Being the Racial Justice Change We Wish to See

Mahatma Gandhi is often attributed as saying: “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” But that isn’t what he actually said.

The closest we can attribute this thought to Gandhi was when he said this: “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.” This fuller quote alludes to our ability to create change by changing parts of our world that we control.

Last week, Vanguard hosted a Progressive Communicators of DC (PCDC) discussion about how our organizations can be the racial justice change in our communities. The third event in their racial justice series, panelists shared their experiences helping their organizations become examples for racial justice — internally and externally — and model the change we wish to see.

Here’s a few of the recommendations that stood out:

  1. Work for long-term solutions instead of applying band-aids. Engaging racial justice in the workplace is a process that takes time and planning. First, organizations need to create an environment welcoming to diversity before implementing more inclusive hiring practices. Just adding new and different voices to the table without thinking about how your table is designed is only a temporary solution and lacks sustainability.
  2. Dialogue often and openly. When opening the door to new perspectives, continuous conversations and communication is essential. Addressing racial justice challenges within or outside of the organization requires team members to talk with one another openly and honestly. It is through this type of dialogue that organizations can really build understanding and a more inclusive workplace.
  3. Seek diversity expertise. We’ve all experienced the challenge of engaging in conversations about racial justice within our personal circles. Imagine beginning those conversations within your workplace. To guide the way to constructive, fruitful dialogue about racial justice and how your organization should (or should not) be engaging, consult with workplace diversity or racial justice experts. An organizational outsider is the perfect choice to facilitate unbiased discussions amongst colleagues and help organizations achieve their racial justice engagement goals.
  4. Be an ally that asks about needs before offering help. We all want to be helpful, and play our part in moving the needle on racial justice in our communities. Perhaps your organization believes you have a skill or resource that may be valuable to community groups or activists working in this arena. Before moving forward, be a good ally and ask what their needs are. You may be surprised by their answer and change your organization’s contribution to their work.
  5. Manage your expectations on progress. Change is going to come, but it comes slowly when we’re talking about equity and justice issues. Whether your organization is open to engaging in the racial justice dialogue or adverse, be clear to set expectations that engaging in racial justice is a long-term process. However, with good planning and open dialogue, your organization can start shifting your organizational nature to model more racial justice principles and processes, thus adjusting the attitudes of the world around us.

To view the full discussion, watch the embedded videos below.