Let’s keep it 100. A lot of organizations are looking sketchy as they discuss their interest and plans for combating racism and anti-Blackness in their spaces. But why are these organizational statements and efforts so ineffective and unbelievable?
Partly because many organizations aren’t being honest with themselves and others.
As someone who researches organizational behavior, I am moved to pay more attention to the consequential things that often aren’t said rather than simply what is. Here are four things most organizations should be saying, but probably never will:
1. We are only moved to act on issues of racism and anti-Blackness if there is an actual or potential threat of loss of revenues, organizational embarrassment, or both.
A lot of organizations can and will do what is possible under the banner of racism until there are consequences they care about. That means within the landscape of all things racist and anti-Black, only those things deemed a threat to the organization priorities’ will be addressed, even if superficially.
2. While we might add more Black people, we won’t address the organizational culture, climate, people and policies that have and will likely harm them.
Many organizations are okay on the surface with adding a Black person or persons, as long as this doesn’t make them accountable to changing their space. In this way, the problem is framed as a composition issue, and not one stemming from within the organization. As a result, if anything goes awry the issue can be framed as “that person did not fit” rather than “we just might actually be racist.”
3. There will be no serious investigation of why Black people have left before.
In addition to recruiting Black people while not making needed changes, there will be minimal to no attempts to figure out why Black people have left the organization in the past. This creates an infrastructure where the experiences of Black people who have left are undocumented and unaccounted. This also leaves those Black people in the space subject to further harm and gaslighting, as any of their similar concerns will be disconnected from a pattern the organization continues to evade.
4. We don’t have the range to “walk the walk.”
I sometimes find myself drowning in all the racism, diversity, and anti-Blackness word soup that is thrown into lofty statements and goals to address them. And yes, some organizations know more of the “words and phrases” than others. Said organizations, like many people, are prepared without hesitation to show us their anti-Blackness and racism reading list or library. But all this means relatively little if there is silence when it’s time for the organization to be reflexive about how they embody the racism they are reading about and discuss concretely what they plan to do about it.
Sadly (but not surprisingly), many organizations are doing everything but addressing racism and anti-Blackness in their quest to say they are.
Can we cut the charade and stop the madness?
And if you are an organization that doesn’t know where to start, as my comments allude, try honesty first.