Awareness dates are a key part of the diversity and inclusion calendar, and February’s Black History Month, which focuses on celebrating Black history and culture in the US and Canada, is no exception.
In the workplace, commemorating Black History Month whether in North America, the UK, or elsewhere shouldn’t be a once-a-year practice; it must form part of a long-term strategy to show up for Black colleagues as an ally in dismantling racism as well as acknowledging Black history itself.
Furthermore, employees who aren’t Black should re-examine their behaviours to see if they are unknowingly perpetuating discrimination against their Black colleagues at work.
To help well-meaning employees make a start in their anti-racism journey, we have referenced a checklist produced by Madison Butler, a US-based talent development leader, anti-racist advocate, and belonging strategist who helps organisations build inclusive cultures.
The below list comes from Butler’s bi-weekly newsletter, Unicorn Nuggets, which offers readers advice on how to dismantle white supremacy.
Things you can do to celebrate Black history month (and mean it):
- Learn to pronounce our names
- Stop telling us you don’t see colour. That in itself is racism
- Recognise that Queer history is Black history. Watch Paris is Burning
- Hire Black speakers
- Research the actual history of our oppressors and colonialism
- Talk to your kids about anti-racism
- Have that hard conversation with your relative/partner/friend about why their racism will no longer be tolerated
- Be self-aware enough to know when your language is harmful. Microaggressions such as telling us we are “articulate”, or saying we’re “aggressive” stem from stereotypes rooted in racism
- Support Black authors, businesses, creators, and educators
- Believe our experiences
- Listen to and read content from Black creators who you haven’t interacted with before
- Black history month is not a means to ease your conscience. This is not the time to boost your brand, boost your ego or your PR
- Celebrate all Black people, not just the ones who make you comfortable
- Be comfortable, or let yourself be uncomfortable, when black men and women take up space
- CHECK YOUR BIASES. We are not put here to make you comfortable. Only you can unpack your ‘uncomfies’
- Be actively anti-racist in all facets of your life- even when it means unlearning the things that have felt comfortable for your entire life
- Be more than an ally, be an advocate
- Do this 365 days a year
Challenge: I challenge you to not only commit to dismantling oppressive systems but acknowledge you also uphold them.
To find out more about Madison Butler, click here.