Reckoning with Racism: Using Your Organization’s Events as An Engine for Meaningful Change
As public demonstrations take place in all 50 states of America, and numerous other countries around the world, organizations must consider how to respond—and act—thoughtfully. Beyond addressing marginalization in the workplace, businesses also need to acknowledge the deeply rooted suffering happening outside of work.
“The psychological impact of these public events—and the way it carries over into the workplace—cannot be overstated,” writes The Harvard Business Review. “Research shows that how organizations respond to large-scale, diversity-related events that receive significant media attention can either help employees feel psychologically safe or contribute to racial identity threat and mistrust of institutions of authority.”
To create a psychologically safe workplace, leaders must not only use their platform to speak out, but also to educate and support their teams. And while it’s normal to feel ill-prepared to address an issue as complex and widespread as racial injustice, remember: no one has the perfect words immediately, but there are countless experts, resources, and platforms available.
Being in the speaking industry, The Lavin Agency has witnessed the power of events to bring people together time and time again. They can inspire creativity, foster collaboration, and most importantly, if done correctly, they can act as an engine for change. Meaningful, lasting change that spreads through an organization and has a positive impact in the day-to-day experience of every single team member.
Virtual events are, by design, more inclusive than live events. But it’s also important to consider who you’re inviting to speak, the perspectives you’re choosing to spotlight, and the value they bring in the long-term. Below are just a few of the Lavin Speakers who have dedicated their careers to fighting for racial justice—and creating real change—in our organizations, our governments, and in society at large.
Heather McGhee: When Starbucks made headlines after a viral video showed a racist encounter happening in one of their stores, they called Heather McGhee—a social policy and racial healing expert—to tackle racism within the company. McGhee’s new TED Talk, ‘Racism Has a Cost for Everyone’ also shares some of the insights she’s discovered, both from her own experiences, and well as traveling across the U.S. She reveals how racism fuels bad policy-making and limits economic potential—and what we can do to design a more equitable, prosperous nation for everyone.
Nikole Hannah-Jones: An investigative reporter for The New York Times, Nikole Hannah-Jones made waves with the acclaimed ‘The 1619 Project.’ Named after the year the first enslaved Africans arrived in America, ‘The 1619 Project’ explores the lasting, pervasive legacy of slavery on our nation. Hannah-Jones took home a Pulitzer Prize in commentary for her opening essay, marking her as a compelling, necessary voice in the fight against racial injustice.
Khalil Gibran Muhammad: Our society may profess “equality for all,” but there are significant, radical changes that need to be made before that statement is true. Khalil Gibran Muhammad, a professor of history, race, and public policy at Harvard, explores the large gap in power distribution between white people and people of colour—and what we need to do to close it.
Jeff Chang: “Culture moves before politics,” says Jeff Chang, a social historian exploring the intersection of art, racial progress, and multiculturalism. Formerly the Executive Director of the Institute for Diversity in the Arts at Stanford University, Chang is also the author of We Gon’ Be Alright: a collection of essays addressing topics such as re-segregation, diversity, and equality, which has recently been adapted into a digital series.
Wajahat Ali: The American experience isn’t a singular experience. It’s a multifaceted one, that includes different racial ethnicities, cultural backgrounds, and political perspectives. So how can we bring everyone’s unique experience together to create unity? To foster a respect for our differences, rather than fear, hate, and mistrust? For Wajahat Ali—CNN Contributor, New York Times op-ed writer, and TED Speaker—it’s about creating and mobilising a “multicultural coalition of the willing” ready to fight for social change.