If you are not a white male, then please read along and forward this to a few of your favorite white guys!
White men – this is a special opportunity for us.
We are at a time in our country’s history when race relations are at the forefront of many people’s minds.
As white guys, we have a special opportunity to step in and serve as allies for people of color and other marginalized people in our organizations. Why is it a “special opportunity” for us? Because we don’t really “have to” do this. Most of us are probably pretty secure in our situations. So, stepping up to support others sends a message in itself.
Here are some ideas from a recent article in Harvard Business Review on how we can serve as successful allies:
1. Educate Ourselves. There is a ton out there to read. I recommend White Fragility as a good place to start. You can read my blog about it here.
2. Own Our Privilege. We have many “privileges” and opportunities that people of color (and white women) do not have. We are insulated from a lot of problems and issues they have to deal with. Check out this bog for some examples.
3. Accept Feedback. Build trust with your co-workers so they will feel comfortable telling you something like “Rob, I’m sure you did not mean it this way – but what you said in that meeting could be construed as racist and here’s why.” We need this feedback to learn!
4. Bring Diversity to the Table. Insist that meetings include voices from diverse perspectives and make sure all people have the opportunity to be heard.
5. See Something, Say Something. If you are in a meeting and someone says something racist, for example, confront the situation. If we leave it to people of color to do this, they are often told not to “overreact” or “play the race card.”
6. Insist on Diverse Candidates. When hiring, make sure that you have diverse candidates and that they have an honest evaluation. Watch for comments like “I’m not sure they are a good fit,” and ask people to explain specifically what they mean.
7. Build a Community of Allies. Invite others to join in the work. Send this blog to other white guys and get together to discuss.
The time is now for us to step up our game, white guys, and help make a difference for others. This is the right thing to do and it is what leaders do. It will make our organizations more welcoming and more effective.
*Ideas for this blog taken from: Melaku, T. M., Beeman, A., Smith, D. G., & Johnson, W. B. “Be a Better Ally,” Harvard Business Review, November – December 2020, pp. 135-139.