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Anti-Racism: Are You Fighting It or Just Talking About It?

For the last several weeks, there have been continuous updates from businesses and organizations about changing their internal and external landscape to "become more diverse, inclusive, and knowledgeable." However, we also need to recognize this work has a more critical underlying issue: anti-racism. How do you develop an anti-racist culture throughout your organization?

First, board members, leadership, and staff need to have a real understanding that anti-racism work is an ongoing, everyday process of active listening, and learning. This step sounds easy, but it is not. Something quickly glossed over is this "active" part. What does it mean to be an active listener or an active learner? It means you take every interaction, conversation, meeting, and otherwise and approach it with as much awareness as possible. You listen to what others say, and you respond with thoughtful questions to learn more. 

The Harvard Business Review gives a range of resources to aid your organization's efforts to undo racism. To respond to anti-racism adequately, leaders must reckon with the Black experience inside their workplaces. To do this, start with some necessary steps: 

Identify the harm without placing blame.

It can be a common reaction to blame others as your workplace wakes up to the realities of racism surrounding it. Some may feel personally responsible for the lack of care, or you might be personally accountable for not taking action. However, placing blame will not make the process, only slow it down.

Set specific, measurable goals. 

It is essential to release statements of support to share what you want to see changed. However, actions speak louder than words. Actions or rather specific, measurable goals tell the public what you will commit to doing better. The best way to go about this is to involve key stakeholders in the creation of new commitments. Employees, especially, will be tuned to making a difference, and they will help spread the messaging throughout the community.

Understand this will be uncomfortable. 

Black employees are likely more comfortable speaking about this issue. However, some leaders tend to fumble over their words or not direct the main topic of racism altogether. Neither one helps. Likewise, the way we socialize around racism leaves white people unpracticed and uncomfortable when talking about race and racism.

Try to host a virtual workshop or professional training session to reflect on and talk about race within your organization to try and remove the initial discomfort, so it does not become the obstacle in your way. For there to be lasting change, all leadership, especially white leadership, needs to confront their discomforts and push forward.

Be impeccable with your word.

It takes honest, impeccable leaders to follow through on promises. Once your organization takes a stand against racism, it must also articulate how progress will be tracked and communicated. If not, your organization runs the risk of losing accountability and trust with its constituents. Likewise, it is crucial to remember that results will not happen overnight. Racism is a deeply rooted systemic disease that requires consistency to unravel.

Organizations leading the way in anti-racism work still grapple with the reality that racism has been going on for centuries. It will take more deliberate, thoughtful efforts over the next several years to make significant progress.