Many companies, in an attempt to “look good” (aka, not racist) are tripping over themselves in proclaiming Black Lives Matter, and yes, we do sound like a broken record when we say that sometimes, but many companies are just playing a game. In the first episode of our podcast, we interviewed Dr. Kimya Nuru Dennis, the founder of 365 Diversity LLC where she talks about this troubling trend. She believes that companies should NOT say anything regarding the BLM movement UNTIL they got the permission of their Black employees first! Seems obvious right? But, how often do companies do it?
She’s right about this. So many companies over the past few years have been called out due to their toxic work cultures where sexism, racism, and homophobia run rampant. Companies where if an employee dares to speak up, they are often doing so at the risk of their livelihoods.
Recently, Jeanette Kowalik, the former Milwaukee Health Commissioner who recently resigned, wrote about the racism and restrictions she experienced as the commissioner. Eventually, the pressures, unfair treatment, and recent constant struggle to get the government to care about how COVID is especially hitting communities of color caused her to peace out! Don’t blame her!
We can only imagine how stifled and frustrated she felt considering she sat down, wrote an article, and submitted for publication. While her truth is appreciated, it is also a privilege not given to many Black professionals in the workplace. Often, we’re forced to keep quiet, or don’t have a place to speak out.
Tone policing is all too common and it comes in many different forms. From your manager checking your LinkedIn posts and then later making a passing comment to make you aware they’re watching you, or even a vindictive coworker who tries to use what you wrote against you. Tone policing results in Black employees feeling isolated, unsupported, and the very real fear of the livelihoods being jeopardized.
It also results in the suppression of Black voices. But don’t lose hope yet. Suppression doesn’t mean silence as those voices move underground, and move together, creating tension and resentment, a collective emotional pressure of emotions that eventually rises to the surface. Companies are being called out more often and more publicly by employees (current and former) with receipts included and leaders are being fired! Finally! If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that people won’t accept being mistreated for too long, and more importantly, they realize their power and are ready to use it.
We support this!
So how can companies support their Black employees, not just around slogans?
Stop Policing Us- Stop surveilling us on social media and connecting with us on LinkedIn just as a substitute for learning how we feel.
Start Talking & Listening to Us- Open, honest, and sincere dialogue the only way to build long-term bridges.
Realize We Are Human Begins- We aren’t just employees clocking in each day for a check, we have needs, wants, and stressors that extend beyond the workplace. Your Black employees are dealing with a lot, which only worsens without your support.
Be Sincere- If your company truly cares about the BLM movement and Black lives, then you will do more to make Black lives matter into the work culture. To start, begin with our podcast and listen to the experts on ways to do this.
Take Pulse Checks- As stated above, companies should not be proclaiming BLM if they are treating their Black employees in ways that suggest they think otherwise. Leadership must be plugged into the company’s Black voices, ask for feedback, be receptive to that feedback, and act on it.
Lastly, companies must realize that supporting their Black employees is a continued effort, a process, not a one-off, and mistakes will be made along the way. That is fine. What isn’t fine is not doing anything at all, or giving up.
Remember you want and NEED your Black employees. You need us to speak our truth at all times, especially when you might not want to hear it.
Also remember, here at Blackness and the Workplace we want to cultivate an environment that is supportive. Join us in The Tea Room!