Learn, Unlearn & Relearn
Many called the past year a “Racial Reckoning.” Where do we stand now? Progress has been made, but Black employees and people of color continue to feel the pain of compounding crises. These issues belong to all of us — and we have a responsibility to find solutions. This week, we hosted a series of conversations around the commitments made, changes that have occurred, and how we keep the momentum moving forward to create long-lasting results. The consensus? Meaningful and effective change requires an ongoing commitment to doing better. Here are five steps to take now.
HOW TO UNLEARN MYTHS: A QUICK GUIDE
1) Uncover our roots: We’re exposed to all sorts of stereotypes and misinformation. Stuff like history, the news, movies, and even those around us have all shaped our attitudes towards other people. Instead of believing what we’re told, let’s think critically about unconscious bias and how it can be reinforced so we can correct it. Contrary to popular belief, there are more than “two sides” to every story. With each narrative comes a past that informs multiple perspectives of events and a context we need in order to inform our actions today and avoid repeating the same mistakes we’ve made. Simply put, we all need to take a deeper look at the historical foundations of race. It helps us develop the tools and skills we need to interrogate a “two-sided story,” identify the problems it presents, and be ready to address them.
2) Deconstruct privilege: Have you ever heard someone say, “Racism doesn’t exist in our community,” or “We’re lucky enough to live in a society where everyone has equal job opportunities,” or “Bad people are racist. I’m not a bad person, so I’m not racist.” Statements like these keep us in denial about the fact that systems of racialized oppression exist. We’re taught to see racism only in individual acts of meanness, not in invisible systems that regard one group as inferior or superior to another group in any way. If we teach racism as an idea that’s expressed through behaviors, institutions, and cultures, rather than a fundamental character trait, we are free to see things more accurately and with more openness to change.
3) Find Your Voice: “We can say whatever we want to people because we have freedom of speech. That’s a good thing right?” It’s true. We do have freedom of speech. But, within reason. In many countries around the world, encouraging or promoting hatred based on nationality or ethnicity is illegal and any kind of racist insult could get you into serious trouble. We cannot say whatever we want. What lesson did we just relearn? That our words carry weight. Just like they have the power to cause harm, they also have the power to make a difference. So, let’s be intentional about how we use them. Let’s state the problem. Let’s speak up. Let’s continue to say their names.
4) Understand racial stress and trauma: It’s time to view self-care as a form of activism and anti-racism. To be effective, we must show up every day. To show up every day, we must take time to replenish our energy. Self-care is a necessity, a mandate, a foundation upon which our progress rests. It provides us with opportunities to reflect inward on how we care for ourselves and, in turn, how we can care for others and become better allies.
5) Recognize our active roles in defeating racism: We all have bias. That doesn’t make it okay — that means it’s our collective responsibility to find our blind spots. We’re evading our responsibility to confront the issue when we say things like, “There’s nothing we can do to eliminate racism” or “We all make judgments and assumptions, right?” Every day, our view of the world is influenced by a system that only tells winner stories. Step back and try to see the whole picture. We need to ask more and better questions. We need to unlearn racism.
FROM OUR COMMUNITY:
On putting action behind words: “You cannot create change alone. Do you have support and resources? What are the leaders that you’re working with bringing to the table? These are all important questions to ask.” — Sherida McMullan, Head, Inclusion & Diversity Business Partners, ERGs, Events, HBCU/HSI Diversity Recruiting & Partnerships, Lyft | Watch the full discussion
On elevating ERGs: “Encourage anyone to participate in any ERG. That’s very important to get started because ERGs are aligned around affinity, experience, and/or interest. If you have an interest in joining a particular affinity group, it doesn’t matter if you don’t necessarily identify with that group. To become a member of that group, all that matters is that you have an interest in wanting to be an ally to the community.” — Dayna Wade, Lead, Inclusion Programs, Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging Team, Blend | Watch the full discussion
On moving from black burnout to black joy: “In the workplace, black women are given more work with fewer resources. We don’t experience the joy of ‘a job well done’ because we’re so burnout from trying to make things happen because it’s expected of us.” — Lesly Simmons, Head, Global Event Programming, Amazon Advertising | Watch the full discussion
On sustaining momentum: “Lead with intentionality and assign KPIs to it. It’s not about quotas. Identify your high performers who are overlooked and rectify that. Things change when you’re intentional about it. You have to model the very behavior you’re trying to impact.” — Kimberly K. Wilson, VP, Multiplatform Marketing, The Walt Disney Company | Watch the full discussion
On being an effective ally: “Colorblindness does not serve marginalized communities. We need you to see us and acknowledge the systemic issues that affect us in our daily lives.” — Nikki Williams, Head, Multicultural Content, Verizon Media | Watch the full discussion