How To Have Better Conversations About Race At Work
We, as a society, haven’t been the same since the horrifying video of George Floyd’s death circulated the Internet earlier this year. Beyond the international protests against police brutality, this tragic incident has sparked a wider conversation about racial bias in all areas of our lives—including at work.
A new report by The Society for Human Resource Management finds that 49% of Black professionals feel that discrimination based on race or ethnicity exists in their workplace. They write, “Despite years of financial and strategic investments in diversity, equity, and inclusion, U.S. companies have notable numbers of workers who express concerns and discomfort about fundamental issues of racial equality in the workplace.”
Good intentions aside, it’s clear that diversity initiatives are lacking. They fail to create real change that translates into the lived experience of employees. What’s missing? And how can we change it? Below are a few resources from Lavin exclusive speakers who have been spearheading real change in this arena for years.
Gain a Clear Understanding of the Concepts
The words equity, inclusion, and diversity are often used interchangeably. But what do they really mean? Lavin Speaker Ritu Bhasin has been teaching these concepts for decades in an effort to help nurture people’s authentic selves at work. In this short video, she helpfully explains the differences between these terms as a starting point for having truly informed conversations about race at work.
Be Willing to Have Difficult Conversations About Race (No Matter Your Race)
The SHRM report found that “more than one-third of U.S. workers don’t feel comfortable engaging in candid conversations about race at work.” But for real change to occur, having a hands-on experience that involves everyone—especially white people—is absolutely vital. It’s not enough to invite an expert to lecture your team on the importance of diversity as an abstract concept. In this CSPAN video, watch as Heather McGhee takes a question from a caller who openly admits his own prejudice. What ensues is a fruitful and powerful conversation about race in America. It’s conversations like these that are most uncomfortable, but are most essential for transformation.
Acknowledge Systemic Racism
Leaders need to acknowledge the racism happening both inside and outside of work on a deep and systemic level. This free, downloadable book released by Harvard University Press is not only for college students. It’s a fantastic resource for everyone who wishes to learn more about anti-black racism in this country, featuring work by Lavin speakers Anthony Jack, Khalil Gibran Muhammad, and Kwame Anthony Appiah. Historian Annette Gordon Reed—recently named a Harvard University professor—wrote the book’s forward: “The United States is, apparently, living through one of those punctuation points in history that, seemingly out of the blue, arrive to spur societal change.”