Updated: Nov 5, 2020
A great Prophet said, “The time is always right, to do what is right.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
As you’re aware from the news and social media, there has been a large and appropriate response to the murder of Black Americans by police officers taking place over the last several days. Our society is being traumatized by the systemic, institutional racism that pervades the structures that govern and rule our citizenry. Our Black neighbors live in fear every second of every day that their name will be the next that needs to be remembered. That their son or daughter may be the next Black citizen murdered in the streets by people who swore to protect them.
Real change can be uncomfortable, and as leaders of any organization, you have a responsibility to Black employees to openly and loudly affirm that they are safe at work from racism and discrimination. That you vehemently oppose and condemn the actions of the police officer in Minneapolis who murdered George Floyd, along with the hundreds who went before him. Their lives have been traumatized repeatedly and they are expected to show up at work every day with a positive attitude and bring consistent productivity that benefits each of your employees. This burden that they carry is not new*.
As a black woman who has worked for over twelve years in Agribusiness, I have developed an intense passion for creating brave spaces to have these tough conversations about race in the workplace. It is a necessity for all of us within Agribusiness (and beyond), to create inclusive cultures for all races. The future of our industry depends on it. I recently left my full-time position at an animal health and nutrition company, to pursue this work full-time. That’s how important it is. It deserves everyone’s full attention.
As you wrestle with how to respond, below are a few questions to prompt your planned action*:
How are we helping our Black colleagues?
What resources have we offered them?
Have we contacted every single one of them, asking what they need from us, how we can support them?
How are we working with our non-Black employees to remind them that inherent bias runs deep and that we are each responsible for unlearning racism?
How will we address this with our employees?
At the intersection of most diversity, equity and inclusion matters are racial dynamics compounded by gender, sexual orientation and religion.
In order to fully address DEI, we must understand the history of racism and privilege as well as the origins of white supremacy in America.
It is impossible to get to the heart of DEI work- for yourself or an organization- without having an understanding of the social construct of race which evolved from the transatlantic slave trade. Racism is a lasting implication of American slavery.
My mission is to motivate and facilitate authentic conversations and initiatives that focus Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion efforts through a racial equity lens in order to promote organizational transformation. The foundation of my organizational racial equity framework includes three pillars:
Knowledge. When we know better we do better.
Introspection. Tackling the intersectionality of DEI can often feel overwhelming, and it’s important to take the time to look within yourself and the organization to understand what biases, policies, and structure negatively impact people of color and ultimately the entire organization.
Action. Create a plan to achieve systems change that leads to a more equitable workplace.
*Many Black leaders are promoting this message, including Christine Platt, M.A., J.D. (a Historian and Literacy & Antiracism Advocate). Follow her work on IG @afrominimalist And, Rachel Cargle (Building an intellectual legacy through teaching, storytelling & critical discourse). Follow her work on IG @rachel.cargle
Whitney Evans (@whitevaz) also has contributed great language for holding our employers responsible for racial equity work.