Why Anti-Racism Trainings Are A Crucial Next Step

What comes next for anti-racism work

Many colored pencils. Photo: Sharon McCutcheon
Many colored pencils. Photo: Sharon McCutcheon

What Comes Next for Anti-Racism Work?

As businesses move beyond initial statements in support of Black Lives Matter, staff are watching carefully to know whether this will be followed by efforts to create an inclusive and anti-racist culture at work. To do that, organizations of all sizes will need anti-racism training resources and experts to guide them through this process. It won’t happen by accident. As DEI expert and consultant Eric Polite recently said about his work with businesses on building equitable workplaces, “inclusion doesn’t happen by accident, inclusion happens by design.” It’s not a feature that lives in one department, it’s not just your CDO, it’s something that lives and breathes in every element of the organization. Whatever happens, we can’t continue to use what hasn’t worked in the past to address racism in the workplace.

What Are Anti-Racism Trainings?

Anti-racism trainings go beyond talking about implicit bias and instead talk about structural bias and racism, and how it intersects with misogyny, homophobia, ableism, xenophobia and more. Anti-racism trainings are outcomes- and action-oriented on the part of participants — listening and learning aren’t enough. Understanding our roles in racist systems is a crucial first step, but any training that doesn’t leave participants with actions that put anti-racism into practice fails in its mission.

Before you jump in to hire someone to do this work, ask yourself:

  • How are people experiencing inclusion and exclusion in the workplace? Hearing from your staff — all your staff — about their experience of inclusion and exclusion in the workplace will inform what kinds of workshops you have. You can do this via surveys, but, make sure you can separate the messages to understand how people with different identities experience that workplace. A recent poll found that 45% of Black women say the place they most experience racism is at the workplace. Don’t be surprised to hear hard truths like these.
  • Who do I want to hire to do this work? Find experts who have been doing this work, and who have relevant experience in the field. Great work has been done by Black and POC-led organizations, such as Race Forward, Awaken and others. See this list of Black-owned DEI consulting firms for more options.
  • Do the workshops tackle hard questions? If you don’t feel challenged by the work in an anti-racism workshop, then there’s likely something missing. Activities and elements that bring an understanding of white privilege and microaggressions, and teach emotional intelligence and bystander intervention are some important options for learning to understand and tackle racism.
  • Is the training intersectional? Racism doesn’t exist in a vacuum — how people experience racism is affected by gender, sexual orientation, immigration status, ethnicity, religion, disability and other factors. An excellent anti-racism workshop will dive into these factors and ensure that participants grapple with them.
Black Lives Matter rally with sign reading “white silence is violence,” and American Flag.
Black Lives Matter rally with sign reading “white silence is violence,” and American Flag.
Black Lives Matter rally with sign reading “white silence is violence,” and American Flag. Photo: Cooper Baumgartner

Your Anti-Racism Work Goes Beyond Training. Prepare Yourself and Your Business for That Work.

As your organization gets started on delivering anti-racism trainings, reviewing policies, processes and impacts to ensure that the internal and external work is anti-racist, these are some great resources to review in advance of looking for an expert. Preparing yourself, and your organization, to do the work is part of the process. Before you pick up the phone to hire a DEI consultant, get prepared.

Getting this right means building structures that create accountability, and intentionally cultivating an inclusive workplace culture. Much like the conversations that began at the start of the #MeToo movement, businesses will recognize that creating an anti-racist workplace requires time, commitment, effort and resources.

Audrey Roofeh is CEO of Mariana Strategies, a Washington, DC-based workplace culture consulting firm.

Audrey Roofeh is CEO of Mariana Strategies, a workplace culture consulting firm, based in Washington, D.C.

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