You’ve Penned the Words. Now Let’s Pen the Work: About that Anti-Racism Statement…
Want my honest opinion about these organizational statements? Here goes! In most cases, they give me pause and cause concern. From Nancy Pelosi and team cloaked in Kente cloth (they really tried…) to bold words splashed all over corporate social media accounts, some leaders are, um, doing a lil’ too much. To be clear, you can’t really over-correct when you may have inadvertently or intentionally contributed to building or upholding inequitable systems, practices, or cultures. But in my world, sometimes doing the most really means you’re way off base. In essence, you might be focused on the wrong thing, the easy thing, the short-term win.
Addressing systemic racism requires sustained systemic solutions. Words are not enough! Thanks for the statement. It’s appreciated. In some cases, deeply needed. But what really matters now is focused attention on these essential areas: Strategy, Investment, Infrastructure, and Representation at the decision-making table (that would be your executive team and board).
The statement may be a good first step–by the way, you need to check in with your Black employees to see if the words align with their lived organizational experiences– but it can’t be your sole step. Whether you pounded your fist against your organizational chest to trumpet that “#BlackLivesMatter!” (all the while with no Black person occupying an executive seat) or you tiptoed your way into a social media statement that spoke of inclusion is not as important as your intentional focus on long-term, systemic change.
For the record, I am seeing some organizations with lackluster commitment to inclusion and equity pen some pretty bold, impressive statements. I am also seeing uncertain leaders (in this area) author subtle statements supported by courageous, anti-racism strategies and the funding to support them.
So, Leader, how do you start or continue this work? As a leadership team, ask yourselves a critical first question: How do we build a steadfast bridge between our lofty statement and our overarching organizational strategy? More explicitly, how do we move from employing potentially marginalizing policies, practices, programs, and people (they are there!) to building an actively anti-racist and inclusive system?
Then, commit, unequivocally, to do the #workbehindthewords. Lean on your diversity team. Lean on your employees of color for candor (understanding this isn’t their job and supporting this effort must be a choice). Lean on external supports, like consultants, whose organizations reflect the inclusion you are trying to build. Lean on listening and leveraging this moment to meet your mission. Lean on the highest leadership competency–learning.
That’s my .02…
DEI #workforcewarriors #Inclusiva #workbehindthewords