Six Specific Things You Can Do to Keep It Going
There have been multiple Racial Equity and Social Justice challenges over the past couple of months. Many have been initiated by organizations. Some very powerful ones have been initiated by Dr. Eddie Moore, Jr. and the American Bar Association. Several of my clients have created their own, and a quick Google search will reveal multiple institutions and organizations doing the same. These calls to action are an important step toward equity and inclusion, and toward having real, candid conversations that have been needed for far too long.
Some responses I have heard from participants include: many ah ha moments, cringing moments, regrets, moments of gratitude and relief, anxiety, fear, skepticism, deep awareness, conversations, clarity, and commitment.
The commitment to keep going needs to be at the top of the list for what is next.
I encourage you to keep the exploration, the learning, the conversations going. This is about Culture Change. This is a personal commitment to call ourselves to action to make a difference.
Here are six specific things you can do to keep it going:
#1 Make a commitment toward Equity and Inclusion.
Commit to keep learning, having conversations, recognizing your own complicity to inequity, and work to change systems. It is crucial to keep the conversations going. Do not let the “buzz” wear off. All too often, there is excitement and energy to change, and then it does not last. Let the buzz be fuel because of your commitment to create a more equitable workplace and society.
A few tips to help create equity:
- Ask someone what they need to succeed and provide support/resources that are specific to their needs. One size does not fit all.
- Expand your thinking when considering who to include in professional and social gatherings/meetings.
- Provide opportunities for people to contribute, especially those who are not in the in-group and are often overlooked.
- Continually examine individual biases that judge and create exclusionary behaviors.
#2 Prioritize – Habits – Systems (PHS).
This approach is based on Dr. David Rock’s model for culture change. He explains how it works in his article, The Fastest Way to Change a Culture, For the purposes of creating equity and inclusion, here is an example of how it can be applied:
- Prioritize creating equity and exhibiting intentional inclusion.
- Recognize old biased Habits and create new equitable Habits that support inclusion.
- Change Systems that you identify as inequitable, which includes policies, procedures and practices.
#3 Change the narrative.
We have a storyline that it is too hard to do this work, and some say it cannot be done. If we continue to believe this, we will shy away from really getting to root out what needs to change. Words have power and they stem from thoughts. Be keenly aware of thoughts that produce words and actions that maintain the status quo and the same story.
#4 Lean into Discomfort.
Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Marginalized individuals have lived in a world of on-going discomfort because of racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, xenophobia, and classism for hundreds of years. In Jane Elliott’s 47-second video, Speaks Volumes, she asks the tough question.
#5 Stop “taxing” marginalized individuals.
Taxing is “to burden or tire someone or something with something; physically or mentally demanding.”
This includes having to ‘fit in” to a culture that does not truly recognize, value, and include the uniqueness of the diverse people within that culture. People want to be valued for who they are and what they can contribute. All too often, people of color, LGBTQ+ individuals, women, and differently-abled people, have to hide parts of themselves, straddle identities, and navigate historically dominant cultures. Tsedale Melaku, in her book, You Don’t Look Like a Lawyer: Black Women and Systemic Gendered Racism, explains her concept the “inclusion tax – the great and additional energy resources black women are forced to ‘spend,’ such as time, money, and emotional and mental energy just to be included in such important (and historically white) employment spaces.” Having to fit in is exhausting and it causes energy leaks in someone’s daily existence.
A few tips to avoid taxing someone include:
- Expect the best of someone. Do not ask someone to keep proving themselves.
- Make it easy for someone to share their background and cultural experiences.
- Recognize someone’s individual talents. Encourage them to share their unique perspectives.
- Do not judge someone against a dominant male culture that expects marginalized people to act like men.
#6 Stand up and speak up against microaggressions.
Microaggressions are defined as “a comment or action that subtly and often unconsciously or unintentionally expresses a prejudiced attitude toward a member of a marginalized group (such as a racial minority).” The fact is, they are not subtle to the receiver. It is important to address microaggressions, and it can be done in a non-blaming way, rather as an educational opportunity.
Not speaking up, looking away, explaining away, are all examples of microaggressions in action.
It allows things to stay the same when one sees something that should be addressed. The giver of the slight may not see it. If the observer remains silent, it sends a message of complicity, and it is not lost on those who are the recipients of the slight.
A few tips to stand up to microaggressions include:
- Be willing to engage in difficult conversations.
- Avoid talking over someone.
- Listen attentively, without thinking about what you will say next or how to refute what they are saying.
- Stop multitasking when interacting with someone.
- Watch non-verbal messages that are dismissive.
As we become aware of inequities based on biases that impact some people, the question becomes personal.
If we know that we are not including someone:
- because of the uncertainty of having anything in common;
- because of a bias or a judgment of who someone is or what they will be like; or
- intentionally excluding some people because they are not like me.
Why do we allow it to happen?
Like in Jane Elliott’s video, are we willing to raise our hand that we want to be treated/excluded in the same way? Likely not; because we do not want to be treated the same.
The work to dismantle biased behaviors that marginalize and transform our workplaces and society to be equitable is heart work. It is a commitment to humanity. It is our work to do.