I am happy to see that many individuals, companies and institutions have, these past few weeks, discussed, distributed, posted, or made videos condemning what has been occurring throughout our society. Stopping to show your support for all individuals who are hurting, all who are angry and frustrated, all who are tired, not only about these past weeks, but about what has happened in this country’s history, is a good thing. I applaud each of you who has taken the time to address what can be an uncomfortable and difficult conversation regarding race.
Over the past 20 years I have, in my capacity as diversity and inclusion consultant, had the opportunity to conduct many basic educational sessions regarding all of the areas covered under inclusion (age, gender, race, sexual preference, faith, physical abilities, and socio-economic background, just to name a few). Once you have been given a basic understanding of diversity and inclusion, your organization will often provide additional education on subjects such as Title IX, LGBTQ, physical disabilities, gender bias, preventing sexual harassment, and so on. However, very few organizations conduct any educational sessions on race.
So my question is why not? Is it because it is difficult to do? Is it because we don’t know how to talk about the subject? Are we scared of what may come out in our organization? Or is it we don’t want to address the subject? My answer is all of the above.
Against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has affected people of color more than any other group, we are still in 2020 dealing with systemic racism and discrimination. Looking at and understanding why people of color feel ignored and fixing this, not only in our individual lives, but in our institutions and organizations, will continue to be critical for all of us.
If an organization or institution wishes to be successful in the future, now is the time to not be scared to address the subject of race. Solving these issues starts with each of us. It is incumbent upon each of us to listen to what each person is saying. We must listen by creating, not only a safe space for all to have an open dialogue about their concerns, but also for people of color to be heard and not feel invisible. A safe place for white individuals not be silent or scared of losing friendships or being seen as not caring because they don’t understand. We all need to become active listeners.
We must educate and take sustainable action to ensure that our cultures are inclusive. There are a number of remarkable challenges facing our organizations and the future rests with individuals who will come together for work, collaboration, and education. Creating effective teams is one issue that will be impacted by the changes in the demographics of our communities and organizations in the next decade. We must be able to examine the interactions among people of different backgrounds and how to draw on these valuable differences to develop a productive environment.
This takes leadership from the top. This takes individual leadership. This takes collective leadership. I have heard this statement so much over this past three months “we are all in this together.” Now is the time for all of us come together and address the challenges we have around race in our organizations and society.