you actually don't need a more diverse staff to be an anti-racist organization

something i’ve come across repeatedly when doing DEI work with clients is the assumption that in order to respond appropriately to racism, you need a more diverse team.

i don’t believe this is true.

i think having a more diverse team is one way to being anti-racist, but it is not the only way and, in some circumstances, i think it’s the wrong way.

now, i know that there are calls from lots of BIPOC for organizations to diversify. so if one of those comes directly at you, i’d be inclined to listen. but for orgs that decide to take that on without prompting, doing that can distract from more strategic and actually more easeful work for everyone.

sometimes i think about it like this:

option 1: an all white org decides to start hiring a more diverse team. unfortunately, as they hire BIPOC staff, they don’t do the deep work to change their culture. people quit, open (and private) letter abound, and flames fly in all directions.

option 2: an all white org decides to be anti-racist and looks at its internal culture to assess how welcoming it would feel to potential BIPOC staff. they realize that it’s too soon and decide to do two things instead: 1. they commit to starting an anti-racist journey with the existing staff. on that journey, they develop a strategy that leverages their mission towards racial justice for their sector. without hiring any new staff, they begin to have a ripple effect among other organizations in their ecosystem. 2. they commit to partnering with a smaller, newer, less well-funded BIPOC organization doing similar work. they partner in material and immaterial ways. they start doing things like: joint-fundraising, public events together (following the lead and needs of the BIPOC-led org), and developing a channel of communication that gives the BIPOC org space to name problematic patterns they see in the sector and the all white org dedicates itself to addressing those things in their own organization. along the way, they tell and support other orgs to do the same. this creates the possibility of supporting already existing BIPOC orgs and doesn’t subject anyone to the terrors of tokenism or racial harm.

now of course, some orgs should be diversifying their staffs. but what i keep seeing is people jump to that tactic before doing a more strategic look at all their options. and the option 2 i laid out above is just one example of many things an organization could do to be anti-racist (other than hiring more BIPOC).

ok i’m not gonna wrap this up with a cute bow or conclusion beacuse i’m late to a call but if you want to learn more, i love this doc from western states center: Dismantling Racism Project Anti-Racist Organizational Development

ps - i work mostly with nonprofits so this is from that lens but there’s lots of possibilities in other sectors, too.

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