There is a lot being written now about creating racial equity in our organizations. The problem is that the ways that we are trying to amend a broken situation may in fact be perpetuating division. Making overt efforts to represent our fellow colleagues of color is enforcing the fact that we see their color, and not too much beyond that. We are meeting our colleagues at the most superficial of levels. It’s as ineffectual as singling out colleagues who wear Nikes and making sure that they show up in our ads and sit on our committees. The answer to establishing racially equitable workplaces lies not in increasing the visibility of employees of color. Racism is systemic and backed with legal authority and institutional power.
Those who control the institutions are predominately white. For those white employees who recognize that we are functioning in a racist system, our job is to recognize how we are perpetuating it and to change. We need to admit that we may carry bias and racism within us since we are products of a system that has promoted it.
Employees of color need to recognize that they too, may carry assumptions that being white is equal to being privileged, possessing an elitist attitude, or demonstrating disinterest in the unfamiliar. Our systems have and do substantiate those concepts, but systems shift as the individuals who comprise their shift. There is so much assumption, yet very little exploration.
As individuals, we hold the power to change a system. We need to create cohesion by requiring conversation around the topics of racism and bias. All of us need to admit to perhaps carrying unknowing racist outlooks, bias, and assumptions.
After that, we need to get work to discover shared values, interests, and experiences. If our experiences differ because our color has both exposed and/or confined us to them, we need to learn to foster curiosity and be taught that recognizing another’s experienced as valuable does not diminish our own value.
The pressure to not name racism is powerful, and the comfort of old habits is seductive, writes Robin DiAngelo, author of New York Times best-seller “White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism.”