Beyond Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: How to Build an Anti-Racist Workplace

Many organizations strive to become anti-racist workplaces in their ongoing commitment to racial justice. “It’s tempting to think that the broad recognition of inequity and resulting activism is enough to bring change to organizations,” social psychologist Evelyn R. Carter writes. “But meaningful and long-lasting action to create an anti-racist workplace requires strategic vision and intent.”

Standing up for racial justice in the workplace goes beyond implementing a diversity, equity, and inclusion plan. It requires an active, ongoing commitment. In the past, we’ve written about hiring and recruiting with DEI in mind and how to retain diverse talent. This guide will help you engage, take action, and hold your organization accountable.

Start with Yourself

Before sharing a statement or implementing sweeping changes, take a deep look inward. Public statements ring hollow when organizations’ words don’t align with their actions. If you’re a white or a non-Black person of color, reflect on how your racial identity has afforded you benefits and privileges. Think critically about the racial makeup of your organization and who is in leadership positions. 

As you reflect, take note of the cultural norms your organization has set. The conferences you participate in, the vendors you partner with, and the holidays you recognize all matter. Michelle Garcia of The Muse writes, “Introspection is only a preliminary step. Once you evaluate your past actions, you’ll be able to think about the ones you’ll need to take to move forward.” 

There are a wealth of resources about anti-racism in the workplace and characteristics of white supremacy culture you can learn from and share. These learnings can be a launching point to host discussions about race and bias in the workplace. Additionally, you can implement anti-racism trainings led by facilitators with lived experience. 

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Commit to Taking Action

In its Building an Anti-Racist Workplace Guide, TIME’S UP writes, “Be humble about where you’re starting from and commit to backing up public statements with action. If you have not done this already, now is the time to add anti-racism to your core values and operationalize those values by evaluating all of your policies and decision-making processes through an anti-racist lens.”

One everyday change you can make to interrupt racism is to speak up and address microaggressions. The Muse notes that in a Deloitte survey of employees at large companies, 64 percent said they experienced bias at work in the previous year. Eighty-three percent of those people said the bias was subtle, while 32 percent said it was blatant or obvious.

Be prepared to report illegal or overt discrimination in the workplace. This could be an incident like a hiring manager passing over a candidate specifically because they’re Black, or someone using slurs about people of color. 

Follow a Tangible Plan

PitchBlack Founder Stephen Green organized the Do. Do More. Do Better movement in 2020 in response to Black Lives Matter protests and the rising awareness of systemic racism by white and other non-Black people in Portland. This tangible pathway will help you to engage in the movement and lead your organization through this work. 

For example, you can start by attending at least one professional networking or hiring event focused on the Black community each quarter. Down the line, you can advocate for your company to sponsor and support at least one of these events per quarter. As Do. Do More. Do Better suggests, an important aspect of anti-racism in the workplace is redistributing opportunities and resources. 

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Invest your time and money into BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) events and businesses. Alongside this work, amplify BIPOC thought leaders in your field on social media and in the community. By laying this groundwork for becoming an anti-racist workplace, you will be in a stronger position to hire and retain diverse talent.

Hold Yourself Accountable

Fighting structural racism in the workplace is an active, ongoing process. Commit to the longterm picture, knowing that you may not always say or do the right thing. Garcia writes, “Perhaps the most exhausting thing about structural racism is knowing that it is so persistent and so invasive. It’s everywhere, so it will take a lot of work to dismantle. This work is a marathon, not a sprint, so you have to train accordingly.”

As your organization undergoes training and updates policies, solicit feedback from your team. It’s particularly important that BIPOC staff members feel they have a safe place to share their thoughts. This feedback will help your organization progress forward. The TIME’S UP Building an Anti-Racist Workplace guide suggests leading with empathy and creating safe spaces for people to share their experiences.

“Becoming an anti-racist organization is not a static achievement; it is life-long work that you and your colleagues must commit to each and every day,” the guide reads. “Make sure that the goals you set are understood, measurable, and embodied by everyone, and that every member of your team knows what role they play in achieving these goals. Remind everyone that you are building an essential muscle, which will grow stronger with effort and time. There is no shortcut to this work; the only way forward is through.”

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