How should leaders facilitate an anti-racist work environment?

“Racism has not become worse, it’s just getting filmed”

Not just in the USA, but globally, we need to face the true essence of our reality. And the reality is that various forms of vile and explicit discrimination, especially racism, still prevail in our societies. Many are outraged by what they have seen in the past few weeks on their phone and TV screens, but to people of color the daily confrontation with racism, physical and mental, is inevitable. That is why it is beyond important to understand that it’s everyone’s job to ensure we dismantle oppressive and racist systems which we have inherited.

Not being racist isn’t enough we need to be anti-racist

Since at Planet Venus we focus on the working environment, we find it essential to start a conversation about racism at work. It is extremely important as a leader in your own business or the one you work for, to always keep your eyes open and spot the different forms racism takes and speak up.

Actively seeking out diversity

It is crucial to ensure that you or your HR manager is actively seeking to hire diverse people, but not for PR reasons! If your HR does not understand this, then educate them on the importance.

Moreover, having a diverse team composed of people from different cultures, ethnicities, religions is always important for enriching the company internally, and generally ensures more sensitivity when approaching different clients and potential partners.

Actively seeking out diversity is also extremely essential due to the fact that often POC and especially black people are turned away from job opportunities due to prejudice; and simply because the fight on the job market is still much easier for white people in many places of the world.

Searching for people who hold non-discriminatory and anti-racist beliefs

Understanding a potential employee’s values beyond their work ethic and capabilities is essential. If they don’t hold anti-racist beliefs, then they shouldn’t have a seat at your table. Racist beliefs will not only put other employees and/or business partners in an uncomfortable position, it will hinder the entire working process.

Letting people know that they will be held accountable for their words and actions will give courage and power to those who have often been neglected and not taken seriously. Raising these voices is essential, especially moving forward.

Speaking up when confronted with racism and other forms of discrimination

While it may seem difficult to speak up when confronted with racism, it is even more difficult to be on the receiving end of it.

That is why it is so important that as an employer – you either find ways to educate the ones who are being discriminatory (primarily as a white employer). The path to educating someone who holds controversial beliefs should be pursued when the individual is open, curious and ready to learn from their mistakes. However, for the people who do not want to learn and choose to remain ignorant, you should have a plan on how to sanction them. Because simply doing nothing because they’re ‘a lost cause,’ is being complicit in their discriminatory actions. In other words, as a leader you should never allow discriminatory practices to thrive.

Finally, it is not just about educating others. Sometimes even if it isn’t our intention, we could all make mistakes and say discriminatory and racist things. It’s important to remember that it’s not about knowing it all, but about acknowledging that we’ve all been part of a racist system which has aimed at oppressing black people and silencing their voices. This means that we all have to make the conscious effort to unlearn racist behaviours. We are all responsible to educate ourselves and become comfortable with understanding and changing our own internal biases.

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