Happy 2021. The Work Continues

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structural racism is real
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Greetings and happy new year, friends. Well, this wasn’t exactly the letter I wanted or planned to be writing to you all at the start of a fresh new year. However, if nothing else, 2020 has taught us to expect (and plan) for the worst, and then quickly react when we find ourselves in a new worst case scenario. So, here we are. 

As I write this, it’s Thursday, January 7th, the day after domestic terrorists stormed our nation’s capital and attempted a coup. Let me repeat that. This was not a group of angry people, these were not protesters, this was not a handful of instigators. These were terrorists incited to insurrection by our President (albeit for 13 more days) himself, assisted by police, with no National Guard in sight for hours. Our President has committed treason and contributed to a disgusting display of violence, destruction, and death. We need to be very clear in our language choices as we continue to process and unpack the events of this year so far. If Donald Trump can spread lies and say whatever fits his twisted narrative, we have to be just as bold– if not more so– with the actual truth.

I’m sure you are all aware that things are not going to magically transform and get better once January 20th arrives and Joe Biden becomes president. Make no mistake– we have a real opportunity in front of us. It’s heartening to hear Biden address the reality that if the events that unfolded yesterday had been a group of Black Lives Matter protesters, they would have been treated very differently (here’s a short video that might help highlight this fact). However, it’s going to be on each and every one of us to not just ignore the events and realizations of the past few years, but to actually step further into our discomfort and our exhaustion to keep doing the work to address the realities of oppression, suppression, white privilege, and white power. 

Last summer many organizations sent out emails and messaging and showed support for being anti-racist. Here at SGO we saw this first-hand, with training requests going from practically nothing in May 2020, to an overwhelming deluge in June 2020. One question that’s been very much top of mind has been, will this momentum last? If the events from this week highlight nothing else, we see that we have to keep this work going. Companies want to be anti-racist? Well, let’s start by deplatforming terrorists. Let’s start by taking away the facility to make money off of treasonous swag. Let’s start by blocking access and ability to spread lies and foment insurrection. 

We’ve seen what kind of real change can take place when people show up and put in the work (thank you Stacey Abrams, LaTosha Brown, and all the others who worked tirelessly to change the course of the 2020 elections). It’s not the job of any one person to save us. It’s not on the shoulders of Black women to act as ‘superheroes’. It’s not the job of a singular elected official to fix things. It’s not the job of a DEI practitioner to magically undo systems of oppression. Each of us has a role to play in the weeks and months ahead. This will take real work, and real commitment. It will mean making hard choices and it will require having hard conversations.

Right now, in a workplace context, your teams are processing their feelings. They may be angry, or scared, or feel like there’s no use. They may not be fully focused on work (honestly, who among us can say that we’re 100% focused and productive right now?). Acknowledge that and hold space for this. Make sure they know that their feelings and thoughts are valid and supported. Remind them that they have a safe space to express and process with you, even if that’s not the case externally. This is crucial work, especially given the fact that things might get worse before they get better. 

SGO’s mission is to abolish inequity in the workplace and the world. We’re here for you, in whatever way we can support. Keeping you all in our thoughts today and every day.

Image on left U.S. National Guard deployed ahead of Black Lives Matter protests. Image on right is a DC Capitol police officer taking a selfie with one of the terrorists.