Ever heard the words, “I’m not racist, but…”? Or perhaps the knee-jerk response, “I’m not a racist, I have black friends!”?
We may collectively eye roll at the memory of someone saying this or hold our head in our hands when reading similar posts on social media post, but did we actively question or explore that person’s comment at the time?
To really tackle systemic racism and effect actual change, it’s not enough for us to be not racist, we have to be antiracist.
Racism, as defined by the Oxford Dictionary, is “Prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.” Author of How to be an Antiracist, Ibram X. Kendi, goes further. He calls out racists as those who not only support racist policies through action, but also inaction.
It’s not enough to simply believe your individual ideals are not racist, you need to use the tools and privilege at your disposal to educate yourself and confront racial inequities to be truly antiracist – and this is vitally important in the workplace.
The CIPD says taking action isn’t just “the right thing to do”; rather without action to develop truly inclusive workplace cultures, where people from a diverse range of backgrounds feel able to perform at their best and progress, we face an “underutilisation of talent through a failure to enable everyone to achieve their potential and contribute fully.”
Dana Brownlee, recently wrote in Forbes, that workplaces could be the “ground zero” for more widespread cultural and societal change as they are places that bring people together from otherwise mostly segregated lives.
Being antiracist is something we all – individually as well as collectively – must work towards over time; there’s no quick fix. Unsure where to start? Take a look at our top tips below:
We cannot begin to dismantle our own biases without educating ourselves on the basics first, starting with simple definitions. Antiracism, racial equity, privilege – these words encapsulate complicated topics that some in your employees may never have thought about before or could even feel intimidated by. Through training and discussions, you can provide them with the tools they need to confront their own values and actions, or inactions.
And this isn’t just for the office floor! For a true cultural shift, this needs to take place at all levels so a company can be confident it is doing all it can to analyse its norms, values and practices against the antiracism model.
Anyone tasked with cultivating a successful team knows a level of conflict is a vital part of making new ground. When people challenge the assumptions of others or suggest change, it is likely to cause discomfort, but this should be embraced as a necessary part of the process. Discouraging healthy discussions, or not providing that psychological safety for people to be able to voice their authentic views, only breeds avoidance and ultimately denial of the issue at hand.
To help your people embrace discomfort, lead the way by producing a policy or statement detailing your unequivocal stance on antiracism. But then, most importantly, make sure you follow it!
One way to display your position is through social media. Many of us have probably been guilty in the past of placating racist comments on company pages with carefully worded responses that technically support antiracism but don’t offend the original author. However, saying nothing or changing the subject is just another form of acceptance – something today’s Millennial and Generation Z employees and customers will not accept.
Use your policy or statement as the backbone of a movement to call-out unacceptable behaviour, especially online.
As well as opposing inaction, you can take new action too! Following the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, your company can show its solidarity by donating or volunteering at charities and organisations dedicated to fighting racial injustice.
If you want to find out more about how your workplace can embrace antiracism, Tell Jane offers a range of training programmes that can be tailored to your organisation and D&I strategy. Contact us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org to discover how we can help.