Workplaces will be the first iterations of what an anti-racist society will look like. We know that even if the larger world is racist, we can make workplaces that are anti-racist and a reprieve from normal society.
When creating a new framework for anti-racist work DO NOT:
- Work to put a black person on the board- This seems like a good idea for a predominantly white organization that serves a black or POC community. But, without doing internal work first, you inadvertently tokenize this person or persons and will foist the work of anti-racism off onto them.
- Do DEI work that is informational only
DEI work and training must include a skill-building component.
If it is solely informational where a facilitator/trainer/teacher gives statistics and information about a larger racist culture and how it shows up, this alone will not move or change behavior. Hoping that a compelling case will entice people to seek out resources and do internal work on their own is setting them and the organization up for failure.
Remember, we are making a structure. Structure starts with data/information gathering and then includes goals, roles, processes, and resources.
- Find 3-4 Black educators who align with the work of your organization
• Practitioner or academic?
• What industry are you in? Ex. Human services, education, medicine, public health, arts and culture, etc.
• Aligns with the beliefs of the org. Ex. Relational vs service, capitalism vs socialism, individualistic vs communal.
- Ask Black coworkers if they want to be involved in the work and to what degree.
- If yes, present perspectives and take in feedback- This is the actual hard work of anti-racism of white people.
- Key here: DO NOT BE DEFENSIVE.
- If they disagree, delicate gut check around amount and intensity of disapproving feedback as compared to size of org and culture fit of person within org.
- If no, allow for feedback along the way.
- If there is fear of retribution within the organization or there has been a history of retaliation, receive feedback anonymously.
- Create your Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal for anti-racism.
- We have no idea what an anti-racist society looks like. We are literally building something that has never been created before that will take a long time to get to. There’s a good chance your first goal will be edited heavily, so avoid being too precious with it.
- Make the perspective actionable.
- What do these perspectives look like in action?
- How do you know when you have achieved them?
- When you have achieved your benchmarks, be prepared for rapid iteration of next benchmark. There should be minimal downtime between setting benchmarks of anti-racism. Open gaps like this can cause discomfort and folks will make up stories about what is going on.
- Create transparent and robust reporting of anti-racist action.
- It is not enough to say you are anti-racist. You must be visibly anti-racist. And you perpetuate systems of oppression by requiring the people who benefit and need anti-racist work to go seeking the proof that you do it. Be clear about it.
- Will you get pushback for seeming performative or immodest? Maybe. But pushback is not enough of a reason to not make it clear what you are doing. In a world where we are all figuring out anti-racism, any work you can show that makes a roadmap for someone else, both what is right and wrong, is important.
- If you get pushback, as above, be NON-DEFENSIVE. And then do another delicate gut check around if the feedback aligns with the organization or not. If it does, great, integrate it. Thanks for teaching us, world.
Most of us doing this work are or have been be sensitive to feedback about doing this wrong. This is so good. Feedback is a very important part of the process in creating something that has never been created before. Being sensitive means we will move with care and thought. To make feedback easier to give and receive, work to make learning in public ok and natural. When you take feedback with grace, when you call out that you don’t know, or admit you were wrong, you work to dismantle patriarchy, white supremacy, and late-stage capitalism. All of these oppressive systems rely on people hiding their mistakes for competition and power.