Five things I commit to doing about racism

Five things I commit to doing about racism

Listen. Understand my own bias. Speak out. Join in protest. Practice equality.

The anti-racism protests have gained palpable momentum. I feel hope that we will finally act on systemic and institutionalized racism in America (and elsewhere) in a deep and meaningful way. On an emotional and rational level, we have had consensus on the immorality of this matter for a long time. Yet, too often when opportunities to do something about it present themselves, we fail to act.

With that history of inaction on racism, I don’t want to wait for the system to change to do my part. Nothing stops me, individually, from doing the right thing right now. But how do I know what is the right thing for me to do? I am a white male who has had the good luck and privilege to earn an advanced college degree, get mentorship in the early days of my career, and who makes a good living to take care of my family. I don’t know what it feels like to be black, to have suspicious eyes on me when I am out in public, or to have to overcome biases in every stage of my career.

So, I asked for help. If I can’t walk in the shoes of Black Americans, the next best thing I can do is to ask them what it is like to be black and what they want me to do to be helpful in ending racism. Here are 5 themes that sum-up how Black Americans answered my question in a brief online survey (N=63). I will let their words speak for themselves[1]:

Listen

“Pay attention and try to understand what the problems are” 87% support strength among survey participants.

“Listen.” 81% support strength.

Understand our frustration and anger is not a blame on you specifically but the structure we are forced to live in and that does not hear or care about our voices.” 81% support.

“Try to understand what we are going through. Everyone counteracts with all lives matter. It isn’t about all lives, yes all lives do matter, but people of color are the only ones singled out” 61% support.

Understand your own bias

“Be aware of personal biases” 71% support strength among survey participants.

“Evaluate their actions to see if they discriminate w/ o realizing it” 57% support

Speak out

Speak out with us. Be an advocate” 81% support strength among survey participants.

“Start a conversation, be more involved, support organizations and businesses who are fighting the injustice in the systems that have been created” 65% support.

Join in protest

Peaceful protest” 79% support strength among survey participants.

Donate” 79% support.

“Fight for our rights with us” 69% support

Practice equality.

“See every American citizen the same way, say no to racism” 89% support strength among survey participants.

“Simply treat all people of color the same way you would like to be treated on any given day with the utmost respect. Don’t treat us like a threat or belittle us because my skin tone.” 87% support.

Reading through these answers, it is striking how simple and effective my actions should be. There is no complexity of an unknown solution that my inaction could hide behind. Fundamentally, the Black American respondents who participated in the survey gave me simple instructions I can follow: Listen. Understand my own bias. Speak out. Join in protest. Practice equality.

As a CEO, I have an obligation to lead by example and set the tone for others. I am starting by having an open conversation about race and privilege with my colleagues, followed by organizing an implicit bias training for our company. I will not be silent about racism, and I will call out others who are. And, most importantly, I want everyone who knows me to hold me to my commitment.

~

Rasto Ivanic

Co-Founder & CEO

GroupSolver, Inc.

[1] Responses to following question: “As it relates to the support of the protests, the Black Lives Matter movement, and general effort to fight racism, what should people who are not African American do to be most helpful?”