Black History Month is over, but the celebration of Black History and supporting your Black team members should be an integral part of your business plan year-round. Meaningful change requires commitment and can’t be relegated to a single holiday, milestone, or month. We encourage you to do your research, learn from other organizations’ mistakes, and seek positive examples of corporate Black History Month celebrations. Efforts like these need to be implemented across entire organizations and relationships with Black businesses, communities, and institutions need to be fostered and grown year-round.
Here are some tips for implementing authentic, well-thought out, widespread, and resource-backed celebrations and activism to support Black team members and become anti-racist.
Anti-racism work and Black history celebrations are not “business opportunities”
Do not appropriate Black History Month or the Black Lives Matter movement to garner attention or more customers. This is known as woke-washing or virtue signalling and it is racist and manipulative. Your organization should participate in these movements and celebrations, and uplift others’ voices without taking over. These celebrations and movements may not be yours, but your role in them is crucial, so make space and develop support for Black people to celebrate and voice their concerns. Do so by listening to Black people (but don’t rely on them to teach you) and make continuous efforts to locate resources in order to educate yourself.
Acknowledge past and present racism
Without acknowledging your organization’s racist past and present, you and your teams cannot move forward. Doing so requires an in-depth analysis of your team members’ relationships, your organization’s culture, its policies, its role in the industry, and its relationship with other institutions.
To acknowledge harm, you must uncover it. And just because you may not be aware of racism in your organization doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Uncovering racism is a complicated process, and employees need to feel safe to reveal their experiences of discrimination. At HRx we take a systematic approach to gathering this data using anonymous surveys, focus groups, and one-on-one interviews. This data helps organizations understand the issues that they are facing and identify solutions that can put into action.
Racism in your organization is not something that will be solved with a statement or an apology.
Make a plan
Once you have the data, consider:
- What are your goals? Which of these will be a priority?
- How will you develop a plan to solve issues of racism and inequity?
- What resources will you need to solve these problems?
It takes time to gain the trust of others. Racism in your organization is not something that will be solved with a statement or an apology. Combating racism and becoming an anti-racist organization is a continuous process that requires learning about the endless ways that racism is embedded in institutions, society, and relationships, and implementing subsequent solutions. To gain the trust of your employees you must communicate your commitments for long-lasting change and follow-through. Creating and sticking to a plan can be challenging as there is often excitement and momentum at the beginning of an organization’s anti-racism work, but the “middle part” can be messy; however, with the right resources and structure there will be progress and success.
Tailor your solutions to your team. Racism and Black people’s experiences are not universal, and your team is likely facing unique issues.
Consider the following causes of inequity:
- Company policy
- Company culture
- Regional, department, and team-specific issues
- Industry-wide practices and standards
- Relationships to institutions, governments, and other organizations
- Relationships to stakeholders and stakeholder influence
Acknowledge systemic racism does exist in your organization and consider what your team needs to do to adapt. You will need to communicate with your team members and stakeholders every step of the way. Have resources available and encourage employees to use them. Offer education and resources for non-Black people to learn about racism so that you can prevent any further harm from being done. You might also want to consider ongoing equity, diversity, and inclusion training so that your team members can learn about privilege in an intersectional way.
Consider other forms of oppression
Focus on more than racism. Other systems of oppression like ableism, classism, the climate crisis, the patriarchy, etc., affect Black people and others at your organization. Your efforts must be intersectional. Racism does not work alone.
Implementing equity and justice in your organization needs to be a priority. It starts with acknowledging, then learning and finally taking action. Build on Black History Month celebrations, support the Black Lives Matter Movement, and create change in your organization throughout the entire year.