The protests and uprisings triggered by the murder of George Floyd at the hands of police officers has many of my white colleagues and friends shook. They truly were surprised by the amount of outrage, anger and fear that Black and Brown folks carry with us every day from perpetually being treated like second-class citizens in all areas of U.S. society.
People across the United States are calling for justice for the four officers involved in Mr. Floyd’s murder. People are calling for real change and real action within the police system and other institutions that continuously harm Black and Brown people.
People want to take action NOW. While there are immediate needs to be addressed, real change takes hard work. Sustained work. Dedicated work. Personal work.
Any changes to the U.S.’s inherently racist society, institutions or systems start with the individuals who comprise them.
Change start with a philosophical and unwavering moral commitment to equity, anti-racism, and inclusion of oppressed and repressed communities. It is difficult, deeply personal, long-term work that must continue long after the protest signs are put away.
In this COVID-19 era, not everyone feels safe going to a public protest. Protesting is important, needed work that comes in many shapes and forms.
Everyone – all of us – can act by taking a long, hard look at our own biases and experiences with people who are different from us. Education and self-reflection takes time and commitment, but it is important and needed before any other actions can be successful.
6 Action Steps to Create a More Equitable Society
1) Reflect on your own privilege and biases. Do this immediately and do it often. To address equity effectively is to be in a constant state of self-reflection, learning and humility. Change starts from within, not with outward actions.
2) Think about how you have used your privilege to maintain the status quo or to oppress or repress others – in your work and in your personal life. Most of these acts of oppression will be microaggressions, small actions that you probably weren’t aware of but others felt the impact.
3) Talk to others with whom you have a personal relationship to help you explore your privilege and biases. Talk with your work colleagues to discuss how privilege, white supremacy and classism are ingrained in your workplace, in your business policies and practices, and in your own daily work style. Listen to your colleagues experiences and suggestions with humility and openness.
4) Decide how you will address your own biases and privilege in your personal life and in your work.
5) Connect with others and choose one aspect of privilege, white supremacy or classism in your community or in your work to address. The issue or solution that you chose could be big or small, but it will likely take a long time and effort to see and maintain change. Change takes commitment.
When working with others do not expect to be the lead or to have your perspective be front and center. Inclusive collaboration requires commitment to diversity of thought, and respecting the ideas and leadership of those with different experiences than yours. Effective action requires humility, openness and flexibility.
6) Go back to Step 1. Repeat this process often. We all have a lot of self-reflection and learning to do before we can effectively take any other actions. We all have a lot of work to do to change for the better.