Becoming Advocates and Antiracists: Why Dismantling Racism Takes Practice and Persistence

You may have thought we wrapped up Season 1 of the Practice First podcast last week. (Probably because that’s what we said we did.) But, we couldn’t bring ourselves to end this season without touching on a topic that’s rattled our country, our workplaces, our biases, and each of our lives in 2020: racism. 

As a white person writing this, I recognize that racism has been top-of-mind for me this year alone, and that’s a massive luxury and privilege. For my BIPOC pals, teammates, and neighbors, it’s never not been top-of-mind because they deal with it every day. It’s deeply unjust. That’s why it’s essential for all of us to be talking about ways to become not just “not racist” but actively antiracist. Wondering how to do your part in dismantling the systemically unjust, racist parts of our society? We know someone you should meet…

Meet Dr. Janice Gassam

Ben and Conner interviewed Dr. Janice Gassam for this bonus episode of the Practice First podcast. Dr. Gassam runs a diversity and inclusion consultancy firm called “Black, White, Green” where she helps business leaders recognize the impact of systemic racism on their businesses so they can actively work to combat them. Confronting racism is messy, but essential. And it all starts with practice.

In her episode, discover…

✊ Antiracism: what it means and what it doesn’t

⚖️ Why this could be the decade we replace lots of systemic racism with systemic justice

👂 The value of hosting listening sessions in corporations

📣 How to harness the momentum of the antiracist efforts of this year

💛 What leaders can do to remove their biases and create more belonging in their workplaces

My top 2 takeaways from this conversation

1. I need to leverage the privilege I have.

Dr. Gassam gave an example of a time she watched someone use his privilege super simply, but meaningfully. In a meeting, she was talking, and someone cut her off. A white male in the room said, “Can we stop for a moment? Janice was speaking.” 

No one likes to be interrupted, and statistically, it happens more to women and minorities than anyone other people groups. When those in privileged positions (in this case, that white man who advocated for Dr. Gassam to finish what she was saying) say things like that, it makes it so what’s been the norm is no longer acceptable. For everyone to have a seat at the table and a voice, it’s vital to leverage the privilege you have like that white man did.

Dr. Gassam also touches on how privilege comes in all flavors and can be something as simple (or as complicated, really) as something that’s based on the shade of your skin, your weight, your age, your gender, your accent, and more. Privilege is a right that’s essentially handed to some and not others. It’s unfair and unbalanced, and a key way to create a more just society is for people who are privileged—in whatever way that may be—to recognize it and amplify the voices of those who don’t have that same inherent privilege.

2. It’s not enough to be an ally.

Dr. Gassam said she’s not wild about the term “ally.” It implies inaction. Allies stand with and support people in marginalized situations. But the next-level of antiracism is becoming advocates for marginalized people in our communities. Advocates are allies with megaphones, basically. If you’re like me, you’re probably wondering, “What does this becoming an antiracist advocate look like on a day-to-day basis?” 

Dr. Gassam suggests so many ways in this episode, but some simple ones are to speak up in meetings where you hear microaggressions or racism: 

  • Follow BIPOC people or people who are different from you in some way on LinkedIn and social media to broaden your perspective. 
  • Figure out what types of privilege you have, and use it in your meetings, in your homes, and in your neighborhoods to listen to those who don’t have that same platform, and elevate them. 
  • Talk with HR about bringing in a D&I consultant. 
  • Hire diverse talent. 
  • Try that black-owned tea shop this week (shameless plug for Episode 5 guest Tamika CatchingsTea’s Me Cafe in Indianapolis).

I loved listening to this episode, and I’m grateful for people like Dr. Gassam who’ve dedicated their work, talents, and time to making our world more antiracist and undeniably better. Here’s to being antiracist (and practicing becoming better ones) every single day.

One more thing

As always, we’d love to hear from you. You can connect with our hosts on social media (Conner Burt or Ben Battaglia) or shoot them an email at practice@lessonly.com if you want to chat more about practice, if you learned something from Dr. Gassam, or if you know someone we should talk to in potential future seasons!

 

Practice First is produced by Lessonly 💛

Our training software helps more than 1,000 teams across the globe learn, practice, and do Better Work. Learn more and listen to more episodes at lessonly.com/podcast!

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