Black Employees Need Support Right Now, We're Tired | Tonte Bo Douglas
Simply put, we’re tired at this point.
We are doing all the constant Zoom video meetings.
We are trying to do all of our work.
We’re trying to keep our spirits up during this time.
And yet through our trying to live through the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been hearing how black workers are disproportionally affected by COVID-19, seeing black people dying on video at the hands of police and racists, once again feeling the overwhelming and crippling effects of racism and we are feeling powerless to do anything about it.
But regardless, the show must continue. We must somehow put all our feelings to the side because of ‘the work’. Put it all in a box. We must pretend like these issues do not bother us because companies need us to be productive.
How can one expect productivity at a time when our society is crumbling before our eyes?
Corporations have a large responsibility for protecting their black staff. Period. It’s not about giving preferential treatment to black employees, it’s about understanding the fact that there is a serious problem here and that this is not something where you can simply bury your head in the sand, do nothing and wait for the coast to clear.
This is not going away any time soon. Actions need to be taken now.
Here are 8 ways in which corporations can support their black employees:
1. Providing safe spaces within the company for black people to actively discuss issues relevant to their struggle. Yes, these issues need to be able to be talked about within the company. Black people need to be able to discuss black issues which affect black people and bear in mind, this doesn't mean BAME or ‘people of colour’. It means black and only black. There can no longer be a fear or a stigma to mention the word in the workplace.
2. Amplifying the voices of people who are speaking out on issues relating to black people - whether black or non black. Whether that means providing a larger platform for said voices or using the company platforms where relevant to show support and advocate change.
3. Encouraging managers and senior leaders within the company to check on their black employees within the company and taking into account of their wellbeing. Directing them to mental health bodies where necessary can prove vital in protecting the more affected employees .
4. Fostering a community of understanding from the top down. From the directors to the managers, empowering all members of the community to use their privilege to be allies, which means acknowledging the situation and understanding that by not using their privledge to help the cause, they are allowing these negative cycles to continue.
5. Analysing company structures, especially when it comes to the hiring, attracting and retaining of black talent. Looking at the company wide data and where better procedures can be put in place, implementing them. Being intentional about diversity and not just talking about it.
6. Investing in mandatory anti racism training for all employees and sharing black-led research and resources to all workers for the purposes of unpackaging segments of racism and highlighting the issues which affect black people disproportionately in the workplace and community.
7. Not disconnecting from the issues at hand. Not dismissing the struggles that many black members of employees may be going through, for risk of feeling uncomfortable. We as black people do not have the luxury of being able to disengage from the effects of racism and discrimination and thus the conversations around it shouldn’t be ignored either.
8. Donating to/sponsoring relevant organisations that are advocating for black issues.
This is a time where active contributions are required and we need to start looking at every corporate entity and holding them accountable for what they are doing when it comes to protecting their black employees.
It is imperative that every company leader looks at themselves in the mirror and asks themselves the following questions:
“Am I actively acknowledging the issues that many of my black staff are experiencing?”
“If I do not fully understand the issues, am I facilitating understanding and promoting change through the company?”
“What am I personally doing to help the cause on a personal level?”
This is a time where people cannot afford to let their discomfort and fear of offending people and being offended, prevent them from taking action and providing needed support. Ultimately, if companies are not facilitating change and advancement on a structural level, then they directly (or indirectly) are part of the problem of maintaining the status quo in which blacks are constantly feeling marginalised, underrepresented and suppressed on a corporate level.
Black people are dying. We are scared. We are not fine. We simply cannot pretend that the issues don’t exist. Not anymore.