For a healthy mind, body and business

Black Lives Matter: Being anti-racist at home and at work

supporting anti-racism at black lives matter protest
Credit: Shane Aldendorff

There are two pandemics we’re currently fighting. One is Covid-19. The other is racism. Coronavirus has affected lives, businesses, families… Racism does the same but it can’t be wiped out with a vaccine. Racism is ingrained and it’s going to take an ongoing, sustained practice of learning, listening, and action to fight it.

Right now, the Black Lives Matter movement is swelling and white people are starting to wake up and listen.

It has taken the death of yet another black man, George Floyd, at the hands of a white police officer to shake us into action and people are finally stopping and taking note.

Some people might be accused of jumping on the bandwagon and many are questioning whether this current uprising is going to make any difference. It’s all very well for white people to start declaring their outrage and posting black squares on Instagram, but as we are hearing, this really isn’t enough. 

The point is not just to be “not racist” but actively being “anti-racist”.

The work we need to do

While the Black Lives Matter movement is trending, people are stirring to join the newly “woke” masses. We might see more people speak out and quote hashtags but this can be deemed as “performative allyship” when done purely for social approval and self-interest. It is dangerous and undermines the serious work that needs to be done to dismantle centuries of systemic racism.

Now I say this as a white woman, one who did post a black square in solidarity and declare my sadness at the death of George Floyd. I also write as a journalist sharing my thoughts and observations on what has been happening and as somebody who has had to research and report on issues related to this over the years. (I encourage you to seek expert resources and information from those in the black community to get a real understanding of the situation).

I also speak as a white woman in the UK where a lot of people have dismissed racism as something that is a US problem.

It isn’t. You only need to look around, hear the stories, read the books and see the protests to know that racism is here. Black people live it everyday.

We may not see the same headlines, it might be in the form of more subtle microaggressions, but in that way, it is so much more pernicious. It’s offhand comments, it’s being passed over for a job role, it’s having people not sit next to you on public transport. In fact, this post by Rachel Cargyle shows just how our language can come across as racist.

And these are just the things I’ve heard about or seen. And did I say anything at the time? Shamefully, not always.

Acknowledging white privilege

I’ve realised that as a white person, I’ve always had the privilege to stay silent and do nothing.  It’s a privilege to be able to turn away and say, “Not today. This is all too much.” 

It’s a privilege I’ve not earned but been born into.

I’ve never had to console my children because somebody said something nasty about the colour of their skin.

I’ve never had to fear for my husband’s safety if he went out at night.

I’ve never had to worry about people’s reactions if I wear a hoodie.

I’ve never been looked at suspiciously just browsing in a shop.

I’ve never had to fear being pulled over by police or stopped at the airport.

I’ve never questioned whether my skin colour will affect the outcome of a job interview.

As one of my friends stated in a very eloquent post on her own social media: “It is an emotional life. Not week. Not day. LIFE…”

Right now, we need to sit in our discomfort. Right now, it’s our job to sit, hold space and allow Black people to share their experience.

We need to acknowledge our privilege and acknowledge that racism exists. To deny it diminishes the lived experience of those in the black community.

We can’t sit back on the sidelines. The only way to make a change is to take action. I don’t sit here with answers. I’ve been listening and learning as so many of us have. But I do know we can’t stay silent and do nothing.

Saying nothing is a stance. This is a conversation that’s going to keep on happening. A difficult, messy conversation. We are going to say the wrong thing and we need to be open to receive feedback graciously, listen and learn – and unlearn. Unlearn all the conditioning we’ve had that leads to the unconscious biases within us all.

I don’t believe this is about blaming all white people and labelling them ‘bad’. It’s about acknowledgment and then educating ourselves on how we move forward to be better. To do better.

Over the last couple of weeks we’ve witnessed the outpouring of grief, anger and hurt. Across social media, I’ve seen the conversations opening up, wide and raw. For a white person, it can be uncomfortable. Very uncomfortable.

There can be a temptation to put your hand up and say: “I’m not racist. I’ve never discriminated.” It can make you feel defensive and uneasy. Some have said they’ve felt “unsafe” online. Is it unsafe or just uncomfortable?

Right now, we need to sit in our discomfort. Right now, it’s our job to sit, hold space and allow Black people to share their experience.

They have spent years trying to make their voices heard, spent time and energy trying to educate us. I hear them tell us that they’re exhausted and understandably might question whether this sudden increase in followers and interest is sincere.

The importance of flex

So what does this have to do with our work-life?

Well, racism permeates all our lives and every facet of our lives: it’s in our conversations, our communities, our homes, our workplaces. 

Thanks to Coronavirus, millions more of us are now homeworkers. It is a hugely diverse working population.

We have always celebrated the diversity of professions and industries among the homeworking community. Now it’s time to acknowledge the differences in race and take a stand to promote Black business owners and workers. What I’m learning is that the only way to start edging anywhere closer to equity is by swinging the pendulum that way, to elevate Black voices and to use our privilege for their benefit.

As I stated in a post on Facebook: This does not take away from what The Homeworker does or subjects we cover, but as a magazine and a business, it’s not something we can ignore. We talk about life, about work, about families, about our homes and all of those things are affected by how we treat and engage with other people.

It was in 2017 that The Equalities and Human Rights Commission declared that flexible working was one of the ways to help promote a more diverse and inclusive workforce.

It was something we mentioned in our Flex issue of The Homeworker. It centred on closing the paygaps, not just for women but for those with disabilities and ethnic minorities.

The problem is that many flexible working positions are only part-time or low-skilled and those minority groups are over-represented in these roles. They are calling for more flexible roles to open up at all levels including senior positions.

Closing the pay gap for Black and other ethnic minority groups will help to level the playing field. It will not happen overnight, but it is a start.

Being anti-racist at an individual level

I know that when you work alone at home, especially for yourself, trying to navigate these topics is hard. There is no big company name or logo to hide behind.

What has helped me is coming back to my values. I’m sure looking at your values or mission statements, protecting your bottom line is not listed. Most small business owners and entrepreneurs will aim to be purpose, value-driven businesses.

I have been listening to a lot of voices on the issue and what has come out is that yes, people will say the wrong thing, people will make mistakes, but if what you do and say is from a place of genuine love, compassion, curiosity and with a willingness to learn, we can take action and feel more confident about speaking up.

As for The Homeworker, I am committed to doing more. I know I can do better and I’ve begun by looking at ways to support and promote more Black businesses and share their voice and experience on the platform, which will be for everyone’s benefit. I have started conversations with some creative and talented people and look forward to sharing their stories and brands.

In fact, if you or somebody you know is part of the black community and owns a product or service-based business that would benefit from being featured, let us know!

You might wonder how you can support and act for change. There are a huge number of posts and resources with lists of recommended reading, films to watch, articles to read, people to follow, and these are really useful. But also look around you. Look at your own circle, who you work with, your clients, your networks and friendships. 

There are campaigns and initiatives that you can donate to and people you can mentor.

You can start at home as well. If you’re a parent, there are plenty of ways you can introduce more diversity and exposure to different races and cultures through books, toys and conversations. 

And most of all, it’s about scrutinising yourself. Constantly. It’s hard work and it’s never easy to hold a mirror to yourself but it’s work we need to do.

So, if you are wanting to do more, support Black Lives Matter, make a positive change, then go ahead and jump on that bandwagon. The real test is that you don’t get off.

About the author

Louise is an award-winning journalist and speaker who focuses on working from home, remote work and wellbeing. She is the founder of  The Homeworker, which is dedicated to helping you thrive when you work from home. The Homeworker publishes articles that are designed to keep you healthy, happy, fulfilled, and more productive in work and life.


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