10 ways to start promoting equity and stop racism
Wednesday, June 17, 2020
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, most of us have sheltered in place to different degrees. Large numbers of people have been out of work, working from home or, if they are deemed essential workers, gone to a place of work but came home and stayed there.
This has given people more time to reflect on their lives and the lives of others, because for the most part there has been nowhere to rush off to or traffic to beat.
The recent killings of unarmed black people documented on video have resulted in public outrage in numbers not seen before in the U.S. From the cities to the suburbs, there is a sweeping awareness of the need to right social wrongs, ensure equality and look at and end racism in our systems and in the way we do business.
I’ve worked in diversity, equity and inclusion for over 25 years and I’ve produced and hosted a podcast, Everyday Conversations on Race, for two years. Because of my work, I get calls and emails every day from non-black, mostly white people who want to know what they can do end racism and inequality, particularly in the workplace. The people who contact me range from hourly employees to clients who are CEOs of corporations and executive directors of nonprofits.
In response, I decided to put together a starter list of actions recommended by people who have been guests on my podcast. Below are 10 basic actions you can begin taking. You’re more than welcome to contact me for a more comprehensive list or if you just want to ask questions.
1. Begin with you by researching and reflecting on your history. Where were you raised? What is your cultural background? What messages did you get about people who were different than you?
2. Know your history and your why. Learn about your own culture and history to understand why you view the world and other people a certain way.
Your past experiences and the messages you received about people who don’t look like you when you were young, impact how you react and respond to people and situations today. Consider specific instances in your life where you heard certain messages about black and other nonwhite people.
You'll learn how other people view and experience the world from a different reality than you.
Example: Many white people have a hard time understanding and believing that a lot of black people don’t experience the police as guardians of justice. They experience police as an occupying force who stop them for no reason other than being black.
Listen to stories from black people and other people who don’t look like you. As you listen, resist any urge to discount, trivialize or refuse to believe other people’s experiences because they make you uncomfortable.
Take a webinar or class on bias and identify ways in which you are biased. Learn processes you can use to mitigate those biases.
3. Educate yourself. Read books about Black history and Black experience. Here are four books. There are so many others. Email me for a more comprehensive list of books, documentaries and films.
- “Warmth of Other Suns” by Isabel Wilkerson (one of the best books I’ve ever read)
- “How to Be an Anti-Racist” by Ibram X Kendi
- “The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander
- “White Fragility” by Robin DeAngelis
4. Check in with black friends (if you have any) to let them know you care about them. Ask how they are, and what you can do to support them personally. Don’t ask them to tell you what to do to end racism. Right now, your black friends may be traumatized, exhausted and may not want to engage, but most people will be glad you just checked in.
If you only know people like you, check in with yourself to understand why and plan to interact with people who are different. Get to cultural events or online discussions. I'll be glad to help you open your mind if you contact me.
Listen, listen, listen — avoid interrupting, interpreting or telling someone traumatized by racism how to feel, what to say to how to say it.
5. Talk to other people from similar backgrounds as you, who have been involved in anti-racist work. Ask them what you can do, where you can volunteer and actions you can join. (For more specific actions or groups working against racism, contact me or use Google.)
6. Research bills, measures and issues in the coming election. Vote against bills and people that continue racism. Join campaigns and volunteer to get other people out to vote. There is power at the ballot.
7. Donate to organizations that are working to end social justice against racism.
Spend your money with companies that have shown real support. Boycott and divest from organizations that support racist leaders and policies. Know history. Campaigns to withhold money from those kinds ofgroups helped end apartheid in South Africa. Use the power of the purse.
8. Think about times in your life when you heard racist comments, jokes or actions that resulted in discrimination, and did nothing. Was it because you lacked awareness, didn't want family and friends to be angry or ostracize you, or just didn't know what to do? It's time to change that.
Learn ways to speak up, intervene or let people know why you're leaving. Rehearse what you'll do or say. Be ready and be clear about your values against racism and start living those values.
9. If you see a black person being attacked, intervene, whether it’s getting people around you to help, jumping in or creating a diversion. Picture scenarios in your mind and possible ways to intervene. Most people remain bystanders because they say they don’t know what to do. By visualizing actions you can take, you are more likely to get involved. You could save a life.
10. Read about privilege, how it shows up in your life and find ways to use your privilege to promote change and educate others.
And remember, it's never too late to be part of the solution.
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