I have always been aware that inequity exists in the workplace. I have been woefully unaware the extent to which it affects the Black community. To that end, I’m learning. And like many of you, I am committed to learning from those crushed by those entrenched bad policies, bad practices and bad behaviors that too many of us who are white have been unaware, for no reason greater than it wasn’t happening to us … it wasn’t happening to me.
This is a different type of column than those I typically share with you. This one is personal. How could it not be? Like you, I am worried about health and income. I’m worried about my children, grandchildren, extended family and friends. And like you, I am worried about the future of this country that I love and thought I understood. To that end, there’s more, much more to consider, discuss and do.
I’ve typically written this column focused on what you can do to be better employees, leaders, managers, team players. I haven’t written a column that addresses racism in the workplace. I haven’t written a column that addresses both the profound and subtle disrespect shown to people who, for reasons no greater than skin color, are treated less-than, by those who presume themselves, because they are white, to be more-than. Today, that changes. Today, it’s my turn to commit to actions I have too passively expected of others.
As a white woman, I have been looking the other way far longer than I might expect forgiveness. As a white woman trying to do the right thing, I’m discouraged when the support I seek from other whites is superficial or appears that way. It is neither acceptable nor conscionable that my Black peers have to prove themselves good enough, appreciative enough, worthy enough to get the golden ticket to the sacred spaces at work or community from those who only by dint of color make the decisions about who belongs and who doesn’t without ever having to justify why.
I’m committed to learning what I don’t know so that I can understand what my clients of all ideologies, backgrounds, ethnicities, orientations and experiences need and want from what they do, where they work, and the people with whom they share space, whether hierarchical or psychological. To that end I am and will always be, a work in progress.
In all the places I play a part, I will ask the “why?” of what we do and to what end do we do it? I will question and challenge the homogeneity of our membership, our boards and our outreach. I will have the necessary conversations about what I didn’t address earlier because I was comfortable living inside my bubble and clueless about what was happening outside.
If it’s time for you to get off the sidelines and act, there’s plenty of work to do. No matter our age, experience, education or world view, we all have a lot to learn. When we do what’s right, intentionally, we’ll all be better for it.