This week’s newsletter is dedicated to Tyre Nichols. For those of you who have been listening to the news, watching what’s going on on the news, you know that a video of the police murder of Tyre Nichols was released over the weekend.
People will have watched this video or chosen not to. Which is okay? I wanna affirm those who choose not to subject themselves to any more violence against Black bodies. That is okay. And I wanted us to take a moment, to breathe together, and to prepare ourselves for the influx of corporate statements and responses that may come out regarding police murder. Now, this is not the first time this has happened, in fact, I think that it’s important to say. This is not an isolated event, but in fact, I believe that a lot of corporations started to galvanize and prepare responses around the time of George Floyd’s murder. They felt compelled to issue statements because they were being called to, and many of them were being called out for not saying Black Lives Matter. And I believe tech companies were some of the folks who were slow and lagging behind in making those responses.
And so the irony of it all is that today, In our news, we’re seeing a lot of headlines talking about all these tech companies that are laying off DEI professionals and having large layoffs in general, which I haven’t seen much research talk about how this is impacting the Black community or about folks that are being impacted. So I don’t have any demographics for you on that, but I bet you dollars to donuts, it’s not good, and it’s possibly impacting black communities. And so we need to have a real conversation around that today.
So the question from the deck is, should companies respond to police murders like Tyre Nichols?
I just wanna say, if your company has a lack of support for Black after you’ve made Black Lives Matter pledges in the first place, then it’s gonna be very hard for you to say anything now. If your company has been laying off DEI professionals, that’s a huge red flag. And so any statement that you make at this point will seem very performative and also be seen as a lie.
None of your employees or those who have been laid off will trust you or believe you. Those who’ve been laid off probably don’t trust you anyway. It’s just one of those things where you are gonna have to sit this one out. Okay. Also, if your company made attacks on “woke” education at any institutions in Florida or have had negative things to say about Critical Race Theory, and the African American AP curriculum that was just banned. Count organization out, too! If your company was one of those, then you probably can’t say much, right? You don’t have a leg to stand on. Just be quiet.
How about those who have been mistreating and ignoring and dismissing their Black employees every day? Are you ignoring and not taking bias Incident reports seriously, taking forever to address them? It should not take months, or even a month, to respond to a bias incident report. What are you telling your Black employees when they’ve submitted a bias incident report and you don’t address it, that’s just not Black employees, that’s employees in general. When bias incident reports are being made, if you are not responding to those properly or in a timely fashion, then what are you saying to people about bias and where you stand on bias?
You probably can’t say anything about Tyre Nichols if you’ve made those statements or made no statement at all regarding bias incident reports and hiring. So many promises were made about hiring that have not been met. We know many of you wanted to do some, um, replacement strategy-type tactics, and those don’t work.
We’re not looking for you to just replace White faces with Black faces. That’s not it. We want you to do a gap analysis, understand where it is that you need to include diverse hires, and then find. candidates who meet that and fill that requirement, we’re not looking for you to just add people to your team with [fill in the blank identity] that’s missing. That’s not what it’s about. It’s about actually matching folks who have those skills who happened to be, you know, Black. That’s important because there, there have been a lot of Black and Brown people who have not received those jobs, who are well qualified.
Then there’s the dismissal of your DEI experts and your Black employees who have expertise in the first place… being dismissive of what they’re saying. I know, and I can speak personally as a Black woman, that when I share my knowledge, I’m seldom believed by my colleagues, particularly those who are in leadership and above me. Very, very often when I share my experiences, I’m not believed. I’m questioned and asked to give some type of proof. That’s just not how you show folks who are Black, that you support them in the work that they’re doing. So saying anything about Tyre Nichols’ murder, at this point, I wouldn’t believe a company that has been dismissive of me and my experiences.
Then there are folks whom you’ve promised promotions who’ve not seen them. Black and Brown folks who’ve been promised these promotions and I haven’t seen them. Leadership has been dragging its feet and making excuses. Leadership knows that these folks are more qualified than the positions that they’re in, and yet not creating anything new for them and creating opportunities for them to succeed on a higher level.
You can’t talk about police murders and, and then totally disregard how you were treating your Black and Brown employees. These murders are not isolated events. That’s important to share, but also these incidents inside of your workplace regarding racial bias are not isolated events either.
What can your company say that your Black employees will believe? That’s really what this is about. When you wanna get up and say something about Tyre Nichols this morning, consider whether or not you’ve been promoting, hiring, and responding to bias incident reports fairly.
Have you been uplifting your Black and Brown employees? And if you have, and then you can point to that, then maybe you can say something. Your employees who are Black will believe otherwise, you’re just making a meaningless statement.
So consider this.
Whatever is said, your Black and Brown employees will have wanted you to have already done it.
Whatever it is, whatever it is that you say, black employees will have wanted you to have done it already. Otherwise, your statement feels more opportunistic and performative. I work in K -12 Education. It’s difficult to help children make sense of it all when we ourselves are grappling with our own understandings of racism and racist systems, and in particular, leadership who refused to do the work and go above and beyond to understand race and racist systems so that they don’t recreate these and create toxic environments for their Black and Brown employees. So rather than making a meaningless statement that could be more harmful than good, it is my polarizing view that companies should say nothing. I know you wanna say something so bad, you want to all of your employees, not just your Black and Brown ones. You want to let all of your employees know that you care about the fact that Tyree Nichols was murdered by the police. You know that there are some feelings that you’re having that you’re grappling with, and you want to address that on a platform. That comes across as opportunistic and performative. You want to relieve yourself of your own feelings, which is why feel like your company is your platform and you really wanna use that, but the issue is you’re propping up a Black life for your own selfish gain.
And that may be just the release of those feelings. You wanna transfer them onto others. You need to be mindful when you start talking about your own feelings, especially if you’re not a Black employee, when you start to talk about your feelings around Black murder and the videos that get released regarding police murder, you’re centering yourself.
If you need to say something:
if you have to say something because it’s being required by your board or by your C suite to issue a statement, then you should talk very little about yourself and be very brief. Now you can acknowledge that there’s hurt within your community. And when I say community, I am speaking of your employees.
If you work with students or student groups, your professionals may wanna have conversations about this with each other and with their students, that will be a natural feeling. But I caution you from giving a blanket statement around DEI-related topics.
I would really focus on talking about how much the Black community is suffering and hurting because this is a continuation of crime that has happened time after time with very little accountability is taken. And so this is a constant trigger and many Black and Brown folks are choosing not to watch these videos anymore.
So do not get too detailed, and do not share the details and intricacies of what happened in the video. None of that is necessary. You don’t have to describe it in detail.
Justice for Tyree Nichols would be him living and being here and making it home. Acknowledge that it’s a privilege to make it home. Acknowledge that it was your privilege to make it home, and that for this life that didn’t happen. You don’t have to get all detailed. Just make that your small, short, simple acknowledgment.
I would also say that Black people are not monoliths. So folks will have varied responses to the video and varied responses to your statement if you choose to make one. So you can issue a joint statement where HR, DEI, and any of your wellness-related groups such as counseling, share their resources. You should do that so your employees have resources. That’s being responsible. By doing so, you can also hold affinity spaces where those groups can have ingroup dialogue, which means that it is only that affinity group that is there to share. Creating that space and opportunity for them to do so with their colleagues may be helpful and it should be voluntary. No one should be forced to go. If they choose to go, they can go. You’re setting aside time while on the clock for them to do this because of your commitment to them. Because you care about their well-being and their mental health. Maybe folks don’t wanna talk, yet. Maybe they don’t need to talk, but they need silence and need to sit with their feelings. Are you promoting an opportunity for them to do so? Remind them to use their mental health days. In fact, take it a step further and designate mental health days and days that they can have off to support them in their ongoing coping against microaggressions and racial fatigue that they may be experiencing. That’s a new one. I’m hearing that companies are starting to do that, and for me, if my employer allowed that, I’d think that I would feel so much more supported and included as an employee and feel as though my mental health as a Black woman was prioritized.
I also want to share that folks who are considering making statements, and companies that are considering making these statements should do an internal audit. Let this moment be an opportunity to reflect on the leadership’s commitment to Black lives. Ask what it is at this moment that you would like to say in your statement that you’re not already doing. What areas are we as a company failing our Black employees and then begin taking actionable steps towards improving conditions for black employees?
That is what needs to happen. We feel an urgency to say something. Don’t let that selfishness of wanting to get your own feelings out into your platform and using your company to do so. When in true in actuality, what you need to be doing is taking action, not having more dialogue that’s intergroup with all these folks together, asking your Black and Brown folks to share their experiences because now all of a sudden you wanna make them feel like you believe because again.
So there may be a variety of feelings being had in your community and your organizations. So it’s best to focus on your outcomes and what it is you are currently doing. You need to be seeing the progress measuring, are we meeting our outcomes? And then last I’ll say, acknowledge more than just the police brutality and police murders.
You need to name it. And you need to admit that bias exists within the walls of your own organization. Refer to the DEI strategy that you’ve been using to address inequities and then reaffirm the company’s commitment to those outcomes. Be brief and make no new promises. It’s only right that you focus on what you’ve already been doing.
🌎 I help my clients meet the global demands of business and address the challenges that come along with changing demographics, differing points of view and workplace fairness.
🙋🏾 I’m a Global Business Manager and Certified Diversity Executive.
❤️ 🩹I am a cousin of Emmett Till and Mamie Till Mobley. I use my platform to tell my truth and promote racial reconciliation.
🎤I’m looking for opportunities to speak about race and racial equity in the workplace this year
❓Run a podcast? Want a guest blog?
📧Give me a shout: email@example.com