How can we best celebrate Black History Month 2021? It’s been a year of momentous developments in our understanding of the experiences of Black people in America and promises to change the trajectory of Black history in our nation. And so, Black History Month 2021 is an opportune time for us to move from intention to action in our promises and efforts to become personally and institutionally antiracist. Below, organized by areas of focus, is a set of daily questions we can ask as we embark on this important work. For deeper engagement, we’ve selected some outstanding thought leadership.
Around the world, Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests have erupted in response to the murder of George Floyd and others at the hands of police. But the movement these tragedies have inspired will not remain solely on the streets or within communities of color. The BLM movement is now moving indoors and into companies and institutions worldwide.
As companies prepare for the return of employees to the physical workplace and start considering potential changes to the way they operate, two critical questions will arise: How will the office changepost-pandemic, and What should we be doing differently to respond to the invigorated movement against systemic racism?
Here is a list of steps companies can take to prepare for asking and answering these questions:
Make the decision to be an anti-racist organization. Issue a company-wide statement denouncing racism so that employees and customers know where your company stands. Awkwardness or fear of saying the wrong thing are not acceptable excuses for not speaking up. Remember that choosing not to speak out about BLM, racism, white privilege, microaggressions, and other forms of bias actually speaks volumes about your company, both to the public and to your employees.
Do not stop at just a statement on your company website. Without actionable goals set, both employees and customers will view a website statement as the company using this politically fraught moment for posturing and personal gain.
Acknowledge that privilege and discriminatory practices exist in the workplace. Ask leadership to reflect on this fact by asking the question, Who is in the room when decisions are made?
Download and share our BLM in the Workplace graphic
Provide space, time, and numerous opportunities (and contexts) for conversations with employees at all levels, without fear of reprisal or consequences.
Actively encourage BIPOC (Black, indigenous, people of color) employees to speak about their experiences, because they matter.
Solicit ideas from employees on how the company can improve and change, and then operationalize them.
Do your homework by reading and learning about systemic racism, discrimination, bias, and harassment.
Review your company’s D&I vision and mission statement and evaluate where you currently stand.
Reassess internal practices regarding inclusion, hiring, and promotions, including who has access to internships, professional development, mentoring, sponsorships, and high-profile assignments and projects.
Announce or reiterate support for employee mental and emotional health and well-being. Recognize that employees are frightened, angry, and unsure about how to discuss and engage with others and will need help navigating the work environment. Remember: Ignoring the issue doesn’t mean it isn’t there.
Promote, support, and provide authentic D&I education that encourages critical reflection and leads to effective change.