Dear Lisa and Julie,

Our city and nation are in need of healing, and I want to be part of the solution.  To that end, I took the first step toward addressing issues of racial injustice and the need for change with my team in our last weekly meeting. I stated my support for peaceful protesters and my hope that our team will be a safe place for dialogue about these issues.  However, there wasn’t much conversation, and I’m not sure what to do next.  I am a white female leader, and I have two black team members.  I want to listen.  I want to acknowledge. But I don’t quite know how to address this topic correctly.  I am worried I will stumble and say the wrong thing.  What advice do you have for me?

Concerned in Atlanta


Dear Concerned,

Don’t give up!  Keep trying. There is no “right” answer here. The way you choose to continue the conversation depends on the dynamics of your team and the level of trust in your organization.  Regardless, we encourage you to be open and honest about the fact that you are grappling with what to say and that you truly want to be supportive. Here are some ways to consider approaching these discussions that may be helpful:   

  • Start by acknowledging the privilege you have as a result of being white.
  • Recognize that conversations might be awkward, and you may get some things wrong.  Accept this discomfort.  Don’t tap out of the conversation.
  • Acknowledge that you don’t pretend to understand the feelings of those who have a different set of lived experiences…but that you want to learn more.
  • State clearly that you want to be the best ally you can be and are actively working to learn how to do that.
  • Remain open to listening and learning.

Make sure that your support includes educating yourself further about white privilege, systemic racism, unconscious bias, equity and inclusion, and engaging in consistent actions that demonstrate your support.  (The “action” piece of this commitment is essential.  Conversation is an important step, but we must take action as a result of what we learn through discussion.) And avoid seeking out or asking black friends and colleagues to educate you about what to do; they have been trying to teach us for decades and they are exhausted and grieving. It is our responsibility to teach ourselves.

Below are some resources we recommend to get started with your process of self-education.

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