Covid-19: Combating race prejudice in the pandemic
How to combat racism and prejudice at work during the Covid-19 crisis by SuslO/iStock
The global pandemic has further highlighted the racial inequalities apparent across all systems, from healthcare to the workplace. In a recent article for Fast Company, LaFawn Davis, vice-president of diversity, inclusion and belonging at Indeed, examines the ways in which companies and employees can combat the growing visibility of workplace prejudice amid Covid-19.
‘While we as a society work to ensure the safety and wellbeing of others, we also need to acknowledge and address an insidious sidekick that has accompanied the spread of Covid-19: xenophobia. In particular, heightened racism and prejudice in the US,' writes Davis. 'Messaging and support for those who feel discriminated against need to be weaved into everything you do and must be consistently reinforced, not just during times of crisis. This is a time for all of us to come together to reflect, slow down, and really support one another.'
Workplace: Challenging business as usual for employees
Workplaces must appropriately respond to the psychological trauma faced by black employees, as well as committing to ongoing justice for workers, write Laura Morgan Roberts and Ella F Washington in Harvard Business Review.
‘No matter your racial, political, or other identity, these events are almost impossible to escape,' they write. 'In particular, millions of black people and their allies are hurting. And these issues are not ones that organisations or their leaders – from CEOs at the top of the hierarchy to team managers on the frontline – can ignore.’
Among Morgan Roberts and Washington's recommendations, they suggest companies and organisations identify some of the ways that they as employers can drive action both in and outside of work environments.
'Without adequate support, minority employees are likely to perceive their environments as more interpersonally and institutionally biased against them. Leaders seeking to create an inclusive environment for everyone must find ways to address these topics.'
US Businesses Must Take Meaningful Action Against Racism by Mark Felix/Getty Images
Unlearning: Recognising the need for ongoing action
In a piece focused on supporting and empowering black communities amid the impact of Covid-19 and the risks of public protest, Melz, an artist from southeast London and author on British platform Gal-dem, shares a series of ideas to help black people to connect with communities and organisations.
Alongside protests and marches, Melz notes that other forms of activism and self-care are just as valid, in particular digital activism and the use of online resources for life-long unlearning.
‘When the dust settles, it is crucial that we hold a vision for radical change in our communities and broader society,' writes Melz. 'The answer cannot be reform, it must be the abolition of structures and institutions that were designed to oppress us. The process of unlearning is a deep and life-long journey and it is only through that process of unlearning that we can begin to imagine different collective realities for black people.'
Communications: Beyond social media solidarity
Performative activism and grief by white people can be both unhelpful and inauthentic, writes Yomi Adegoke, for Vogue.
'I refer to it as a 'pics or it didn’t happen' approach to grief; if you don’t tweet about it, you don't care about it. If you don’t document something online, it didn’t happen. That may be an acceptable thought process for a dinner party or music festival, but it’s deeply uncomfortable when applied to circumstances such as these.'
Adegoke explores the issue of social media ‘allyship', breaking down the display of performative grief to question its place. But she also examines silence at this time – and why it isn't always what it first appears.
'Silence is complicity at times. But for many black people, silence is complicated. We are 'silent' because we are overwhelmed. We are 'silent' because we are protecting our mental health. We are 'silent' because we don’t know what to say any more. We are 'silent' because we are in mourning. We are 'silent', but only online – offline, we are doing what we are able to to change things and will keep doing so once everyone else moves on.'
We Need To Rethink Our Approach To Activism by Hannah Peters
Leadership: How to respond to anti-black violence
A demonstrator speaking to police officers during a protest on 31 May, 2020, in Kansas City, Missouri by Jamie Squire
Being actively anti-racist requires a commitment that businesses must make. In a piece for Yale Insights, Michael Krus, a social psychologist focusing on inequality, outlines some key steps that business leaders can take to combat racism within their organisations.
'A first instinct that you might have now is to say nothing to the public or your workforce about the racism of this moment,' writes Krus. 'Research finds that you might be wary of saying the wrong thing or of offending your colleagues. Before you decide to take the route of silence, though, know that this silent position is not a neutral position. It communicates far more than you may realise.'
Krus recommends that managers should check on their black colleagues to ensure that they are heard and supported, and that employers should anticipate the provision of additional mental health care and paid time off for black employees.
'White people who lead organisations can participate in the fight against racism inside their own walls, and such actions can have a meaningful impact on the daily lives of their black colleagues, creating a professional setting where they can do their work at this unjust moment and in the future,' he adds.