It has become even clearer in recent weeks that we are part of a society where the lives of Black, Indigenous, and people of colour continue to be blighted by structural racism, lack of opportunity, health disparities and direct violence.
It’s wrong, in every way possible. It goes against every fibre of my being in the understanding that we are all one and all equal. Yet it is still happening. Black Lives certainly matter.
And while I don’t want to be silent (as that is in itself is a statement), I wasn’t exactly sure what to say that would go beyond a statement echoing what everyone else is saying.
The Lever team and I discussed this on our monthly team call last week. As a group, we were aiming to discuss this difficult subject in a sensitive way while trying to really understand it. (Thanks, Pat, for the summary.) It was a challenging discussion.
Themes that emerged for me:
Knowledge – I genuinely didn’t know enough and had a lack of understanding about racism
Distance – there’s a temptation to stop myself from discussing racism as it’s such a complex issue
Denial – “racism isn’t a factor for us” at work, we’re a completely global team who treats everyone equally
Confusion – about #BlackLivesMatter – is it a political, social, campaigning movement? What about the looting?
Lack of responsibility – there’s a temptation to have someone else solve it for me/tell me what to do
Leadership – how can we learn from people who experience this first-hand every day?
Willingness to learn – I have a genuine desire to learn and understand more; this is a default position for me and seems a good way forward
I’m not proud that I haven’t chosen to look closely at this issue before but I’m sharing as I’m sure I’m not alone. You may well have been mulling some of these thoughts around in your own head or with friends and colleagues. At Lever, we have a philosophy built around meeting people “where they are”, and not immediately assigning judgement which can push people into a defensive mindset. So, we are bringing in compassion in spades – certainly for our colleagues who struggle with oppression and racism on a daily basis but also for ourselves, grappling to understand it all.
In our team discussion, we realised that this journey needs to start with deep learning and being open to change. This includes an acknowledgement that this change must start with us. We are part of the system that needs to change, and we are, unknowingly, contributing to this system.
*Some of the questions I am personally reflecting on are:
Is acknowledging differences divisive, or is defining them empowering and bringing about better understanding?
What are the ways I have benefited from being white?
In what ways do I support and uphold a system that is structurally racist?
How do my race, class and gender affect my perspective?
Over the next three months, team members at Lever can opt into a discussion group where we will review some of the resources below and ask some difficult questions of ourselves as we learn what we specifically can do to combat racism.
Our Lever values that we live by every day mean that we haven’t intentionally been racist. However, if out of ignorance or inattention, our words or actions have caused harm to others, then I sincerely and unreservedly apologise.
At this stage, we can’t declare as a business the specific actions we will take to support not only our colleagues within black and other minority groups but the wider society. We need to educate ourselves further first and make sure what we do is meaningful. Of course, #BlackLivesMatter but without investigation and introspection are we really standing beside our black, Indigenous, and people of colour colleagues?
Our desire is to ensure that this is more than a statement of support. It is real support that leads towards change.
This is deep learning for us as individuals and collectively. As we have further clarity this will lead to meaningful action. And as Jo on our team shared, learning followed by action is the Lever way.
Here are some of the resources we are reviewing as a group to help inform our reflection leading to action. If anyone has other resources that they feel will help guide us, or that have inspired your education in this area, please comment below.
Watch and Listen:
Brené Brown has a series of podcasts about racism, the first is a powerful conversation with Ibram X. Kendi
Ibram X. Kendi is in an interview about How to be an Antiracist
TED TALK – Luvvie Ajay – Get Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable
Great Small Things by Jodi Picoult
Why I no longer talk to white people about racism by Reni Eddo-Lodge
White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo
Read articles/website resources:
Undoing Racism Resources collated by Mary Pendergreene
One Race by Jane Elliott.
Website – Guide to Allyship where people are choosing to work towards a society that is just and fair for all
The lense of systematic oppression paper
Tara Brach has already inspired some deep thinking and emotion with her work. Tara has a page for resources on racism.
*Questions above are from an article about Emma Watson