I am not going to lie, I nearly did not write this blog yesterday because I am exhausted, triggered, and tired by the events happening to the Black community.
As a Black mixed-race woman, this is something that is constantly on my radar, despite my multiple privileges – light skin tone, access to education and numerous other factors that insulate me from direct harm. But what is happening right now? This is not new. This has never stopped. And for many white folks, it is only during times like this that it becomes impossible to ignore.
This post is mainly addressed to the white people in my audience, but everyone is welcome to read.
I wanted to share what I know with my people, so that we can all do better. My people is YOU. I am always here if you need help with this stuff.
It hasn’t escaped my attention that a quick Google of ‘Diversity and Inclusion for small businesses’ still brings up articles that mainly focus on policies and hiring procedures, many of which are not applicable to creative freelancers like you.
So what can you do as a freelancer to be more inclusive, and to elevate the narratives of people of colour without engaging in tokenism? Well my friends, there is plenty.
Here are five ways you can better engage in inclusivity, regardless of what resources you have:
1. Start with yourself
our society was built to benefit white people. This does not make it your fault, but it is your responsibility to learn about it, educate yourself and actively dismantle the inherent racism that has been conditioned into you since birth. Racism exists in many forms, of which direct racism is often the only one people feel comfortable calling out. Internalised racism, systemic and structural racism, unconscious bias are but a few iterations that are less likely to be noticed by the white community. Confronting racism is uncomfortable, especially when it is the more insidious unconscious variety. Expect to be uncomfortable, triggered, feel disbelief and a strong urge to resist – this is a normal response to challenging a lifetime of conditioning. If you are not in discomfort during this process then you are probably not doing the work.
Read books, listen to people of colour, Google for free resources on the internet, pay a person of colour for the boundless volumes of work that they have produced on this subject. Commit to standing up and taking a risk. Come to terms with speaking up and getting it wrong so that you know better next time. Be gracious when you do get it wrong and don’t centre your own experience.
2. Demonstrate inclusivity
Try to avoid tokenism in your work. Sharing images that reflect diversity is great, but make sure you back it up meaningfully. Share other people of colour’s work and elevate their voices to your audience. Got a blog? How about a guest post! Got an Instagram feed? Share other people’s work or interview them on IGTV. If you are appearing on a panel discussion and it is not diverse, take it up with the organisers and demand better.
Elevate other people’s voices rather than centring your own experience when talking about Black issues like #justiceforgeorgefloyd. Avoid sharing your own feelings and make space for the feelings of the communities involved. Commit to showing up like this often, especially when the media hype has died down. Meaningfully committing to this work means sharing and highlighting these issues ongoingly and making space for these conversations.
In the past I have refrained from posting, worrying what my audience may think or fobbing myself off with the idea that ‘politics doesn’t belong in my work’. The reality is, the real work is only going to happen when people are prepared to take a risk. Risk being disliked or unfollowed for the safety of Black people – do you really want covert racists as your clients anyway?
3. Resist centring yourself when speaking on racism (or any form of oppression which does not directly apply to you
In the same way that a man speaking on how to be a feminist is not always helpful or a straight person talking about their feelings on homophobia is not enlightening, step back from your own feelings and process them with peers or in an appropriate setting.
It is super useful to share your learning journey with others treading the same learning path, but when a traumatising event is effecting a marginalised community, your personal feelings of sadness are not useful or relevant to put out into the public sphere. Make sure the timing is sensitive. In these heightened times, platform others, share resources and take time to process your own (completely valid) upset with someone outside of the affected community.
4. Avoid virtue signalling
Virtue signalling is when we share or express disgust or disdain for and action or sentiment in order to distance our own association with the idea, but not acting on those feelings. I.e. posting a #blackouttuesday image on Instagram but not following it up with your own actions or learning in the real world, sharing vague statements about your work being inclusive, but not actively engaging with the communities you say you support.
Make sure you are backing up your words with actions. Even better, start with actions, follow with words! Be transparent about your progress, letting people know that your trying to do better will not harm you, but it could make people of colour feel safe and seen in your spaces.
5. Don’t wait for perfection
It is better to speak up about injustices and risking getting the delivery a bit wrong, than to never say anything because you are scared of getting corrected. Learn as much as you can from people within affected communities by reading their posts, buying their courses, and reflecting, then doing your best.
Remember not to take corrections personally or see it as a failure, if you get something wrong, apologise graciously, note it for next time and move on. If someone from the affected community responds angrily or is triggered, take a breath and remember they probably have a right to their anger – it’s probably not about you as an individual, but their tiredness and hurt at the continual attack on their community. It doesn’t feel nice but it’s minimal compared to the pain Black people experience on a daily basis. Show up and commit to doing your best, wherever you are on your journey.
This is how we learn, by being in the arena, messy and imperfect.
If you want coaching around this, I am offering 50% off Get Momentum sessions if they are focused on developing inclusivity in your business: Use code inclusive2020 – Get Momentum – 90 minute coaching session
Anti-racist resources for further learning:
Anti-racism course: The Awakening – Why I AM talking to white people about race by Ravideep Kaur
Ravideep Kaur on Instagram
Rachel Cargle on Instagram
Desiree Adaway on Instagram
Natives by Akala
Why I am No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Renni Eddo-Lodge
Ted Talk on Unconscious Bias by Yassmin Abdel-Magied