I was recently interviewed by a Financial Times reporter about the “risk” for companies in publicly addressing racism, injustice, and the events of the last two weeks. I invited the reporter to reconsider her perspective to focus on “what good” could come from speaking openly on these issues. I’m offering what I shared with her as advice to corporate leaders, who I believe are trying to at least do some good by creating these statements.
- Say how you are feeling (e.g., tired, appalled, angry) and how others around you are feeling.
- Say what you understand, but also admit what you may not yet understand.
- Use the words “Black” and “African American” to describe the people you are talking about and addressing in your statement.
- Use the names of those who have been senselessly killed in recent months (George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor) and threatened by racism (Christian Cooper).
- Remind everyone that we have been here before. There is a long history of racism, injustice, and discrimination in the U.S.: Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Philando Castile, Eric Garner, and others are recent reminders.
- Recognize that the pandemic we are currently experiencing is disproportionately and negatively affecting these same communities.
- You have employees and customers who are looking to you to speak with conviction about your zero-tolerance policy for racism and injustice. Please remember them when racists start threatening to take their business away from your company. Don’t cater to the racists.
Do Something Different
- Say what you will do in your own company to make sure that your employees and your customers feel safe, welcomed, and valued. Start by creating facilitated spaces for people to share how they are feeling and to propose how they think we might do better. But don’t expect your Black/African-American colleagues to do all of the work. Let them volunteer if they want.
- If you do nothing after saying something, your words will not matter.
Stephanie Creary is assistant management professor at the Wharton School. Her research interests include identity, diversity, inclusion, and relationships across difference. This article was originally published on LinkedIn.