Over the years, organizations have sought to address, bias, discrimination and racism in the workplace by implementing a variety of diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives with goals to address and fix these issues in order to make their organization’s more inclusive. Many of these diversity initiatives focused on the importance of allyship – being supportive of those from marginalized groups and joining in their efforts to combat racism and discrimination. However, in terms of diversity, equity, and inclusion, allyship is not enough because it takes more than support to make a difference, it takes action.
While scholars generally agree that blatant forms of racial discrimination and instances of racism have decreased in the workplace over the last 50 years, if you are a person of color, you know that racism still exists – and not just in the workplace, but in every facet of our lives. Meaning, in terms of diversity, equity and inclusion, the idea of and focus on allyship has done little to eliminate racism and discrimination in the workplace. The primary reason that allyship has had little effect on disrupting racism is because allyship does not require any action on the part of the ally. While listening to your colleagues of color who experience racism and discrimination in the workplace is a nice thing to do, as Dr. Martin Luther King said, “Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will.”
In order to effect change, the question must be asked to those who identify as allies: “Are you willing to take action in order to disrupt racism and discrimination?”
Allies listen to our concerns but take no action. And although many people claim to support the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion as allies; few are courageous enough to put their own jobs on the line by speaking out against racism and discrimination in the workplace. As we begin a new decade, it is important that we shift our focus from allyship (support) to accompliceship (action) because accompliceship allows us to focus on both supporting the individual and dismantling the structures that oppress individuals and groups, and give space for that work to be directed by the stakeholders in the marginalized group. Accomplices are willing to take the necessary steps to ensure that their workplace is safe from physical, verbal, and mental abuse, including microaggressions. To be an accomplice, you must be willing to do more than just listen; you must be willing to act. Being an accomplice means that you are willing to stand with, fight with, and defend those who are being attacked, excluded or otherwise mistreated, even if that means suffering personal or professional consequences. Accompliceship means being willing to put your own privilege at risk in order to disrupt racism and discrimination in the workplace and beyond.
Tai Harden-Moore is founder of Moore Consultants, LLC, which organizational leaders deepen their knowledge and develop the strategies necessary to create diverse, equitable, and inclusive environments for all.