You are an employee who understands the significance of race and privilege.
You want to stand in solidarity with your Black coworkers and be an honest ally for improvement.
But as a non-Black employee, you may wonder: what does it mean to be an ally? Many people outside the Black community want to help, but they don’t know how. In what ways do they encourage their minority coworkers? What concrete steps can they take? In what ways might they contribute effectively as allies?
HERE ARE SOME ANSWERS TO THE TOP QUESTIONS PROSPECTIVE ALLIES ASK.
How would you define a real ally?
To be an ally in this context is to advocate on behalf of groups who have been historically marginalized in our society and are now experiencing discrimination in the workplace.
How come being an ally matters so much?
We need privileged people to utilize their influence to bring attention to and open doors for underrepresented communities. They may aid in creating an atmosphere where all employees feel protected emotionally and their work is appreciated. By including coworkers and demonstrating genuine interest in their experiences and knowledge, you may lessen the negative effects of isolation on team morale.
What should I do to make sure I’m a reliable ally?
Attending the next Employee Advisory Group meeting is something we recommend. We encourage individuals of all backgrounds to join our AHAG. Going to these events is a great way for people to learn about the Black experience and develop as allies.
Does listening suffice?
Listening is a good start.
What should I do to put my aspiration into action?
Many individuals mistakenly believe that change can only come via comprehensive legislation. But it all begins with the guts to take daily action, no matter how small. Be the one who notices and extends an invitation when no one else does; have the difficult conversation with friends, family, and coworkers about offensive jokes, remarks, or statements; and stand fast on the principle that all people should be treated with decency and respect.
Can you share an example?
A white female executive at work recently discussed how she felt about the company’s efforts to diversify its workforce. Even though HR was making an honest attempt, its culture was still dominated by white people. She is raising her voice in protest, shining a light on the issue, and offering solutions to increase the visibility of candidates of color. That’s how you shift the needle: by investigating where microaggressions occur, gathering evidence, and sharing it with coworkers and teams. People can really do big things to improve their lives.
What if I’m not in a position of authority? Is it possible for me to make a difference anyway?
Everyone has the power to affect change. Frontline workers may support one another and speak out against the common microaggressions that manifest in seemingly harmless forms such as memes, remarks, and even jokes. Leaders may benefit from the examples they provide. When they feel they are falling short, they may have open and frank discussions with their teams or superiors about it, and they can push for safe places where they can voice their concerns about the lack of diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Supervisors may make sure that DEI is really practiced across the company. They can ensure that the DEI ideas brought up in team meetings really get put into action. And it’s everyone’s responsibility to keep an eye on accountability and speak out if they see any issues. Since everyone is starting from a different point, this endeavor calls for a collaborative effort that requires everyone to pull their weight.
I’m not taking action because I’m afraid to say the wrong thing. What do I need to do to feel at ease here?
Nerves are acceptable. In order to go forward, we must learn to embrace the unpleasant. The alternative to discomfort is silence. For the simple reason that doing nothing contributes to the status quo of inequality.
How about you tell me one thing about being an ally that I may overlook?
Some of the most surprising areas to find bias are inside our own minds. Being self-aware is crucial because it requires us to examine our own implicit biases and, if we find any, to actively work to change them.
The above is, as Deborah and Melony note in their last comment, the bare minimum. To be an effective ally in the real world, you need to have an open mind, look for methods to effect change on your own, and speak out when you have a gut feeling that something is wrong.
This is a continuing process and an ongoing task. The only way to make a real impact, is to be prepared to stand together with varied colleagues and contribute your voice.
Read more on “Standing Up Against Discrimination in the Workplace”.