A message from the Work/Life Center:
It is not surprising that the SAS community is deeply moved and troubled by the recent examples of racism that reflect larger systemic problems in our nation. Work/Life wants to respond to your requests for ideas about supporting colleagues and taking action in your community. We understand the urge to act and will provide suggestions in our next blog post. But first we want to share some thoughts about context, acknowledging that we are all white females and are writing from that perspective.
Black people are hurting now in ways that aren’t simple to understand. If you are white and reach out to Black people that you know, be mindful that your outreach doesn’t place any burden on them to respond. This is a good tactic to take with anyone who is grieving. It can help to say things like, “please know that I don’t expect any kind of response”. Likewise, asking what you can do or how you can help, can also put the burden of response back on that person. Now is a good time to seek out resources and reflect on ways you can act rather than looking to someone who is Black to give you that information. Be careful not to put them in the position to comfort or educate you. Consider the “comfort in, dump out” approach.
Be careful of sharing “qualifiers”. Some white people may have the inclination to share how many friends they have who are Black, to share involvement they’ve had in the past with matters of racial justice, or to describe themselves as “not racist”. This kind of sharing puts the burden on Black people to acknowledge these qualifiers, taking the focus away from both their pain and the issues at hand. As a white person, any experience we have had does not and will never fully inform our understanding of racism. Now is the time to listen and learn.
It is possible that you are unsettled if you are learning facts about our country or experiences of others that conflict with the beliefs you have held up to this point. Figure out how to sit with those feelings. It is ok to take time to work though your own reactions, but remember that while you may be new to these realities, many in the community are not, especially people of color. Harness those uncomfortable feelings into empathy for others who see and experience injustice every day. This does not mean you understand what they feel, but this can lead you to a more productive path of listening, learning, and then acting from an informed place.
Black employees and your family members: we see you. We recognize that Work/Life is a team of five white women. We commit to better understanding the experiences of people of color. We commit to using our place of privilege to advocate for change. We commit to seeking out voices of diverse communities to better serve employee needs. We recognize that it can feel safer to seek support from someone who looks like you and we commit to connecting you with those resources. Most of all we commit to listening. While it is on us individually to do our own seeking and learning, we welcome any thoughts on how we can better serve you.