We aren’t pretending to be experts in race or racism. But racial discrimination isn’t a new topic in our world. Its devastating repercussions have been wreaking havoc for generations. And with the current pandemic, everything feels louder and even more urgent to digest. Maybe the fact that so many of us, trapped at home, feel disconnected and separated from our regular support systems — but the latest racial unrest and injustices have evoked an unending list of emotions, including anger, despair, hope, hunger, among others. We have felt all of them.
And while we aren’t experts in racism, we do have expertise in running collaborative meetings that center around difficult topics. We want to do the work to become an anti-racist organization, and first, we needed to engage more. Strong teams come together to share different perspectives. So, that’s what we did.
Talking about systemic racism isn’t easy. And acknowledging embedded and unrecognized racism in your company and your life is more than uneasy. It presents a level of discomfort that we tend to avoid. It can get awkward, especially in group conversations that may not usually stray outside of normal work topics. And many meetings are now taking place virtually, adding another level of awkwardness to the equation.
Over the past few months, we have organized collaborative conversations on becoming an anti-racist organization. It started with peeling back some layers, examining our privileges, and openly talking about it with our peers. We managed to have some uncomfortable, raw, frustrating, and hopeful conversations.
Many of us are unaware of our privileges. Or, if we are aware, we don’t talk about them. Moreover, most of our team is white. And over half of us are male. We know we have work to do, but it’s important to recognize and acknowledge your privileges first. Throw the shit on the mirror and take a long look, nose unplugged.
We read and focused our initial conversations around one book: Ijeoma Oluo’s So You Want to Talk About Race. But there are tons of other great resources to consider. Listen to a podcast, watch a documentary series. Read a collection of articles. Make sure to check for reliable, accurate sources.
Getting started is the hardest part. Having a plan helps. Here’s ours. Feel free to use or adapt it for your team.