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As civil unrest spread across the United States, many workers sought ways to support equality and dismantle racism within their companies. Writer and editor Michelle Garcia explains what actions you can take to confront problems directly and make a difference for people of color at your workplace. She suggests that becoming their ally and learning how to be part of the solution and not the problem can help heal historic wounds.
- Civil rights protests in the US have people examining their role in racism.
- You can take 11 actions to support your black co-workers, such as helping your firm develop a more inclusive culture and considering whether you have helped perpetuate racist systems.
Civil rights protests in the United States have people examining their role in racism.
Protests erupted across the United States after incidents of police killings of black people. These protests caused people to examine how institutional racism has affected their companies and their careers.
“There’s no singular way to be an ally, either; that’s why it takes a critical eye inward and outward to figure out the best ways to rise to each occasion.”
Many white people are examining themselves for hidden bias, asking if systemic racism has helped them at work and seeking ways to support their black colleagues.
You can take 11 actions to support black co-workers, such as helping your firm develop a more inclusive culture and considering whether you have helped perpetuate racist systems.
Support people of color at your workplace with these 11 actions:
- “Look inward” – Ask yourself if your race is an advantage at work. Examine who makes up your inner circle. Do you talk differently to black colleagues than to white ones? Do you choose topics of conversation based on stereotypes?
- “Solicit honest feedback” – Ask others to evaluate how you work with people of color. If their answer is positive, but not specific, they might not be comfortable discussing the issue, or they could be oblivious to it. Get a second opinion. If you ask a black person, hedge your question with the proviso that they needn’t respond. Teaching whites about racism can be exhausting.
- “Educate yourself “ – Do your research. Watch documentaries; read about racial injustice. Learn to become antiracist from other white people who’ve already done their homework. Share what you learn with your co-workers so they also can step up as allies to people of color and help eliminate bias in your company.
- “Always be recruiting” – Great candidates are available outside your usual network. Hire minority candidates and constantly expand your network no matter what your job title is.
- “They’re in the door – now keep them there” – Ensure that black people feel secure coming to work at your company. Be supportive if they encounter microaggressions. Launch or encourage affinity or mentoring programs to help them see that your company offers them a professional development path.
- “Push your company to ask employees how they are doing” – Make sure your company doesn’t just count how many people of color it employs, but also actively seeks feedback and surveys people to diagnose whether its culture is inclusive.
- “Report illegal or overt discrimination” – If you witness overt racial discrimination – which is illegal in the United States – contact your HR department.
- “Call out microaggressions” – Understand how to spot and confront these “brief indignities,” subtle biased actions that are surprisingly common.
- “Acknowledge (and fix) your own microaggressions” – If you’re accused of a microaggression, listen without being defensive. Apologize and commit to doing better.
- “Amplify others” – Support people of color by giving them credit and spreading their ideas on social media or within your company. Put them in touch with corporate and industry leaders. “One small act of allyship…is using your privilege to boost the voices of marginalized people.”
- “Being an ally is an ongoing process” – Structural racism is woven into the fabric of society and unraveling it will take tremendous work over a long time. Stay dedicated, and if you misstep, forgive yourself, learn more and keep going.
About the Author
Writer and editor Michelle Garcia was a deputy editor at Vice. She previously worked for Out, Vox, Mic and The Advocate.
This document is restricted to personal use only.