10 Thoughts on How to Survive Racism In an Organization That Claims to be Anti-Racist
I recently finished listening to Austin Channing Brown’s book I’m Still Here: Black Dignity In A World Made For Whiteness. It was a short listen, about three and a half hours; something you could pick up and knock out in a day. But don’t be fooled by the length of the book. The stories she tells, the information she presents, and the takeaways she offers can be chewed on for weeks and months.
I enjoyed this book because I believe it offered a slightly different perspective on the race conversation happening in so many corners of the United States and around the world today. It’s definitely worth picking up and digging into — whether you read it in a day or if you take your time going through the chapters. Austin writes from a faith (Christian) background, which mirrors a lot of my own faith background and I appreciated how she used that lens to frame her thoughts and influence her conclusions. However, even if you don’t come from a faith background, this book still has great value and can be a good resource for you if you’re looking to keep growing down this path.
As I listened, I flagged this list of 10 ways she recommends surviving racism in an organization that claims to be anti-racist. As a white man, I know I’m in the percentage of the population that doesn’t often have to inherently worry about these thoughts below. However, I was challenged by this list as I continue to think and work on how I can contribute to my organization’s pursuit of being more proportionally diverse and making my co-workers who are from different backgrounds and ethnicities feel seen, heard, and valued.
I share these because I think they have value. To be clear, these 10 thoughts are directly from Austin Channing Brown’s book, and therefore, are all directly quoted below.
Thanks and happy reading!
#10 — Ask why they want you.
- “Get as much clarity as possible on what the organization has read about you, what they understand about you, what they assume are your gifts strengths. What does the organization hope you will bring to the table? Do those answers align with your reasons for wanting to be at the table?”
#9 — Define your terms.
- “You and the organization may have different definitions of words like justice, diversity, or anti-racism. Ask for definitions, examples, or success stories to give you a better idea of how the organization understands and embodies these words.”
- “Also ask about who is in charge, and who is held accountable for these efforts. Then ask yourself if you can work within that structure.”
#8 — Hold the organization to the highest vision they committed to for as long as you can.
- “Be ready to move if the leaders aren’t prepared to pursue their own stated vision.”
#7 — Find your people
- “If you are going to push back against the system, or push leadership forward, it’s wise not to do so alone. Build or join an anti-racist cohort within the organization.”
#6 — Have mentors and counselors on standby.
- “Don’t just choose a really good friend or a parent when seeking advice. It’s important to have one or two mentors who can give advice based on their personal knowledge of the organization and its leaders. You want someone who can help you navigate the particular politics of your organization.”
#5 — Practice self-care.
- “Remember that you are a whole person, not a mule to carry the racial sins of the organization. Fall in love. Take your children to the park. Don’t miss the doctor’s visits. Read for pleasure. Dance with abandon… Be gentle with yourself.”
#4 — Find donors who will contribute to the cause.
- “Who is willing to keep the class funded, the diversity positions going, the social justice center operating. It’s important for the organization to know the members of your cohort aren’t the only ones who care. Demonstrate that there are stakeholders, congregation members, and donors who want to see real change.”
#3 — Know your rights.
- “There are some racist things that are just mean. But others are against the law. Know the difference and keep records of it all.”
#2 — Speak.
- “Of course, context matters. You must be strategic about when, how, to whom, and about which situations you decide to call out. But speak, find your voice and use it.”
#1 — Remember, you are a creative being who is capable of making change.
- “But it is not your responsibility to transform an entire organization.”