Anti-racism Means Actions not just Words
Patricia Arredondo & Courtland Lee
The anti-racism movement is gaining momentum in schools, universities, and all types of work settings. Institutional leaders are declaring that their missions are not only about diversity, equity, and inclusion, but about intentional plans for anti-racism. It took the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery to shake the national roots of racism in the United States into a new era of racial reckoning. These incidents coupled with reports of healthcare inequities during the COVID era particularly in Latinx, American Indian and Black communities, and the anti-Asian violence, require systemic, organizational responses.
What does the anti-racism movement entail? According to Ibram X. Kendi, director of Boston University’s Center for Anti-racist Research, it means addressing systems and policies that marginalize particular segments of society. Policy changes are required in hospitals, universities, governmental agencies, and all work settings to truly be fair, equitable, and inclusive. He states that often people are blamed as the problem when it comes to racism, but he contends that it is policies that inform practices — these need to change.
Language in policies or textbooks often contributes to racism. An example comes from Santiago Gomez, a Boston University engineering graduate student. He pointed out that the term used in textbooks for electronic circuits is “master” and “slave”. He described the term as “detrimental to his learning” and wrote to the book publisher in 2020 to cease using the term. Removing the term and using another descriptor may cost the publisher, but anti-racist editorial policies are one necessary action.
What other actions can be taken? There are many areas to begin to apply DEI principles. In this blog, we will focus on Human Resources because of the role it plays in attracting and hiring new employees. A few practices are suggested that focus on policy changes through leadership:
- Take a top-down approach, engaging organization leaders in communicating about the need for anti-racist policies and practices.
- Review HR policies, with a representative group of employees, not just HR staff.
- Prepare the reviewers in anti-racist and DEI terminology.
- Review all HR policies to ensure that terms such as sexual orientation and gender identity are used, not just gender. The term “illegal alien” needs to be replaced with “undocumented person”.
- Engage search or hiring committees in anti-racist education.
- Examine position descriptions to ensure that they describe the responsibilities, not the potential hire.
- Racist policies will affect workplace climate. Review hiring and retention of historically marginalized groups; what do the data tell you?
- Use DEI/anti-racist scorecards in the search, interviewing, and hiring and negotiation processes. AAG can customize scorecards.
- Conduct equity audits and climate surveys.
Dr. Patricia Arredondo is president and Dr. Courtland Lee is senior consultant with the Arredondo Advisory Group, Phoenix, AZ.