When Flint, Michigan Sheriff Christopher Swanson asked protesters what he and his officers could do, the protesters responded, “Walk with us.”
The Sheriff — and all of us — must answer the challenge. Will we walk or will we find a reason not to?
It’s not enough to be non-racist; we must be anti-racist. And, as leaders, we need to be publicly so. Many of us claim, “I’m not racist” and feel that our duty is complete. But I would suggest that there’s more work to be done; work that moves us from non-racist to anti-racist. We must walk. Just as Sheriff Swanson and his officers did.
How can we become anti-racist? There are many answers; here are a few:
- Recognize your own privilege. We are who we are because of the support and opportunities we’ve enjoyed. Unfortunately, not everyone has enjoyed the same support and opportunities.
- Examine your own biases. We all form conceptions that serve as foundations for our actions. Identifying why you believe what you believe is a step towards reducing bias.(Check out Race: The Power of an Illusion, a PBS series for a closer examination of our racial biases.)
- Accept as truth what people of color are saying and give them a platform. As a white man, I don’t — CAN’T — share the experiences or feelings of people of color; as a result, it would be easy for me to dismiss these claims as exaggeration or false simply because they’re not mine. However, I don’t discount my wife’s feelings or experiences even though she’s a woman and I’m a man; why can’t I apply the same acceptance to people of color? Support people of color by shining the spotlight on their words (not yours).
- Call out racism when you hear it. Let people know that racist jokes or statements are unacceptable. If you’re uncomfortable with direct confrontation, simply ask the teller to explain what they meant by the joke or statement. Encourage people to look within to see why they might hold certain views or misconceptions.
Perhaps the simplest form of support is to walk with us.
There are countless resources available for people looking to support this very important cause. Below are just a few. We encourage you to educate yourselves and the people around you. People of color have long been sharing their stories; it's time we listen and act.
- U.S. Businesses Must Take Meaningful Action Against Racism, Harvard Business Review
- A Detailed List of Anti-Racism Resources, Medium
- What Can White People Do?, Medium
- Your Black Colleagues May Look Like They’re Okay — Chances Are They’re Not, Yahoo! Life
- Opportunities for White People in the Fight for Racial Justice, whiteaccomplices.org