Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is all-consuming work. It requires ongoing commitment, open-mindedness, and leadership to cultivate sustainable and meaningful change. Often I am asked what drives me to continue doing this work when progress is slow. My response, I am a descendant of the people who help build this country without any acknowledgement; a group of people who are key to defending this country throughout history despite facing greater atrocities at home. The only group of people who did not come here willingly but found a way to excel despite the countless barriers placed in front of them – slavery, redlining, Black Codes, Jim Crow Laws, mass incarceration. The better question is how can I not do this work. It is incumbent upon me to continue this work to honor the legacy of my ancestors.
In collaboration with the Cross Firms Black Employee Resource Group, YJLaurent Consulting recently produced the 2nd Annual Juneteenth Celebration, Moving Beyond Discussion to Action. The 2-day speaker series focused on providing tangible and sustainable recommendations on how individuals and companies can take action towards change. However, we would be remiss; if we didn’t discuss how structural racism embedded in the founding of this country created the inequitable barriers inherent in our policies, practices, and institutions today. Here are several key takeaways from our astute panel:
- Ally is a verb, it is in the actions you take, how you promote marginalized groups and utilize your privilege to create opportunities and space for those groups to drive their movements forward.
- Race is a social construct. It is not biologic. There is no identified genetic delineation between white and black people.
- Mental wellness is key to getting through this period and beyond, take time and space to reflect. It is okay to not be okay. Strength is saying I need help. Own it, acknowledge it and use your resources and networks.
- Sponsor and mentor black and brown talent within your organizations, advocate for them when they are not in the room and help them obtain a seat at the table allowing them to lift as they climb.
- There are thousands of talented and qualified black and brown talent looking for an opportunity. Continue to invest and recruit from HBCUs and non-traditional avenues to bring in diverse talent into your organizations.
- If you are going to take a stand, make sure you have very intentional ways to make that change.
At the conclusion of the insightful 2-day series, I wrapped up the with these parting thoughts…
”Throughout US history we’ve seen the constant seamless stripping away of rights, resources and lives from the Black community through laws, systemic oppression and institutionalized practices.
This country has a long history of labor market discrimination and segregation forcing Black people into lower-quality and paying jobs. Due to mortgage market discrimination, Black people are significantly less likely to be homeowners. With the increasing wealth gap, Black Americans are far less likely to have any form of accumulated wealth.
But yet we are not expected to express our fatigue and our fears or show our strength to make others feel comfortable. We are expected to leave centuries of disenfranchisement and trauma at the door and carry on business as usual without any regard, acknowledgement or commitment to change.
We are living the direct reflection of post-emancipation classism in which propaganda set affluent White Americans as the model and aspiration while black people are depicted as inhuman. And until we are ready to call it for what it is, get uncomfortable and do some internal reflection on the roles we play within the system we will continue this detrimental cycle.”
The past few months have been invigorating; newfound promises from allies, corporations have made public commitments beyond statements, and institutions are eliminating reminders of the architects of the system that continue to fuel these social injustices. It seems we may finally be in a place where meaningful change is possible.
However, I remain cautiously optimistic recognizing there is much work to be done; four centuries of racism do not just disappear overnight. It will take more than this to change mindsets. However, my focus will remain on working towards sustainable change to honor the fighting spirit of those who came before me and to solidify the foundation for those who will continue this work after me.
Join the movement in shifting to action. For more information on how to do that here are some resources to get you started.
Talking About Race – National Museum of African American History & Culture
Anti-Racism Resource Guide – Compiled by Tasha K., June 2020
Racism & Anti-Blackness Resources & How to Be a Better Ally – Compiled by Tatum Dorrell, Matt Herndon and Jourdan Dorrell, June 2020
Anti-Racism Resources – Compiled by Sarah Sophie Flicker and Alyssa Klein in May 2020