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How to Advance Racial Equity This Black History Month

Evelyn Carter, PhD
Dr. Evelyn Carter
Articles

For more than 40 years, February has officially been dedicated to recognizing the role Black people have played in shaping our history. Organizations dedicate time to discuss and reflect on the legacy of key figures in Black history, like Rosa Parks, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and Muhammad Ali. These celebrations and acknowledgments are essential. At the same time, Black History Month 2021 presents an opportunity to think a bit differently about how organizations, and individuals, spend this month.

In 2020, the legacies of systemic racism and inequality took a long overdue spotlight and many  committed to doing their part to dismantling those ingrained systems of oppression. This year, Black History Month can be a continuation of that commitment. While reflecting on Black history, organizations and individuals can intentionally consider ways to cultivate and celebrate Black excellence in their midst right now. 

Examine the commitments you made to racial justice

Whether you are a corporation or individual, revisit the promises you made in the wake of the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, so many other known and unknown Black people. How are you progressing towards those commitments? Are you ready to make new ones (go you!)? If you are an organization that made promises to its employees, customers, and the public this is CRITICAL. This is an opportunity to be accountable and to show that your words have actions to go with them; this is not the time for rote Black History Month programming and form emails to your workforce. 

Listen to your Black colleagues 

Many cheered as Vice President Kamala Harris took her oath of office; stood mesmerized by the vibrant and hopeful words of Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman; and celebrated Stacey Abrams’ advocacy and impact on the Georgia elections. Black people, and especially Black women, should not need to occupy an international stage to be heard. Consider: Are you making space for the Black voices within your organization with the same enthusiasm you have for celebrating the achievements of these notable women? Research tells us there’s a lot of work to do to mitigate the experiences of microaggressions, and outright racism, that Black employees face. Research also tells us that Black employees’ key insights about how to effect change within their organization are often ignored, dismissed, or misattributed to others. Make room for Black employees’ voices, and value their input in all areas (not just when you need insight about their lived experience as a Black person).

Be an active ally 

Allyship is an ongoing practice, not a state of being. This February, do at least one thing (preferably more) that makes you an active ally. Need some tips? Check out this blog.

As Chris Rock astutely pointed out, Black History Month is the shortest (and coldest) month of the year. What can you do in 28 days to help ensure that this period will be recognized as one that advanced racial equity during future Black History Months?   

January 29, 2021

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