It’s been over two months since Memorial Day in the US. Over two months since the Central Park “Karen”, Canadian ex-pat Amy Cooper, leveraged her whiteness and gender to threaten the safety of a Black man during a feigned distress call to the police. Over two months since George Floyd was killed when a police officer asphyxiated him by digging his knee to Floyd’s neck for 8 mins and 46 seconds, while others either held Floyd down or prevented the public from intervening -- all over a $20 counterfeit bill.
It seems it has been ages ago, but indeed, the world finally started to wake up to the gruesome reality of anti-Black racism. On Memorial Day. A day to honour those who gave their lives for the good of their country.
Although it has and continues to be a painful time for many, the response I have seen from organizations wanting to be part of the solution has been commendable. It seems we are in a crucial moment of transformation. Each of us has a choice to make, to welcome, ignore, or resist it.
Make the Choice to Welcome Change
For many of the organizations I work with, the answer is to welcome it. Even though it can be intimidating, there has been a massive shift from not wanting to be racist, to being intentional about being anti-racist. The best in class organizations are looking for meaningful approaches that can be integrated long-term into their culture as opposed to quick checkbox solutions; they strive to utilize their strengths while building upon their weaknesses. For these organizations, change must be rooted in their organizational values and ways of doing, so that they can be maintained long after the leaders that implemented them. In this sense, it is not simply about optics or maintaining employee engagement – these organizations are making a conscious decision to seek justice.
Once there is agreement about the type of change organizations want to see, it has become much easier than ever to begin walking the talk. Today, there is significant attention to and interest in anti-racism. As well, calls for accountability and allyship have laid the foundation for responsive action. Once a shared understanding of racism, anti-racism and justice is established across an organization, and a strong framework is selected to guide our efforts (Boldly Inclusive has developed the Inclusion First® Model for organizations starting their inclusion journeys) the work of anti-racism can be thoughtful, methodical, sustainable, and lasting.
Consider the Barriers to Success
While much of the focus is on what organizations want to do and how to achieve their goals, it is also important for organizations to consider the barriers they must overcome and proactively address them. Indeed, although the social climate apt for organizational anti-racism, it is crucial to unpack the existing structures, assumptions, and constraints that limit an organization's possibilities for change in order to move the dial. Outlined below are 3 potential traps organizations risk falling into when starting on anti-racism.