Starting Points for Discussing Racism With Employees
Experts weigh in on what to say and how to say it
Protests over the murder of George Floyd show no signs of slowing down, and at work this week, most bosses found themselves in the position of addressing the unrest. For black leaders, our country’s legacy of racism is painfully familiar, so most can talk fluently about their experiences of oppression. Some may welcome the opportunity to speak right now, but many will find the prospect of educating their white counterparts exhausting. Be aware that it's an emotionally tumultuous time for communities of color.
As for white leaders, some might have already begun their educational journey — perhaps implementing diversity initiatives at their companies — but most are realizing they still have a long way to go. Still other white leaders are comprehending that they’re very much at the starting point. Leaders may be grappling with how to make their employees of color feel supported, or with the fact that they have very few black employees or employees of color at all. Generally, they might be struggling to find language to address all the pain, confusion and anger, and with how to begin making genuine change within their own businesses, as well as the larger business community.
“Understanding race and race equity is a process,” said Lisa Brown Alexander, president and CEO of Nonprofit HR. “Most people are socialized around certain beliefs and perceptions, and it's not easy to unpack those overnight. So admitting that you're at the beginning is the first step. Admitting you don't know something is hard, but the kind of tenacity that you need to build your business is the same kind of tenacity you need for understanding race and race equity in today's climate.”
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