On streets across America, fellow human beings, many of whom look like me, have been communicating in the language of protest for the right to be seen, and to be granted the same level of humanity and physical safety many of our white counterparts receive regularly with little exception.
In virtual and physical work spaces across America, fellow human beings, many of whom look like me, have been communicating to their colleagues, supervisors, HR teams and executives, for the right to be granted the same level of humanity and psychological safety many of our white counterparts receive regularly with little exception.
The fights for equality and inclusion are not identical, but they stem from the same human desire to be seen wholly and fully in a way that inherently brings value to the communities and teams on the receiving end of our authentic contributions.
So, as some of my white friends and colleagues have reached out to me in the last few days, committing and recommitting themselves to actively engage in opportunities to challenge the powers of systemic oppression in their day-to-day lives, I offer this actionable next step: demand at your places of work that both diversity and inclusion be a priority and not an afterthought, and then do something about making it so.
I have spent enough time analyzing, championing, and developing Diversity and Inclusion(D&I) efforts across institutions of higher learning, non-profits and for-profits alike to know this unequivocally:
The front lines of protest are neither limited to the streets nor to those who look like me.
They, too, are the boardrooms, the office meetings, classrooms, team retreats, and panel discussions in workplaces across America.
The language of protest and change need not be limited to marching or holding signs.
They, too, include brokering meetings with key company stakeholders, speaking up for a colleague, championing effective programs, and bringing different perspectives to the table.
It may look different for you than another, but in no particular order, consider any of the following:
Exercise compassion and empathy for your colleagues of color who might be having an especially hard time being present in the workplace this week and future weeks
Educate yourself on what it means to be an ally and champion for D&I in your org/company. There are more than enough books, articles, and TED talks on the subject at your fingertips.
Consult with your in-house D&I specialist or team to better understand how you can show up as a champion
Hire a D&I consultant to assess and develop effective initiatives in your org/company
Create a D&I task force and invite a diverse cross-section of key players in your org to take part
Intentionally make room in your next meetings for the perspectives and ideas from your colleagues of color to be heard and/or recognized
Meet with your supervisor and/or executive and advocate for leadership that better reflect the racial & ethnic diversity of this country
Advocate for professional mentorship and/or sponsorship programs for colleagues of color
Advocate for the hiring of colleagues that better reflect the racial & ethnic diversity of this country
Include panelists of color in your lineup for your next virtual or in-person professional panel to share their expertise that is not limited to being the lone token or D&I voice
Take a colleague of color under your wing and commit to helping them navigate your workplace culture effectively
Nurturing a space of psychological safety and physical safety are not the same, but the common denominator of safety is significant. This is not a request for special treatment. This is a proclamation to be safely seen for all of who we are as the human beings, professionals, and invaluable contributors to the companies and communities we commit to being a part of.
This is by no means easy, but it is by no means impossible. The invitation is open and is yours to accept.