The word “ally” has become a charged one in the last few weeks. As a white person, it’s not enough to say we are an “ally” when it comes to Black Lives Matter. Unless we commit to taking anti-racist actions to dismantle the racist systems from which we benefit, being an ally is a hollow promise. Why not take the next step and take deliberate action for change? When talking about being supportive of the African American community, be specific. Say what you will do and preface it by saying, “I will take action by——.”
What Can We Do To Truly Act?
Explore your own bias: Whether we want to admit it or not, we all have biases. If we cannot recognize our own bias, we cannot act to stop it from inflicting harm - even if unintentionally. Test yourself for hidden bias. It’s difficult to work with others and break down biases if you haven’t broken down your own first. Take the Implicit Association Test from Harvard which aspires to educate the public about hidden biases and to provide a “virtual laboratory” for collecting data online. “Project Implicit” was founded by three scientists in 1998; from University of Washington, Harvard University and University of Virginia. Take the test here
As Leanne Italie of Associated Press wrote in the New York Times recently, “As a new generation steps up, activists and historians believe there’s important work to be done for white people: Listening to black voices and following rather than trying to lead, for one, and undertaking the deep introspection required to confront unconscious bias and the perks of privilege that come just from being white.” Books such, “How to be an Anti-Racist” and “White Fragility” are an excellent start to become more informed. Here are additional resources to consider:
- Harvard Business Review: Moving Beyond Diversity To Racial Equity by Ben Hecht He wrote, “Organizations must commit to sustained steps over time, to demonstrate they are making a multi-faceted and long-term investment in the culture.”
- Podcast: The Economists Asks Melody Hobson: Melody Hobson said, “If you are a business in the 21st century and you’re not diverse, you’re committing corporate suicide. You can’t be successful without diversity.”
- Podcast: Professor Galloway & Peter Henry: Peter Henry is Dean of NYU. He’s an Economist, Author and Board Member of Nike. He said, “Fundamentally, law enforcement can act with impunity and kill black men? That’s a problem. . I never left home without identification in case I was ever pulled over. We have to want to fix it and have voters who are actually going to make change.”
Support Black Owned Businesses
The outpouring of support for black-owned businesses to celebrate Juneteenth or a Black Lives Matter march is good but think about how to sustain that support. Consider how you spend your dollars and whether your spending behavior mirrors the values and people you want to support. Being intentional about supporting black business owners and founders helps assure their success. It is one of many ways you can amplify black voices.
This is not a time for white silence. Speaking up about inequities, bias and racism at work will be needed. Be prepared to get uncomfortable. As Rosabeth Moss Kanter Author and Harvard Professor said, “It takes courage to speak up against complacency and injustice while others remain silent. But that's what leadership is."
Look at your company’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiatives and ask questions. How’s it measured? What are your company’s goals? How can we get better? Is it transparent and shared consistently with your team? If not, why not? According to research, diversity is good business and proven that the more cognitive, age, gender, and race diverse teams you have, the better the business outcomes.
Engage & Vote
Institutional racism in our society cannot be rooted out without leaders willing to acknowledge and dismantle it. Get involved and educate yourself on issues and candidates at all levels of government where important policies are set. Support organizations such as When We all Vote, Fair Fight, and All on the Line that combat voter suppression tactics and help ensure every citizen can cast their vote.
It’s going to be a commitment over time for real change to happen.
As Ben Hecht of Harvard Business Review wrote, “The work of building and maintaining an inclusive, racially equitable culture is never done. The personal work alone to challenge our own individual and professional socialization is like peeling a never-ending onion.”
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Emily’s vision for illume hire developed as part of her journey from a startup-curious sales and media professional to co-founder and CEO. Her passion is to provide resources to support professionals with 20+ years experience. Emily was part of the founding leadership team of Age Equity Alliance, a non-profit focused on the benefits of an intergenerational team.