PRESIDENT'S CORNER: Let’s be Allies in the Fight Against Racism, Discrimination

PRESIDENT'S CORNER: Let’s be Allies in the Fight Against Racism, Discrimination
Anthony Domathoti, HGAR President

A new year may well bring new challenges, but it will also bring an opportunity to learn from our past and build on our strengths. It is time for all allies to make a renewed commitment to building on racial equality.

For Black History Month last year, there was a significant difference to how the month was marked in the year before. October 2020 was fresh in the wake of the emergence of the video of the killing of George Floyd. Companies, communities and individuals felt empowered and motivated to tackle racism and compelled to set out the change they would make in society to make it a reality.

In 1976, President Gerald Ford made Black History Month official, saying at the time: America must “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”

Last year, commemorations were significantly more quieted and limited. While to a few, it may feel just like the urgency has gone, the reality is that the battle against racism is more critical than ever. Somewhere along the way, it feels like we’ve fallen way short of that mission.

That is what youth poet laureate Amanda Gorman beautifully stated:
“It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit,
it’s the past we step into
and how we repair it
We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation”

Now is not the time for all of us to be merely allies in the fight for equality and justice for all. We must move beyond marching in protests and become full, active partners pushing for legislative, judicial and social changes needed at local, state and federal levels in order to reimagine how our democracy functions.

The work environment is central within the battle against racism and bigotry. It is where most of us will spend more than 40 hours a week (during pre-COVID era), where our livelihoods are earned.

If we are to solve racism in society, we must combat it in our daily lives, especially our workplaces. This is where allyship is so crucial. Organizations need to be more aggressive and bolder. Give people coaching, one on one support, advocacy, mentoring not mild generic solutions.

Allyship is what you do, not what you believe. It is speaking up, standing up; it’s joining the fight and struggle to achieve equality for all. Allyship leads from behind. It’s not making it all about you or looking for praise or credit for your work, especially from marginalized people, but listening to voices, seeking to uplift and amplify what too often go unheard. I quote Dr. Martin Luther King, who said: “The arc of the Moral Universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

Let’s re-engage to create change, to push past comfort and politeness and challenge the structures and norms that we’ve all grown up taking for granted, and be part of creating the society we want to live in.

Even when it’s difficult, especially when it’s difficult. Taking the first step to allyship can be intimidating. We can feel frozen in place by the fear of getting it wrong or by the sheer size of the task ahead of us.

Inviting and engaging others to celebrate can be a little more daunting. I urge you to find an opportunity to gain exposure to the culture. After exposing yourself to the culture, then find an opportunity to have a dialogue with someone you may know who is black. Ask them about their life and their family’s history. Learn about their experiences as a black person. With exposure and dialogue, you will find out details about that individual and the black culture that will create a deeper level of understanding.

The systems of oppression were not made by us, and they cannot be dismantled by us alone.

As we start the new year, many of us are committing to make a difference. I would like to urge you in making 2022 the year we proactively renew our commitment to fight for racial equality in our communities and workplaces. At HGAR, we formed a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Committee and hired a DEI Officer, all with an intent to move the needle in the right direction. One of our core values is respect, i.e., treating others with the dignity and appreciation that ALL are entitled to, recognizing that every person is unique and valuable, and allowing them the opportunity to reach their full potential of contribution and service to the organization.

Whether this be in the workplace, proactive recruitment, ameliorating ethnicity pay gaps or in a myriad of other ways. This must be a renewed team effort. For us to re-energize and succeed, we must be allies.

Equity is everyone’s business. Let’s strive to create communities and workplaces that are inclusive and fair for all. Can a nation founded on religious freedom and human rights come to treat all citizens fairly in the 21st century? I believe we can!! Semper Fortis, Semper Liber.

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