How to be a proactively Anti-Racism organisation
It’s been a little more than a year since the protests following George Floyd’s tragic death. About 4 months have passed since the UK Government published it’s Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities: The Report stating there was no evidence of institutional racism in England.
More recently after this year’s European Championships 2020 we saw socials blow up with racist abuse at England players Marcus Rashford, Bukayo Saka and Jadon Sancho after missing a penalty as well as actual physical racist attacks that followed against People of Colour by white England fans at Wembley stadium and across the country. It was horrific but not surprising. We all know how the story went, love won and racism was stomped out right? Errrr no, not exactly.
The fight continues and if you’re tired, get some rest because this is not a sprint it’s a marathon. Activism and the fight for social justice and equity is draining and burnout is real, but we can’t do it alone as individuals. We need organizational back up.
Remember #BlackOutTuesday? When organisations and individuals all posted a black square in the efforts to combat racism and show solidarity with those protesting against the continuous police brutality against Black people in the United States. Thousands of organisations took part as well as individuals making a stance that they would stand up against racism, some made some pretty serious promises to act towards equity. If you or your place of work hasn’t done much more since posting a black square then consider it performative allyship and simply gestures without any substance. The movement needs you to do more. True allyship is a process of learning from your mistakes, welcoming critique, growing, continuing to educate yourself and taking ownership and accountability for your actions or inactions.
With that said it’s clear as ever and so critical that organisations are proactive allies against racism and combating it effectively. It is no longer acceptable to ignore or simply just, ‘not be racist’, people and organisations need to be proactively anti-racist and need to fight and work hard to dismantle all systems of oppression (even if they benefit you) including possible practises & policies that uphold racism and perpetuate white supremacy. It’s an ongoing battle and not a trend you just jump into when something happens. Silence is compliance and there is still a long road ahead but together we can help create change. Moreover this article is intended for you to experience hope and determination about the changes we can make together through increased awareness and allyship.
So what can your organisation or place of work do to be a proactively anti-racism ally?
It’s an uncomfortable topic
That’s right, it’s not an easy topic but it is also not easy for Black people and People of Colour to have to keep experiencing racism. If it’s difficult for you to talk about, imagine how hard it is to have to experience it. Race, racism and its effects on mental health is detrimental.
Some top tips for organisational allyship are listed below but true allyship is not limited to this list. As allies you should always be looking to do more.
Create a Plan
Look at your organisation’s representation of Black & Brown colleagues at all levels and make a plan of how you can start to make changes & increase representation in the recruitment process and beyond.
Create a statement of intent. Showing your commitments to race equity and the steps you are going to take to become a truly anti-racism organisation. Set deadlines and create a realistic timeline just like any other work you do as an organisation. And don’t forget to hold your organisation accountable if you do not reach your goals in time. Why weren’t you able to reach these goals and how can you learn from this and do better next time around? Write all this down in official documents where people can access them.
Publish your anti-racism statement on your company website as a public commitment to show that this is important and to be held accountable, this can make you an attractive workplace to the future workforce as many employees nowadays are looking for more from their employers and simply not doing anything is no longer acceptable and your organisation can be called out on it and you’ll then find yourself in muddy waters. Don’t risk it.
Recognise tokenism for what it is and challenge it by bringing it to people’s attention that it could be tokenism. Clarify your motivations, the impact on equality and how the person experiencing tokenism may be feeling, bring more people into the conversation and more diversity into the work. Organisations may start with tokenism, but need to quickly move out of this stage as it can be called out later. If your organisation has an equity or BAME group consider diversifying the people involved as this job shouldn’t always have to fall on Black, Indigenous People of Colour (BIPOC) unless of course they want to and are happy to do it. This work is vital but having it all fall on BIPOC employees can feel draining for them as it is not their job or responsibility to educate others and sometimes they may just want to get on with their work without having to worry about these issues. At the end of the day it’s the organisation’s responsibility to put the correct policies in place.
Avoid Micro Aggressions and Gaslighting
Racial gaslighting and micro aggressions can be a natural response from a frame of reference to protect and preserve our perception of reality. It is uncomfortable to feel that our reality is being challenged and we might want to disrupt and shut down anything our brain perceives as a threat. The risk is when senior leaders or colleagues in organisations gaslight rather than explore alternative realities. Expanding our awareness of different realities and drawing new conclusions will help create change. Make sure you know how to spot gaslighting and microaggressions and have a plan for actions to be taken when they happen or someone speaks up. Believe BIPOC when they tell you they have experienced these and hold those accountable. Educate employees if you need to on what they are and why they are so serious.
The impact of microaggressions and gaslighting on racial trauma can cause increased levels of stress, anxiety and depression. Many individuals who experience them suffer in silence and can find it difficult to concentrate and feel othered. It can even cause negative internalised emotions including self doubt and distrust in themselves.
Create a psychologically safe space for people to report racism and for people to explore the impact of their words or behaviours on others. You don’t need to bring in the person experiencing the microaggressions to this. Other people can help explain frames of references and what is appropriate and inappropriate.
Encourage those in power to engage with people from marginalised groups on a one-to-one basis so they can learn directly from people’s lived experiences and different frames of reference. Although this isn’t to be taken the wrong way for people to keep asking marginalised people every time they have a question regarding marginalised group. BIPOC are not walking text books and using them as such can be emotionally taxing and draining.
Create psychological safety by checking in on Black and Brown employees after a racial event happens in the UK or abroad as it can be emotionally distressing for them. Give them the space they need to heal and ask if there is any way you can support them.
Educate yourself and your staff
Educate staff and seek experienced people to explain microaggressions and their impact. Use training and information to change attitudes and behaviours. Communicate your zero tolerance policy effectively and how microaggressions, subtle gaslighting and bullying fit into that from the get-go of new hires. Re-address these topics yearly as refreshers so it stays fresh on employees minds and you’re able to grow with the times if things change.
Understand the different levels of racism, institutional, structural, interpersonal and internalised and what that means within your organisation and how your organisation is upholding these purposefully or not and how to break down these barriers and dismantle them. We will be going into this topic in more depth in another article, stay tuned. Another great option is to have employees take a course on anti-racism created by a BIPOC. Our Race Ahead course is a great option but there are many others as well, do your research.
Find out more or sign up to our Live and Interactive Race Ahead Course here>> & our Digital version of the Race Ahead Course here>>.
Continuing educating yourself through books, blogs, articles, documentaries and podcasts. Our socials are a great place to learn as well as we are often creating quality content with useful resources, tips and advice on Mental Health and Anti-Racism.
Make sure you are reading stories written by Black, Brown, Asian, Indigenous, Disabled, LGBTQ+ people to make sure they centre their own perspectives and viewpoints. Look to amplify their voices, share their stories and continue the conversations even when it’s not trending and avoid being a performative ally.
Finally remember, it only takes one passionate and engaging person, willing to put themselves out there to start a movement! Give your employees or colleagues the opportunity and permission to start this movement!
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Do Black Lives Still Matter? on BBC iPlayer
A 3 part documentary series following how organisations have responded to calls for equality since posting their black squares on social media. Has anything changed within these institutions?
Small Axe on BBC iPlayer
Love letters to black resilience and triumph in London’s West Indian community, directed by Oscar winner Steve McQueen. Vivid stories of hard-won victories in the face of racism.
Subnormal on BBC iPlayer
Lyttanya Shannon’s film is a devastating look at the kids unfairly deemed ‘educationally subnormal’ in the 60s and 70s – and their lasting trauma caused by the inept system rigged against black children.
Uprising on BBC iPlayer
The story of the New Cross house fire of 1981, in which 13 young black British people died, and how its aftermath ignited an uprising by the black British community.
How to speak out about racism in the workplace – Article
Natalie Morris has written a great article on how to speak out about racism in the workplace. We highly recommend you read it.
Diversify your bookshelves and support Black and POC owned shops.
Make sure you are diversifying your bookshelves and reading stories written by Black people and POC as well as supporting them as well as reading books that don’t centre on enslaved people. Afrori is a great Black owned independent bookshop located in the UK that is dedicated to selling, ‘books of Black origin’.
We recommend Nova Reid’s new book – The Good Ally
The Good Ally is the answer to ‘what next?’ It’s a book for those wanting to become better allies, for those who are hungry to expand their knowledge and understanding of systematic racism, for those who not only want to be able to better recognise both subtle and overt forms of racism in action, but who want to know what to do about it.
How to be an Anti-Racism ally
If you haven’t already, make sure you check out our last post about, ‘How to be an Anti-Racism Ally‘ that centres more on individuals as opposed to organisationally. Lots of vital information there as well to help you with becoming a better ally against racism.