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8 Ways Business Leaders Can Support the Black Community

handwritten Black Lives Matter sign in crowd

The president of BOLDForce, a Salesforce employee resource group, details eight ways you can help now to aid in an antiracist society.

Recent events in the U.S. underscore what it is to be Black in America and around the world. As the global president of BOLDforce, our employee resource group (ERG) for our Black employees and allies — I am saddened and angry at the recent murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor. Our community has collectively echoed, “We are tired!” Because for us, the national news is not new. Our experience has always been through the lens of oppression, at the hands of systemic racism, dating back hundreds of years. But despite the emotional exhaustion, we have new opportunities to talk about our experiences with our colleagues, our managers, and our executives with renewed determination and urgency.

With considerable discomfort from both sides, we must ask, “How should I navigate this very real conversation of systemic racism and its impacts while at work?” For the Black community, this means even in the midst of pain and trauma we are pushing through vulnerability, unmasking ourselves, or undoing the constant need to code switch, and showing up to say, “Yes this is me and this has been my experience for my entire existence.” How can we navigate these difficult conversations, while causing the least harm emotionally, and effecting change?

That’s why I’m asking our allies, our business leaders, our colleagues, our friends to take the initiative to be an active ally during this time. That can mean anything from being thoughtful about how we discuss race in the workplace, to supporting your Black colleagues during this time, to how you help drive positive change in society.

Inspired by Mellody Hobson, President, and Co-CEO of Ariel Investments, who says “We talk about the three P’s — people, purchasing, philanthropy.” Salesforce is taking action with the Black community toward racial equality across these three P’s along with a fourth one — policy.

While we may not have all the answers, we can take action along this path toward racial equality for all. With that in mind, I’m sharing eight ways you can take a stand against racial inequalities:

1. Lead with empathy

Understand your Black colleagues are exhausted and traumatized from ongoing racial inequality and violence against the community as well as processing the disproportionate effects of COVID-19 on our community and loved ones. Before checking in with your Black colleagues, make sure you educate yourself first (more in point 3) before following up with more questions on what’s happening. We all appreciate genuine support, but part of that is not expecting or demanding gratitude or a response.

2. Be an ally

If your company has a Black Employee Resource Group (ERG), reach out and learn how you can get involved. Learn from the community. Get uncomfortable, take a stand, and participate in personal political activities that drive change for the Black community.

3. Educate yourself

As you continue on this path to learn more about racial equality and justice, you may feel uncomfortable, upset, angry, or disturbed. If you feel these feelings — you’re probably on the right track. Remember, our community experiences this every single day. Here are some thoughtful resources and books to get you started. I also encourage you to support Black-owned bookstores like Good Books:

4. Speak up in non-Black spaces

If you are white or a non-Black person of color, you probably have seen or heard anti-Black racism from friends, family, or colleagues. Even if it is uncomfortable, you need to stand up in those moments and let people know racism is unacceptable. Be hyper-aware of spaces that lack racial diversity and do your part to change that, without compromise. Do what you can to engage in open discussions. Listen to other perspectives and be ready to speak your truth. Another easy way to bridge the gap of non-Black spaces is to support and make purchases from Black-owned businesses. The community needs true partnership, not charity. Here’s a good list to get you started.

5. Make space, don’t take space

If you are in a space that includes Black voices, work to elevate their voices and perspectives rather than fill the space with your own. Of course, one person is not a spokesperson for an entire community and please always check to make sure they are comfortable speaking before asking them to share.

For example, my BOLDforce leadership team, together with the Office of Equality, created and leads Equality Circles. In these safe spaces, our Black employees lead the conversation on the issue of race in America as we process and grieve together. Our allies join and learn from our experiences. 

Consider creating an ERG at your company for your Black employees and allies, ensure they lead the conversation during this difficult and urgent time. However, it is important to understand your Black ERG doesn’t have all of the answers and your company should partner to develop the proper strategy, bringing in external experts and professionals to support your Black employees and the organizational changes that will be needed to counter systemic racism.  

6. Register to vote and support voting rights

The right to vote has been an important part of the fight for racial equality in this country. Voting is power and we can all do our part to participate in this important civic responsibility. Salesforce partners with the non-partisan, nonprofit Civic Alliance as a resource for employees interested in encouraging people to get out and vote. As business leaders, think about how your company can use its platform to drive change. For example, Salesforce joined the Metro Atlanta Chamber to urge the state of Georgia to pass a hate crimes bill. 

7. Donate

As an individual or a business, donate to organizations that support the Black community and racial justice. Here are some organizations:

8. If you run a corporation, create a corporate matching giving program

As employees give to nonprofits, match their donations. If you don’t have a philanthropic program, set it up now. Let employees know you are an organization that cares about its people and the world around it.

Above all, I urge you all to get involved and take a stand against racial injustices that impact our Black community. Let’s all do our part to end systemic racism — whether it’s educating yourself on how to be an antiracist, being an ally, or forming an ERG — get involved. Learn more about building an inclusive workplace by taking our Cultivate Equality trail.

Thumbnail:  Unsplash: James Eades

Monica Bowie Sr. Manager, Marketing

Monica is a senior manager, marketing at Salesforce. In her role, she's focused on maximizing engagement with our most strategic accounts to accelerate the business. She's also the Global President of BOLDforce, Salesforce's ERG for Black employees, where she advocates for racial equality, career advancement, and building community for the Black employee community. In her spare time, she loves to write and is a published author.

More by Monica

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