Key Information To Help Reduce Racial Bias At Work And At Home - Kathy Caprino

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Uncategorized Key Information To Help Reduce Racial Bias At Work And At Home Written by: Kathy Caprino

Research studies have shown that Americans are divided on whether society overlooks racial discrimination or sees it where it doesn’t exist, or something in between.

In a USA Today/Suffolk University poll held right before the July 4th 2023 holiday, more than 45% of Americans indicated that racism is a big problem or the biggest problem facing the United States. Approximately 38% of respondents said racism is a problem but not one of the biggest facing the nation. And about 14% of Americans said racism is not a problem.

Marc Morial, president and chief executive officer of the National Urban League, told USA Today: “There’s almost a cold war in America over the future of the country, and central to that debate is the issue of race and ethnicity, not only Black people but all nonwhite peoples.” And in April 2023, the National Urban League released the annual “State of Black America” report that warned the country was facing a crisis of hate and extremism within its own borders.

To learn more about solutions to the racial divide in the U.S. and new approaches to addressing and reducing racism in this country, I caught up with Fatimah Gilliam – the author of the new book Race Rules: What Your Black Friend Won’t Tell You.

Gilliam is also a lawyer, consultant, public speaker, and entrepreneur, and her career combines expertise in the law, diversity, human capital, leadership, stakeholder engagement, and negotiations.

She began her career as a corporate attorney on Wall Street at Cleary Gottlieb, worked for Citigroup C +0.1% overseeing campus diversity recruiting for all its U.S. businesses, and oversaw corporate partnerships as the Head of Finance and Fundraising for North America for the Nobel Peace Prize-winning United Nations World Food Programme. Since founding The Azara Group, which provides diversity and inclusion, leadership development, negotiation, and strategy consulting services, she has advised Fortune 500 corporations, senior executives leading billion-dollar businesses, and industry thought leaders.

Her groundbreaking book is an innovative, practical manual of the unwritten “rules” relating to race, helping readers navigate in today’s racially-polarized world. It aims to be a how-to manual for white people to aid them in making better choices and actively disrupting racism. Her book seeks to enable white people in developing stronger, more respectful, and supportive cross-racial personal friendships and professional relationships with people of color.

Gilliam is a Black woman whose family has been in the United States for nearly 400 years and fought in every American war, including the American Revolution and Civil War. Race Rules is her patriotic contribution to America’s ongoing dialogue on race.

Here’s what Gilliam shares:

Kathy Caprino: Fatimah, first, can you share what you believe are essential issues to understand when it comes to racism in the workplace?

Fatimah Gilliam: When thinking about race, it’s important to broadly recognize that people don’t check who they are (including their beliefs, values, prejudices, etc.) at the door. Mindsets and methods of engagement follow them into every meeting, email, conference call, presentation, decision, and product launch. Race, prejudice, privilege, and bias are integrated into how people move through the world, which includes how they show up in the workplace.

Racism comes in a package—impacting conclusions people make about whether they feel safe and they belong, whether they can trust the organization and their colleagues, if they feel included, and if the workplace feels healthy and supportive or toxic.

The first step in addressing race in the workplace is to understand this intrinsic nature about racism—the line between workplace racism and societal racism is virtually nonexistent. Once that is understood, we can start to disrupt it in the various ways it shows up at work.

Caprino: Overall, what was the catalyst or “tipping point” that led you to write this book?

Gilliam: The catalyst for writing this book emerged when I was watching a news story about another “Karen” going viral for calling the police for no reason. I thought about my lived experiences and the repetitive questions that I receive from friends and clients that expose, in my view, a continual pattern of a fundamental lack of knowledge and etiquette around race. I thought, “white people need a manual.” They need an unvarnished truth book that helps them make better choices and engage in less racism.

Several critical insights and key concepts emerged about what would be beneficial for white people to understand more deeply, to help reduce racism. Those include:

– White people can’t learn and grow in terms of reducing or eliminating racist beliefs and behavior if Black people never tell them what they really think about what they’re hearing and experiencing, and the impact of their decisions on Black people.

– Too often white people walk away from encounters with people of color with a completely different understanding and impression of the interaction – with the white person thinking they’re friends with the person of color when they’re not, or that any issues were just “misunderstandings.” Meanwhile, a person of color may walk away deeply offended, disliking the white person, concluding they’re racist, and dreading encountering them again.

Caprino: How do you feel your book is different from other books that have been published on racism?

Gilliam: Race Rules offers a new voice to the dialogue on race while simultaneously saying the quiet part out loud and providing race access to what many Black people won’t say to white people. This unique lens is a powerful weapon in the fight against white supremacy. The idea is this: “What if there were a set of clear, understandable rules to educate people about race-based social faux pas? Race Rules is a transformative how-to guide to course-correct daily microaggressions, behaviors, and choices that offend and harm people of color and result in white people being perceived or labeled as racist.

Caprino: What do you say to white people who think they don’t need a book or additional learning on racism since they see themselves as “allies” and supporters of anti-racism?

Gilliam: Race Rules is intended for every white person. Even white people with an evolved understanding of race dynam­ics need some help with basic concepts to minimize racist behaviors they engage in daily, including subconsciously and unknowingly. No matter how racially aware white people believe they are, it’s necessary medicine to look within and drive progress.

Caprino: Please talk a bit about allyship vs. anti-racism or racism disruption. How are they different?

Gilliam: Allies can be passive bystanders since allyship doesn’t necessarily equate to or require action. They falsely assume that simply disagreeing with bigotry or empathizing with marginalized groups is sufficient. When all one does is mentally disagree with racism or say discrimination is wrong but do nothing about it, words are meaningless and performative—merely virtue signaling while supporting the status quo.

Racism Disruptors, on the other hand, are proactive, action-oriented anti-racism advocates who express support for anti-racism through behaviors and choices that positively impact people and communities of color. This book helps white people align their thoughts and intent with helpful external action and deeds that uplift people of color and limits racial trauma.

Caprino: What is your favorite passage in Race Rules?

Gilliam: My favorite passage is in Race Rule #22 of the book – the coronavirus analogy, where the rule is “It’s Not Personal When POCs Don’t Want to Discuss Race.” It draws similarities between what people experienced globally during the pandemic for a brief period of time, and the non-stop daily experiences of racism endured and inflicted on people of color.

This analogy shows what people of color live through as a window into their lived reality. During the pandemic, people were in constant fear and felt under attack. They worried they’d die or be killed, were concerned about financial ruin, and experienced the daily, emotional toll of isolation, helplessness, and watchful eyes of others and the government.

This is what it can feel like to be Black and brown in America. Except with racism, there’s no clear expiration date. There’s no vaccine to inoculate society and protect from the emotional, physical, health, and financial daily assault of racism. The Western world got a brief taste through the pandemic to experience what people of color experience daily. But now that the pandemic is over, we’re still left with white supremacy.

The analogy is written to bring people back to these emotions and fears to help them empathize with and understand racism’s daily weathering effect on people of color.

Caprino: Overall, how has being a light-skinned Black woman impacted your view of racism or your approach to writing about racism?

Gilliam: I hear some of the terrible things white people say when they think they’re amongst their own—including white liberals, Democrats, and “good white people.” It makes me want to rip off the band-aid and say the quiet part out loud. How can white people understand more deeply and clearly the key problems, mindsets, and behaviors of racism if no one tells them what Black people quietly think? We need a new strategy.

This book also offers guidance on what people can actually do. Through straight talk and humor, it provides advice, tools, and tips in a user-friendly format—from conversation translation charts, suggested talking points, reflective questions, and historical overviews for context to poignant illustrations and helpful data.

It’s written in a “choose your own race knowledge adventure” to give readers real-time guidance when they need advice on specific topics.

Caprino: Finally, what is the one most important thing you’ve seen that white people seem to not understand well enough about what being racist is and how, despite any “positive intentions,” racism exists and hurts everyone involved.

Gilliam: It’s critical that Americans stop defining racism in extreme dichotomies of “good” vs. “evil” to better recognize and address how racism shows up in daily life—damaging microaggressions that occur as well as the more obvious signs of racism and prejudice.

Instead, we should measure racism by the impact of choices and behaviors and not intent nor “hearts and minds” approaches.

Racism is about whether a person benefits from an unfair system and what they decide to do or not do to disrupt and recalibrate the system to advance equity.

If people always see racism as something happening “over there” or that only comes in the form of white supremacists who murder innocent supermarket shoppers and is never acknowledged in their own backyard, workplace, or household, it will be extremely difficult to disrupt racism and drive sustainable solutions at the personal, community, or societal level.

We need a new approach that illustrates ways in which every white American, community and workplace is engaging in upholding society’s racialized caste system and social constructs built on racism, power, privilege, and opportunity hoarding.

We can’t dismantle what we don’t see. To disrupt racism, it’s time to expand how many define racism and look for it in our backyards and in the mirror.

Caprino: Any last words?

Gilliam: In big and small ways, we can all play a critical role in disrupting racism and stopping intergenerational racism. Nothing will change and we won’t evolve if we don’t take the first step. Everything hard in life is just a series of easy steps. Once you take the first step, the next one is much easier.

For more information, visit Race Rules and hear Gilliam speak in-depth about this topic here.

Kathy Caprino is a career and leadership coach, author, host of Finding Brave, and executive trainer helping clients build success and impact.

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website or some of my other work here.