What Can We Learn About Anti-Racism From the Deaths of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor?
Like so many across the country, the IBIS team was horrified by the murder of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery. We took time at work to reflect on the situation and our reactions. As we talked, it became clear that the event impacted Black employees differently than white employees. Black employees shared that they carried this event with them, and found it surfaced disruptive memories and feelings of similar, more personal events. They felt anger and disappointment in the privilege of those who can choose to “turn off” their reactions to this upsetting event.
White employees shared that they felt grief for the victim and his family, anger over racist systems that entangle the justice system, and frustration with other white people who weren’t taking action to address and learn from this event.
All of us, of every racial makeup represented at IBIS, were deeply saddened and focused on what we can do to make the future better.
It’s important that we engage with his death, and the circumstances surrounding it, because one lesson is that white people in the United States are not taking enough action to be actively anti-racist.
When we later learned of the police shooting death of an unarmed Black woman named Breonna Taylor, our sadness grew deeper.
Ultimately, it led us all to ask: is each one of us doing enough to be actively anti-racist?
Fortunately, tools exist to help understand and improve racial consciousness.
For white people, this Checklist for Allies Against Racism by Dr. John Raible might provide a useful start. It includes items such as:
__ When People of Color point out racism as it is happening, I feel personally attacked.
__ It is important to me to point out examples of “reverse racism” when I see them.
__ I speak for People of Color and attempt to explain their positions.
__ I wait for People of Color to raise white people’s awareness.
__ I know fewer than five individual peers of color intimately (i.e., adults, not younger students or children).
If you find yourself checking items on this list, read through the following items for individual awareness on our Racial Equity FLEX model, and try out a few of the actions this week.
FLEX is IBIS’s unique learning model that illustrates our approach to leveraging diversity and fostering inclusion. We incorporate this F.L.E.X. framework into our DEI consulting and training solutions.
- Be honest with yourself and others
- Understand your own racial identity, level of racial consciousness and racial identity development
- Manage your racial stress
- Exhibit vulnerability
- Seek out the discomfort of growth around your power, privilege and Whiteness
- Practice mindfulness through presence and breath
LEARN FROM OTHERS:
- Work to understand those with racial identities other than your own
- Actively learn from articles, media, and stories reflecting people of all racial identities
- Ask those on your team how racism impacts the team and your relationships
- Prioritize recognizing and supporting those in crisis
ENGAGE IN DIALOGUE:
- Own your behavior
- Apologize for mistakes
- Support and orchestrate inter-racial and intra-racial dialogue
- Ask how you can better support others
- Prioritize racial healing
EXPAND THE OPTIONS:
- Commit to being actively anti-racist
- Share your journey of racial awareness and encourage others to do the same
- Envision helping people of all races thrive and experience belonging: what does it look like?
- Apply an Anti-Racist Lens to all managerial decisions and team goals
- Create a DEI or Anti-Racism Strategic Plan
While these recommendations focus on the individual, we also apply the FLEX model for racial equity to organizational culture, recruiting and hiring, performance management, and career development.
Finally, we’ve been thinking about ways to decolonize our communication and interactions with each other. Those questions include:
- In what ways does our workplace ever feel hostile to people of color?
- How can we adjust our communication to create a feeling of belonging for all employees?
- How are we upholding a system of white supremacy, even in small or unintentional ways?
We encourage you to take steps to explore anti-racism, too, and after starting with yourself, move on to your organization. If you need help, reach out to us, and we’ll do it together.