It’s been more than a year since renewed calls for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) reached new heights in the United States. You changed your profile picture to a black square on social media. You joined a Black Lives Matter march. You bought a t-shirt proudly proclaiming #StopAsianHate. You shopped at several local diverse-owned businesses. Those were great starts. Now, how have you taken your allyship further?
Approach your allyship check-in as an annual performance review. Celebrate your accomplishments. Acknowledge your areas of opportunity. And make a plan for continued growth.
The Allyship Approach
Let’s begin with a look at your DEI approach. When Black Lives Matter and Stop Asian Hate became more mainstream, many of us in diverse groups wondered how long that mainstream interest would last. As an ally, make it clear in your words and your actions that you are here to stay. You’re not in a temporary state of waking, but you are truly and permanently “woke.”
Your education is not the responsibility of the group you seek to support. Though conversations with diverse groups and thoughtful questions within those discussions will provide important information, the diverse individual standing before you is not your personal tutor. Research the history of various groups both nationally and internationally to provide a foundational knowledge. Then dive into commentary with articles from reputable subject matter experts as well as social media groups that give a respectful platform for diverse experiences and perspectives.
Show up as an ally from a place of authenticity. Accept and admit what you do not know. Especially if you have enjoyed certain privileges based on your skin color or socioeconomic status, certain experiences and considerations may not be automatically apparent to you. Be respectful yet authentic in your response leading with curiosity and a desire to understand and empathize.
Oftentimes, when we feel passionately about an initiative and have a strong desire to help, we have the urge to take over. Remember that your role as an ally is to support, not speak for or over any group. Listen more than speak, providing input and raising your hand to back efforts.
Ally Engagement and Support
One of the most important parts of this renewed push for diversity, equity, and inclusion is to keep the conversations going. Your diverse friends and colleagues received a bombardment of supportive texts, emails, and IMs at the start of this DEI refresh, and many of us have not been spoken to about DEI since. Continue the dialogue, checking in and seeing how you can help.
Saying the wrong thing is inevitable. All of us have done it and will continue to for as long as we are able to talk. But a wording mistake should not be a reason to cease all communications. Allies should accept the correction, apologize, and learn the lesson. That sets the stage for better conversations in the future and builds a trusting and honest relationship.
Those of us in diverse groups have shared an instance of racism or prejudice, only to immediately be shut down or for the instance to be explained away. Rather than a knee-jerk reaction to defend or excuse the behavior, listen, and consider that the situation deserves a deeper look. Ask thoughtful questions, understand the perspective, and follow up to ensure the behavior is addressed and corrected.
Remember that despite a renewed focus on DEI efforts, workplaces especially still have a long way to go. Diverse individuals continue to be underpaid and undervalued by employers. In some cases, diverse individuals are seeing their work go unnoticed or credited to another person. Recognize the work of your diverse colleagues regularly and publicly. Use your voice as an ally to give them a voice when they are not being heard. When your coworkers are quick to dismiss a perspective or idea from a diverse individual, interject with a request to hear out the issue raised. Add diverse vendors, suppliers, and community partners to your list of go-to office needs. Continue requesting and even facilitating DEI trainings and activities.
As trite as it may sound, DEI is not a destination but a journey. Like any trip, you are constantly pausing, reassessing, and determining your next move. Checking in with your DEI efforts and especially your allyship will put you on the path to a moral merit increase in no time. Keep up the great work!
Lindsey M. McKee
Diversity & Inclusion Committee Chair
PRSA Southeastern Wisconsin Chapter