Though I found myself doing this yesterday, I don’t want to question the motives of companies for speaking out when they never have before because I am so glad they’re doing it now. You have to start somewhere, right? And I truly am pleased to see it.
But I know, what I know. And the statements aren’t enough.
Make sure black VOICES matter in your organizations. Teach your senior leaders about their unconscious bias. Teach everyone at all levels. Talk about microaggressions, like the one I shared in this post. Those are the everyday insults that pile up over time and can be so debilitating in the moment you feel like you’re in the twilight zone. Initiate roundtable discussions where these issues can be tackled safely and without defensiveness on the other side. Train HR to give everyone’s concerns merit and not downplay them when reporting back to the executive team. Don’t tell a person of color they’re overreacting just because you don’t understand. Eliminate race from casual conversation: “My black neighbor,” My daughter’s friend, who happens to be black…”
Eliminate stereotyping and don’t feed into them. Promote everyone who’s deserving without making race a factor, and don’t treat people differently based on race. I realize you must know you are doing these things to stop, but so many people ARE doing them.
Raising consciousness is a path forward. Practicing what you preach or posted yesterday is a must. Sweep around your own front door, and get your house in order. If you don’t know where to start. Ask some of the employees who would know.