19 Aug 3 things we keep hearing about Racism that are wrong
In companies and organizations across the US, people are talking about racism, thanks to the courage of activists and the attention given to horrendous acts of violence against Black people. There are some truths coming through the noise – and there are some falsehoods too. Your leadership – and your organization itself cannot succeed in a diverse country like ours by investing in the wrong ideas. Here are three things we keep hearing that are wrong.
- This past year was an awakening for the country
Wrong. Stop calling it a national awakening. It was an awakening for some. But not for those who are directly affected by racism. And by the way – how did those who have “awakened” sleep through the calls for change that have been coming from people of color in this country and in our companies and organizations since long before George Floyd’s name became so well known? As a leader – in your household, community, company, school or organization you should not be calling it a national awakening and talking about how you feel about the new awareness you have. You should be focusing on substantive changes you can make within what my colleague René Redwood calls your “sphere of influence and span of control” and you should be investing political, social and financial capital in making them. There is nothing else. That’s it. The country is not more awake or less awake. Neither is your company. Or your school. There is work and there is talk. Be honest about which side you are on – and reach out for help to get focused on making a real contribution to progress.
2. Black candidates and vendors are hard to find.
Wrong. Like anything else, if diversity in hiring or contracting is important to your organization, then you need a strategy for being effective. The first and most important item is not where you post a position announcement or an RFP. The most important item is becoming a company or organization that Black candidates would want to invest their resources in pursuing and where they can envision themselves succeeding. Hard to believe I am saying, “if you build it they will come” but I guess I am. Become an employer or partner of choice by investing in the things the employees or partners you desire are looking for. In addition to comp and career path, things like culture and commitment to a real purpose are documented priorities for all of the workforce today. It is the same with racism and diversity – only perhaps moreso. If you are not sure what to invest in then ask for help. Just like you do with everything else that matters.
3. Stomping Out Hate is What Matters Most
I understand why people are drawn to this perspective. It is easier to see the issues around racism as the province of those we see as different from and distant from ourselves. A caricature emerges about racism that belies reality. Yes there is hate. And pinning it to the margins of society is an important component of a strategy for society. But the vast majority of obstacles to racial equity are embedded in systems, patterns, structures and behaviors that are utterly ordinary and hiding in plain sight. If you are serious about racism you are focused on changing those things – especially the ones from which you are directly benefitting if you are a person who is not excluded, burdened or cut down by them. This is not simple. Don’t let those around you get distracted by the horrible hate-filled things that sadly continue to be a big part of our present and have so deeply impacted the past. Our focus has to be on building a world in a different way than the one we live in now. That means more than rejecting hate. It is about thinking differently. It means different models, approaches and relationships are required. It means hard work and investment. It means infrastructure. It means intentionality. And it most definitely means admitting you need help and getting it right away.