7 Quick Tips for HR in 2021 from Anti-racism Educator Denise Branch

Denise Branch, antiracism educatorBy Denise Branch

How can HR help create anti-racist organizations without being anti-racist? 

Try This Anti-racism Educators 7 Quick Tips for HR in 2021

  1. Racism is a mindset. So, mind your racism. HR anti-racism education matters. Get educated HR.
  2. Create a budget to work with Black and people of color anti-racism educators, consultants, and advisors.
  3. Create a culture of anti-racism, inclusion, equity, and belonging with psychological safety.
  4. Know your organization's racism. Know what you need to know before you need to know it. Once you know it, you can’t unknow it.
  5. Create ongoing anonymous feedback from employees to assess experiences with HR. Contact Denise Branch for use of her copyrighted antiracism polls and surveys to get the answers your organization needs to become anti-racist.
  6. Create and assess HR anti-racist policies and practices. If none, create them. Ensure HR anti-racist practices and policies are evaluated and measured.
  7. Don’t consciously or unconsciously become the next Liane Hornsey.

According to a Reuters report, problems surfaced when an anonymous group of employees of color charged that Uber’s Chief Human Resources Officer Liane Hornsey mishandled their complaints of racial bias, used discriminatory language, and made derogatory comments about several black executives. The matter was referred to the company's chief legal officer, who retained outside legal counsel to investigate the allegations. After the firm concluded that some of the charges were true, Hornsey resigned and was hired by another tech company.

Different company, same Racism?

Where's the accountability and assurance that these HR leaders aren’t repeating racist behavior and causing race-based traumatic stress elsewhere? Racism is bad for business and the mental health of people of color employees. The American Medical Association just recognized racism as a public health threat.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits racial discrimination in the workplace. When employees report racism, racial harassment or racial discrimination, HR is often the first line of defense to investigate these claims in a supposedly timely, and racially unbiased manner. When HR fails that responsibility, there can be serious consequences.

To reduce racism in the workplace we need to educate the department where racism is reported. It is uber important that white HR leaders educate themselves on anti-racism. Anti-racism education is the beginning of ending racism in any profession. This is of particular importance for a profession where data shows almost 80% of HR jobs are held by a person who is white and over 80% of CHRO roles are also held by a white person. The HR profession has made so little progress in racially diversifying itself but is still given ownership over racially diversifying its organizations. Sounds about white. There will never be anti-racism and racism free organizations if HR refuses to unlearn their conscious or unconscious racism.

“You don’t have to be racist to unlearn racism.” – Denise Branch

HR has a history of racism and questionable racist behavior. Not only does racism place a company in legal jeopardy, but it also works against company diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging commitments. It also makes it harder to recruit, engage and retain racially diverse talent, and it leaves a stain of racism on an organization's reputation and brand forever. Up until the murder of George Floyd, anti-racism training wasn’t even taking place at organizations and anti-racism wasn’t in the mouths of organizations or their HR leaders it was unconscious bias this or that, I’m biased your biased we’re all biased nobody is racist here.

The Black Lives Matter movement was a moment for HR to reflect and reinvent. Activist anti-racist corporations can no longer afford to not have the racism and anti-racism conversations within HR. How can HR prevent more Racism? How can HR make ending racism, racial harassment, and racial discrimination a top priority in the workplace? For HR anti-racists, the BLM statements were a long time coming, but they are not seeing organizations activate those BLM statements in their workplaces.

Companies unwilling to redouble their BLM statements beyond Black Lives Marketing to Black employees mattering in their workplaces and launch antiracism effort—and apply them to the highest levels of human resources—and across the board of their brands will face expansive liability. There will be social media backlashes, brand disruptions, combined with large settlements.

A lot of companies you need HR experience to lead a diversity, inclusion, equity and belonging position. Many companies allow HR to control or run diversity programs and diversity everything. But racially diverse employees don’t trust HR and don’t believe HR has ever worked on the behalf of people of color employees, especially black employees. They believe HR works on behalf of the company that pays them and their unconscious racial biases, especially anti-black racism. HR has been called so white and so racist by black and brown employees across America. And for that reason, HR should not be in control of Diversity, Inclusion, Equity and Belonging. HR should absolutely not be in control of Antiracism. Both needs to be in control of itself with a full budget like any other area of the business. In fact, if HR remains in control it needs to be the first department to get never-ending antiracism education.

A study by Citi Bank found that racism has already cost the US economy $16 trillion over the last two decades, so racism will cost organizations more than anti-racism education for HR leaders will. For decades too many HR professionals have mishandled and are STILL mishandling employees of color complaints of racism, racial harassment, racial abuse, and racial discrimination, especially black employees. And too often, HR professional mindsets and values are at odds with their organization’s racial diversity, inclusion, equity, belonging and recently announced anti-racism commitments. Whilst no HR leader is born racist, and not every organizations HR leaders are racist that will provide little comfort to the people of color employees who have experienced their organization and other HR leader’s racism, particularly anti-black racism.

How can HR help create racism-free cultures when they lack the racial competence, intelligence, and literacy to assess and address racist behaviors?

Take the antiracism poll for HR to test your racial competency, literacy, and intelligence.

White Karen & Asian Tracy have returned to the office to work two days a week. Upon their arrival back into the office, even though Karen is supposed to be socially distancing from other employees she breaks the social distancing practice rules to ask Tracy had the company tested her for the "Chinese Virus" before she came back? Tracy reports Karen's behavior to Jennifer in HR. Jennifer doesn't think Karen was being racist, but only concerned for her health.

What's Jennifer's behavior? Click here to make your choice.

This copyrighted poll by Denise Branch is based on a true client story and is adapted from Anti-Racism Training by Denise Branch. ©2020 Reprinted only by the permission of the author. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Denise Branch is an antiracism educator, consultant, coach, and speaker who was Named by Forbes as one of “7 Anti-Racism Educators Your Company Needs Now.” (Denise was nicknamed the MLK of DEI by some of her DEI professional peers). Denise helps develop anti-racist employers and employees. Her bio is in her everyday work on the front lines of the racism pandemic changing racist minds to save lives and livelihoods. She is an advisor to organizations on how to develop anti-racist people, programming, partnerships, purchasing, philanthropy, policy, and practices. If your company would like to learn more about Denise’s anti-racism strategy consultations and trainings, or if you would like to book Denise for your newsletter, blog, interview, podcast, video, or virtual event please email hello@dandilunch.com with your requests.

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