Skip to Content

Time For Some Self-Care

Here’s a random list of things that are currently bruising my brain:

A BBC cameraman was attacked last night by a man who had been driven to violence by the rhetoric at the Trump rally he was covering. Anti-Semitism is on the rise around the world. A group of journalists was outed for harassing women, people of color, and LGBTQ advocates online – for over a decade. (See below.) Conflicts over diversity are driving public wedges between employees. Hate crimes ticked up three years in a row in the U.S. White men hate diversity training and believe they’re being left behind.

And now, everyone is all about the blackface. I’m exhausted.

But so is everyone else. Regularly absorbing news of violence or division is disconcerting, even more so for people from underrepresented groups for whom these emotional assaults live as a form of terror in their lives.

Conversations with diversity practitioners, allies, corporate employees, and experts are an essential part of my race beat, and I typically leave these conversations energized and informed. But lately, the conversations have turned dark.

On more than a dozen occasions in the past seven days alone, someone has shared with me that they are overwhelmed by the news, discouraged by a lack of progress in their work, and operating with a serious emotional deficit. They feel like their ability to be effective is suffering.

My unscientific survey results: The exhaustion is spilling into the workplace, and bruising the brains of underrepresented talent and all those whose job it is to care about diversity and inclusion. If this is you, please feel affirmed – you’re not alone.

We haven’t covered self-care in raceAhead in ages, but it’s long overdue. Most of the tips are things everyone knows to do – here are some great ones from Mercer – but fall away when under siege: Take a break from the grind. Eat healthy food. Stay hydrated. Get good rest. Spend time in nature and/or in spiritual settings. Look at art or listen to music. Scrub your social feeds of harassers or trolls. Spend time with people who love you (or alone.) Seek help if you need it.

But it’s also incumbent upon managers to check-in with team members, says NPHR, a human resources firm on the nonprofit sector.

“It’s now more crucial than ever for those in management roles to give employees explicit permission and opportunities to carve out time for themselves during the workday,” they say in this helpful post. “This can be as simple and straightforward as saying ‘I noticed you seem really stressed. Let’s go for a walk and talk about how your colleagues or I can help or ‘You know, you haven’t taken any time off lately. Let’s talk about what I need to take over in order for you to have a four-day weekend.’”

It’s the noticing that helps build trust. Best of all, it’s a simple tactic for majority culture managers who want to make sure their colleagues feel safe enough to ask for what they need to continue to do their jobs.

(Also – does your workplace have a formal domestic violence policy? It should.)

Either way, checking in with peers and direct reports when things happen in the news should be, by now, a best practice for inclusive organizations. But when things are happening all the time, corporate empathy needs to be systemic.

On Point

France has a very serious online harassment problemA secret Facebook group of mostly male French media members has been coordinating online attacks against feminists, women writers, people of color, and LGBTQ advocates on Twitter. The group, called Ligue du LOL or the LOL League has been in operation in some form since 2009. Over the weekend, hundreds of victims came forward with chilling stories; the alleged abuses include targeted online harassment, intimidation, one member even lured a female videographer via a fake job ad, then posted the audio of the interview on Soundcloud. Several prominent journalists and editors have been implicated, some have been suspended. Similar groups have been discovered with associations with Vice France and HuffPost France.Buzzfeed News

More inclusive emojis are on the way
The new symbols include mixed race couples with 171 possible variations to accommodate skin tone, hair, and gender; a wider range of emojis reflecting the experiences of people with disabilities, and even an awareness initiative or two. One new emoji is a drop of blood, part of a campaign by Plan International to destigmatize menstruation around the world. One small hitch: the pinching fingers emoji, which comes in many skin tones, is open to a wide variety of interpretations.
NPR

About a third of Americans believe that blackface is okay sometimes
A new survey from Pew suggests that while a slim majority of Americans say it is generally unacceptable to darken one’s skin as part of a Halloween costume, and 37% say it is never okay, about one in three say hey, it’s probably okay. The survey was conducted before the news about Virginia’s Governor Northam and a whole bunch of other people, so it’s hard to say how this national conversation about race has influenced anyone’s thinking. Click through for the demographic breakdown by race, political affiliation and education level.
Pew Research

Katy Perry has blackface shoes and now I need a nap
The singer/designer has been unable to stop the fireworks around a style of shoe in her collection that unmistakably resembles minstrel makeup. The shoe, which comes in both a mule and sandal style and which clearly references the blackface aesthetic, will now be pulled from the shelves at Dillards and Walmart.  As a reminder, here is Katy Perry performing in “geisha-inspired” yellowface at the 2013 American Music Awards, a number which must have been reviewed by dozens of people before it was allowed to be seen by the public.
New York Post

 

On Background

Having difficult conversations about race
So I have to imagine that somebody at Prada, Gucci, or in Katy Perry’s empire understands that their employers do not have the chops or permission to pull off a joke about race or reference to minstrelsy. Further, someone must have known that parading around like a submissive Japanese female stereotype on stage was a bad idea. Are there things that people around you are afraid to tell you? How do you know? Here’s some fodder from past stories, if you need inspiration: How PWC created a culture of candor about race. How to get better at listening. More about acknowledging the pain of exclusion below.
Fortune

The six “C’s” of inclusive leadership
It’s also worth revisiting this excellent research brief from Deloitte, which outlines the six traits that inclusive leaders must develop to thrive in a world characterized by diverse markets and workforce. All are “C” words, which is fun, but two stuck out for me. The first is cognizance, which means a willingness to self-assess and address blind spots. The other is courage, which is at the core of all the work. “The courage to speak up—to challenge others and the status quo—is a central behavior of an inclusive leader, and it occurs at three levels: with others, with the system, and with themselves,” writes Juliet Bourke and Bernadette Dillon.
Deloitte

Doing the laundry was a nasty bit of business in 1881
In a busy city like Atlanta, black “washerwomen” would pick up dirty clothes and diapers, pile them on their heads and travel to washing sites equipped with cauldrons of boiling water and homemade lye soap. they, they would boil, pound, dry, iron and return the clothes. All, for nearly no money – until one day, the women had enough. The day just happened to fall ahead of the International Cotton Exposition which was being held in the city that year, the centerpiece of which was a boast: Atlanta had a steady and obedient servant class. Because washerwomen lived in black communities and worked together, not in a white home, they could organize. And they sure did: Some 3,000 women went on strike.
Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Quote

Minstrelsy, comedic performances of “blackness” by whites in exaggerated costumes and make-up, cannot be separated fully from the racial derision and stereotyping at its core.  By distorting the features and culture of African Americans—including their looks, language, dance, deportment, and character—white Americans were able to codify “whiteness” across class and geopolitical lines as its antithesis.
—National Museum of African American History and Culture