How to talk about white supremacy at work


This weekend, the country was focused on Charlottesville, VA, as white supremacy was overtly on display with a white nationalist rally, counter-protests, and domestic terrorism. We are still processing these events — what they mean for us as individuals, for our work in the social sector, and for our country overall. As you return to work this week, we urge you to take action by talking about white supremacy with your colleagues. ProInspire is putting equity in the center of our work, which means that we have to start by acknowledging that white supremacy and racism exist, and that they are deeply intertwined with our work in the social sector.

If you have never had these discussions at work before, you may be nervous about how to approach them. Here are three steps we are taking, that you can consider as well:

  1. Acknowledge what happened. Moments like this impact people on an emotional level, and often we are trained to hide those emotions at work. Acknowledge the horror and trauma people may be experiencing. This may include sending an email to your staff, discussing it during a team meeting, and making time for one-on-one conversations. Acknowledge and create space, but don’t place a burden on people to deeply engage.
  2. Recognize that people’s reactions may be informed by their race. Often times, white people are less aware of the different types of racism and may be more shocked by violent acts of racism. People of color may be horrified, but not surprised, by overt acts of racism. Recognize that your worldview is largely shaped by your experiences, and don’t expect other people to explain their worldview.

  3. Commit to doing internal work to understand race and racism in our country. The overt acts of white supremacy from this weekend can be an opening to better understand overt and covert white supremacy. This diagram highlights actions that people may easily identify as unacceptable (like Nazi rallies), and others that people may not even recognize (like white privilege). Racial Equity Tools provides resources to help you understand how race is constructed, how racism works, how privilege is embedded in our systems, and how internalized racism and superiority are created and maintained.

Here are some other articles from our colleagues to help you reflect more on what you can do:

Charlottesville and a time for gracious anger by Vu Le

Grey Days in America by Alicia Robinson

Wealthy Donors and Grantmakers: You Can No Longer Hide Behind Neutrality After the Terrorist Attack in Charlottesville by Aaron Dorfman

We need to start talking about this so we can move ourselves, our organizations, and our sector, to action.


The ProInspire Team

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