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📢Well-meaning managers/allies: Black and brown employees don’t *always* want to talk about race. Here are some guideposts to acknowledge their humanity without overdoing it 📢:
The backdrop is that being Black or brown at work is often a lonely experience. Many are the firsts - in their family to graduate from college or break into a profession - and/or the only - person of color on their team, in the meeting, in the [now extinct?] office./2
The goal of talking explicitly about race at work is to validate Black and brown experiences & demonstrate solidarity. But this has to happen without exacerbating the spotlight that Black and brown folks already feel in and on their skin. So, how do we strike a balance?/3
🛑Badger your Black & brown employees under the guise of allyship. If you’ve created an opening for an explicit conversation & someone isn’t biting in the moment, don’t double down to the point of strong-arming them to share more than they’re comfortable with./4
✅Broach again. It can take consistency & time for these conversations to feel safe for Black & brown employees, especially if this is a new dynamic for the 1:1 relationship. Build trust by taking another swing at bat in the future. Conditions change./5
🛑Put Black & brown employees on the spot in front of their peers. Don’t single out the [one? few?] Black & brown employees in a team meeting and ask everyone else to pity them and their circumstance. They don’t need saving and I know firsthand how mortifying this is./6
✅Engage your team in a conversation about how you can effectively pull up for each other. Team settings are a time to be a little *less* explicit about race since most White folks don’t see themselves as “having race.”/7
Message that you recognize a diversity of employee experiences & leave it there to avoid othering employees of color./8
🛑Put the burden on Black & brown employees to design solutions to overcome their own oppression. Employees of color are overly involved in inclusion efforts. This investment carries emotional and social costs that disserve them./9…
✅Convene a community of leaders & allies. Y’all should be talking to each other. Free Black & brown employees up to do the work they were hired to do. #DEI leads or an external consultant can relay their voices & experiences so their time & emotional labor are protected./10
Finally, some folks will never want to discuss race at work for a number of potential reasons: Segmenting work from home, low identification with their race, injury from a previous employer, current lack of psych safety, too painful, too exhausting..../11
#DEI analyses often sit at the group level but there’s no substitute for knowing people as individuals and respecting their personal preferences for disclosure and vulnerability./12
What does this all mean? It means there’s no ally checklist that will yield a 5-star rating across all interactions with all Black and brown employees./13
The “right” approach to allying varies by context and contexts are fluid. It’s impossible to know when, how explicitly, how often, & with whom to broach race at work. BUT - with practice and iteration - you can hone your intuition and avoid causing more harm than good./end
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