“Get unstuck, get clear, get moving”: How to be a more effective ally to the BIPOC in your business

Winitha Bonney

Winitha Bonney speaking on a panel at the launch of ColourFULL 2020. Source: YBF Ventures.

Imagine seeing a child playing by themselves in a park or a school. They’ve been taunted and deliberately singled out by the other kids for being different. Maybe it was your kid. Maybe it was you.

Heartbreaking isn’t it, to think of something so simple as a kid playing by themselves with a deep sadness in their heart because they have been left out by the other kids?

That’s because we’ve all been there at some point.

Maybe it was at school, maybe it was in your own family, maybe it was work.

We all know the feeling of being left out, feeling different, like you don’t belong, that you’re not needed, or that you’re not valued and no one cares.

Yet that is what Black, Brown, and First Nations People and people of colour experience every single day. And for us, it’s not just simply about being left out. Every day we are attacked and discriminated against in and outside the workplace, consciously and unconsciously. 

As a thought leader in the advancement of women and people of colour, what I’m seeing in recent events is an awakening. It’s an awakening in the human experience around the effects and existence of racism in our society today.

But I’m also seeing a lot of tokenism from both individuals and businesses. I’ve been speaking to many colleagues and friends in the community, and they have also been expressing the same concerns. We are asking ourselves:

  • How genuine is this?
  • Is this a band-aid solution?
  • Are you committed to this work in the long term?
  • How long will this last?
  • How long will this be a priority for you?
  • How deep are you willing to go in your anti-racism efforts?
  • Are we just another ‘charity’ to you (dominance and supremacy in action)?
  • Do you even understand what the terms BIPOC/WOC/POC/Black/Brown/Indigenous even mean? Do you get it? Or is it just political correctness to you?
  • Are you acting out of fear? Trying to protect your brand? Or do genuinely understand what it means to ‘dismantle systemic racism’?
  • Is this another box for you to tick off and a social issue bandwagon to jump on?

 

There is a truth in life: do the hard work and life will be easy; do the easy work and life will be difficult.

To create a world that is free from systemic discrimination and racism, we must choose to do what I call the ‘hard, difficult, uncomfortable, and challenging work’.

Businesses have the opportunity to be effective allies for Black, Indigenous and people of colour (BIPOC). This list is not exhaustive but it’s a start, and my hope is it will get you thinking about the hard, challenging, uncomfortable and difficult work that true allyship and anti-racism involves — and gear you away from the easy, tokenistic work of policy statements, donations and social media activity.

  1. Make racial equity one of the pillars of your organisational strategy. Embed it into your values and take action consistently;
  2. Educate yourself on systemic discrimination, supremacy, dominance and privilege. Do the deep inner work and pay to do it with a BIPOC thought leader who can coach and mentor you to unpack, unlearn, learn, and relearn;
  3. Engage regularly with BIPOC employees and customers. Listen to their stories, and share and celebrate their achievements. Nominate them for awards and scholarships, participate in protests and rallies and get stuck into the anti-racism grassroots activities that happen in the community;
  4. Create a forum for BIPOC (only) in your organisation and pay for an external BIPOC facilitator. Ask the leadership team to position themselves as learners and observers when reviewing key outcomes from that session, not decision-makers. Allocate a BIPOC in your organisation to lead this work and implement learnings (or utilise an external BIPOC consultant/thought leader) and ensure full decision-making power is with them, not with the executive group of which there is little to no representation;
  5. Engage a BIPOC consultant or thought leader to create, lead and implement a leadership or mentoring program, so BIPOC within your organisation can advance in their carers. Engage them to also lead strategic work around dismantling systemic discrimination and racism from within your organisation. Pay them commercial rates and dedicate serious dollars. This is not work that is done in a few workshops/strategy meetings. It’s long-term stuff;
  6. On a similar note, engage and pay for anti-racism workshops for teams by BIPOC consultants/thought leaders. Unconscious bias training is only a band-aid solution;
  7. Do the work to ensure that your senior/executive team and board meetings make provision for BIPOC voices and work towards parity/representation (see points one to three, and five). Ultimately, the decision making around recommendations for BIPOC needs to lie with BIPOC and not with the senior/executive team or board, particularly if there is no representation. Change your internal mechanism to enable this, and ensure there is full transparency with BIPOC;
  8. Review your procurement pipelines. Are you supporting BIPOC-owned and led businesses? Are your current suppliers showing evidence of genuine commitment to anti-racism? What stance are they taking? Are they choosing to do the ‘hard, difficult, uncomfortable and challenging work’? Or are they doing the easy, tokenistic work?
  9. Apologise to your people, community and customers for any past or present activity that may have contributed towards racism, suppression and oppression with a commitment to do and be better; and
  10. Finally, donations can be viewed as an imbalance of power and as the ‘easy option’. If you are going to donate, do so in a meaningful way and make it a part of your BAU and not a one-hit wonder.

 

For equality and equity to happen, be committed to doing the hard, challenging, difficult, and long-term work. Get unstuck, get clear, get moving. Don’t wait. Dive deep.

If you would like to create true equity and equality for BIPOC within your business, then please reach out. I’d like to help.

NOW READ: “Triple glass ceiling”: A Q&A with Amina of Zaria and #ColourFULL founder Winitha Bonney

NOW READ: “Dare to be yourself”: Conference celebrating women of colour entrepreneurs comes to Melbourne

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