As a white woman, I’ve made plenty of regrettable mistakes in my life’s journey. Despite my desire to seek fairness and equality, I humbly admit that I still have a lot to learn about eradicating racism. And, just like many other flawed souls, we earnestly want to do better.
So, this month’s column is intended to amplify the voices of those who truly understand what it means to be Black, a person of color or marginalized American. Below are suggestions from Black Democrats and Republicans, engineers, lawyers and retired military. No group is monolithic in its thinking, yet some consistent advice emerged for those desiring to be allies in combating racism:
• Silence is violence: Refusing to engage in thoughtful dialogue signals abject disrespect, indifference and, even worse, acceptance of the status quo. Painful discrimination is perpetuated when concerns are ignored or callously dismissed by those in power. These conversations can be hard on everyone, so it is OK to ask for time and grace in processing thoughts – while simultaneously expressing empathy, care and sensitivity.
• Listen: Actually, hear what is being shared – without defensiveness. Seek to understand.
• Avoid whitesplaining: Don’t “but” your way out of the conversation, justify or explain away the emotions felt by those who have been hurt.
• Educate yourself: It is not the responsibility of marginalized employees to tutor every white person in America. Research available resources to understand systemic racism before engaging in a conversation.
• Build bridges: Connect with others holding different beliefs, ethnicity or political views. Organize a way for workers to socialize on a more personal level (within CDC guidelines). Partner with minority-owned businesses and consider connecting with groups such as the Greater OKC Hispanic Chamber.
• Be anti-racist: Figuring out next steps for your company? I recommend the Tulsa Chamber’s Mosaic webcasts. Also, check out Schnake Turnbo Frank’s Inclusion & Diversity Consortium for business leaders. Or, the Respect Diversity Foundation.
• Create a sense of belonging: A Harvard Business Review piece stated: “High belonging was linked to a whopping 56% increase in job performance, a 50% drop in turnover risk, and a 75% reduction in sick days. For a 10,000-person company, this would result in annual savings of more than $52 million.”
Bottom line: Diversity, unity and inclusion will pay off for business and, ultimately, our society.
This article was originally featured in The Journal Record on June 26, 2020.