Recently, I gave a talk about institutional racism where I shared stories that I wrote about in Thinking Outside the Chrysalis: A Black Woman’s Guide to Spreading Her Wings. I had spent so many years trying to process these stories, it was the culmination of years of emotional work and a cathartic release. The experiences I spoke about were with former employers, but institutional racism affects all of our institutions: businesses, government, schools, media, housing and other agencies. Lately there has been a national conversation about its impact on policing, the courts and the prison system.
Anti-racism is an important part of the path to Mind-Blowing Happiness™. It comes up most prominently in Steps 10 and 11 of 12 Steps to Mind-Blowing Happiness, dealing with Compassion and Passion. In my April 10th blog, Slay Your Thoughts: Is Imposter Syndrome Real? I addressed the connection between racism and self-doubt. This came up again in my June 25th blog, The Truth Behind the Lie: How Can You Slay Self-Doubt? You cannot reach the highest levels of joy, fulfillment and purpose in your life while simultaneously being even an unconscious racist. Self-actualization requires self-awareness and positive intentions. The United States has a long history of racism across all our institutions, to the point that even people of color are often prejudiced against ourselves and may struggle with self-love.
Racism is a destructive lie. Only education and action can tear it down. Here are my 7 tips to dismantle institutional racism:
1. Don’t gaslight. – When you deny the existence of institutional racism, it’s either an attempt to manipulate or seriously ignorant. Here are a few facts to battle misinformation:
- In 1862 slavery was abolished in Washington, D.C., and about 979 enslavers received $300 each in compensation (about $8k in today’s dollars) for nearly 3,000 enslaved people – the only reparations paid because of slavery. Slavery ended in the U.S. overall in 1865, that’s only 156 years ago, basically one and half grandmas.
- The Civil Rights Act passed in 1964 ending segregation, that was only 57 years ago, or one mom.
- Sylvester Magee, the last living former enslaved American died in 1971, that’s only 50 years ago. You get the idea. We are not as far removed from slavery and segregation as we are often told. Institutional racism is current and as American as apple pie and baseball games.
2. Get educated. – The U.S. education system will not teach you about racism. If you want to learn, you’ll have to do it on your own.
- Attend workshops. – Linked In Learning, National Diversity Council and the Atlanta Diversity Management Advocacy Group have some good trainings. I’m taking my talk to the Junior League and am available to speak to your company or organization. Check out my speaker page here: https://trishahjelroberts.com/speaking
- Read. – Put together a reading list with BIPOC authors. Create an anti-racism book club.
- Watch documentaries. – There are many great documentaries available covering a range of topics. Some of my favorites are Time: The Kalief Browder Story, When They See Us, I Am Not Your Negro, and The Pieces I Am.
- Connect. – Facebook and LinkedIn have plenty of diversity groups, but you can also create your own book club, movie or discussion group.
- Support. – Hire diversity speakers and coaches like myself and others to help you progress in your understanding of anti-racism topics.
- Vary your news media. – ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, PBS, NPR, Democracy Now, Al Jazeera, BBC, WSJ, NYT, USA Today.
3. Support honest education. – Support an inclusive and historically accurate school curriculum for your children. Learn about Critical Race Theory. Demand a diverse reading list for students. A couple of my favorites are They Came Before Columbus by Ivan Van Sertima and A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn.
4. Speak up. If you are White, don’t be complicit in your family and at work. Speak up on behalf of minorities at home and on the job. Consider organizing an anti-racism group at your workplace or other organizations. Only 1% of Fortune 500 CEOs are Black.
5. Support anti-racist charities. Here are a few of my favorites:
6. Don’t support racism. Learn the social justice stance of potential employers and businesses you patronize. Consider a social justice filter for your banking and investments. Check out oneunited.com and adasina.com.
7. Rethink your politics. In political philosophy, conservative means you “seek to promote and to preserve traditional social institutions.” You cannot “preserve traditional social institutions” AND be anti-racist. Open your mind and your politics to progress.
Racism won’t collapse overnight, but over time we can heal old wounds and move toward more equity, freedom and joy. If you’d like to access more tips, check out my June 3, 2020 blog, Heal or Fail: Are You Anti-Racist? And remember, you don’t have to do everything at once or perfectly. Get in motion and “stumble your way forward.”
I wish you passion, purpose and the realization of your fullest potential!