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Work/Life: Addressing issues of racism in the office

On this episode of Work/Life, Ciara Pressler, author and founder of Pregame, discusses the importance of addressing and combating issues of racism in the workplace. She outlines how to begin the discussion and start the process of fighting the nuanced and subtle racism that exists in everyday business.

Pressler notes that the first step to understanding and reconciling racism in the workplace is to avoid “tokenism.”

“If you have a Black co-worker or fellow board member, don’t look to them to be the spokesperson for the entire black population,” Pressler says. “We can look to them for perspective, but don’t give them the burden of speaking on behalf of all Black people. And if you only have one person of color, that’s tokenism, not diversity.”

Another positive  step is to take a look at representation at the workplace in terms of employee makeup, and also in things like the books or research you are reading and referencing.

“You’re sending signals all the time as to who your influences are,” Pressler said. This can apply to the books you read, the advice you heed, and the research references included (or not included) in building businesses and relationships. “You can easily put diversity into your work, whether it’s a presentation deck or a work of art.”

Ending racism and discrimination isn’t easy, so Pressler gives advice on how to treat it like the ongoing process that it is.
“When you commit yourself to change, then you need to educate yourself,” she says. “A way to not do that is by asking your Black friends to educate you. That’s not their job. The resources are already out there, and all it takes is a Google search to find them.”

Some of the other advice Pressler give is to not gaslight.

“Gaslighting is when you tell people that reality is something other than what they see. People of color — especially Black people — have a different experience of the world. Just because white people haven’t seen it before doesn’t mean it’s not true,” Pressler says.  “[As a biracial woman] I get that all the time. People who comment, “Oh, that’s not how it is … that’s not what that person’s intention was …,” are different ways one can gaslight another person.

“If I experienced it, then it’s true for me. And I need you to believe me and take that into account.Don’t brush off someone’s experience because it makes you uncomfortable. Growth takes discomfort, growth can take pain, but overall this awakening is a positive step in our country.”

Finally, she recommends “being an activist with your money.” This country is based on capitalism, and one way to effect change is through that system.

“Find a list of Black-owned businesses in your community that you want to support,” Pressler advises. There are people of color in every sector and every segment of business, including marketing, advertising, tech, investing, employee contracting, and more, and utilizing them in your own business success is a great way of being an activist with your money, she says.

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