What can my white co-workers do for Black colleagues in the virtual workplace? Hold space. That is one option.
Yesterday, I was a part of a virtual holding of space where nearly 100 colleagues were called into a virtual meeting to discuss the national crisis we’re facing. Black colleagues were given the floor to express how we’ve been affected by anti-Black racism, discrimination, and lynching. It was a cathartic, and liberating experience for many of us. Despite my first reaction, I didn’t feel like it was trauma-porn.
As you know (if you are Black), we often have to appear “buttoned-up” in our majority white workplaces. We straighten our hair, code-switch, and do our best to appear as non-threatening as possible. All while trying extra hard to prove that we are worth being in our positions of employment.
Finally, the first time in my career—I felt like I could be real—and honestly share how racism affects me and those that I love on a daily basis. For once, my colleagues and I could show up and express how much of a burden it is to worry about our personal safety while interacting with police. We laid bare the hurt we feel when our white associates do not hold themselves and their communities accountable for racism.
In short, we collectively expressed the truth: racism is their problem to solve.
When white people truly acknowledge and own this fact, and name the problem of anti-Black racism, then they are more prepared to do something incredibly meaningful for their Black colleagues, which includes dismantling the racism that they have built.
Like actions to eliminate racism in the workplace. This looks like clear policies on filing discrimination complaints that lead to quick and honest investigations. This looks like fair hiring practices, and unmasking the racism behind “cultural fit”criteria. This looks like online portals that provide and track confidentially submitted complaint. This looks like inclusion from the least tenured staff, all the way to the most senior board member. This looks like a complete and intentional overhaul of the systems that execute racism in covert, exacting, deliberate, and subtle ways in the workplace and all over this nation.
This is what my white co-workers can do for me and other Black colleagues.
What will you ask of your white co-workers while you are #blackwfh?
This contribution is a special think piece from the new platform, Young, Black & Working from Home.
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