I’ve always had the ability to have raw conversations with others. I simply don’t know how to make small talk and this past week has been no different. We are all aware that racism and injustice still exists today. It’s a reality that people of color at every level professionally and financially have to face. Whether we choose to acknowledge it or not, it still exists.
As we watch events unfold each day, let’s not forget that when these events are no longer taking up the headlines or covering your social media feed, racism will still exist. The people of color you interact with will still carry their worries and pain with them. They will still need your support weeks, months and years from now. If change is going to happen, we have to let go of the fear of having hard and uncomfortable conversations. We all have the ability to lead moving forward and I’m grateful for the leaders who’ve had the courage and humility to ask a simple yet powerful question this week. How?
We all have a seat at the table. Even though you haven’t been a part of the experience, it doesn’t mean you can’t be a part of the conversation or solution. Be open to talking about what your leader, employee, colleague or client may be feeling. Please ask how they are doing. If they choose to open up, welcome it. If they don’t, it’s ok. Their emotions are running high and it might not be comfortable for them to open up or give details due to past experiences or the current environment. Respect that.
Your interpretation or opinions of the events currently happening are not the goal of this conversation. Simply listen and be empathetic. What you hear might prompt a defensive reaction from you and this isn’t about you. Simply listen. It’s not a debate.
There are many sources of information available that can educate you on the struggles people of color face today including books, articles and videos. If you ask questions, make sure it’s a genuine intent to learn more. Your authenticity is key to truly being able to learn and connect.
Simply ask if there is anything you can do to help. We are all in a position of power to help improve the circumstances people of color find themselves in especially in professional settings. There are words and actions that might seem harmless or meaningless to you and others but not to a person of color. Be open and vulnerable to accepting feedback or direction on how you can assist.
Please keep in mind that connecting with a person of color during this time involves trust. It’s earned not by one declaration or one attempt to do what’s right but by consistency. The same goes for change. It means nothing to acknowledge there is an issue or declare your allegiance if you don’t commit and act.