It might have been Gregory Hill, Jr. or Jemel Roberson, I don’t exactly remember who's name it was that started the stream of tears on Saturday night as we played the telephone game while practicing social distancing, passing the names of Black men killed by law enforcement. All I could do was sit on one of the terra cotta planters that dot the main drag in my little town crying for lives lost. Lives that could easily have been my own. Ivy League and advanced degrees be damned, civic and professional contributions wouldn’t matter, just the color of my skin.
The tragic incidents involving George Floyd and Christian Cooper aren’t new or unique, yet for some reason, they have spurred an awakening in us. Across the country and around the world people are opening their eyes and hearts to the horrors, injustices, and deep wounds hundreds of years of individual and institutional racism and bias have had on Blacks and other oppressed communities.
Seeing the pervasive and insidious forms of racism used throughout our society many of my white friends and clients are in their words, “outraged”, “…recognizing my white privilege”, and “…needing to do something”. So, for those that need to do something and aren’t sure what to do here’s a quick list of actions you can take now in your personal and professional lives to help create a better society.
Lead with empathy. Try to understand the experience of Black people and others that regularly face bias or racism. Focus on gaining a better understanding of the impacts racism and bias have on Blacks and other groups. What are you learning about the different ways Whites and Blacks experience daily life?
Stop worrying about getting it 100% right. This is the biggest fear I hear from white people when discussing race. I’m Black and I don’t get it right all the time. We have to make mistakes to learn. Communicate from your heart, with empathy and others will see your intentions.
Identify needs. Find out what needs your Black friends or employees have right now. Continued protests and unrest exacerbate what was already a stressful time due to the Coronavirus and its impact on Black communities. Some may need time-off, adjusted work hours, or mental health support. Use your company’s ERGs and local resources to help identify these needs and figure out if and how you can support them. If you don't have ERGs, make direct contact with your impacted employees.
Create spaces for dialogue. Talk to your friends and family about how this impacts you and those you know. Create spaces for conversation, especially for white folks trying to process the events and revelations of their white privilege. Don’t expect Blacks or others to lead or even engage in broader conversations yet. It’s still too early for many.
Get educated. To affect a lasting change we have to understand how we got here. What is it in our history, institutions, laws, and upbringings that contribute to the conditions we find ourselves in today? Here is a resource guide, developed by two white women for white people and parents to deepen their anti-racism work. From books and podcasts to organizations and movies it offers a plethora of ways to get informed.