Global protests and widespread reporting have put a media spotlight on racism in our society. For many, racism is still a difficult and confusing subject to talk about. Businesses can help encourage positive systemic change by hiring a diverse staff and encouraging inclusivity.
Here, we have gathered five essential books to read if you strive to end discrimination in the workplace and want to become an inclusive leader.
One of Time Magazine’s “Must Read Books,” Diversity, Inc. explores diversity and inclusion efforts in Hollywood, higher education, and corporate America. Supported by rich data, Pamela Newkirk raises important questions, diagnoses the problem, and provides a fierce prescription for the realization of meaningful diversity and inclusion. Her scan of industry shows how billions of dollars have been spent on racial diversity initiatives over the past two decades with little to no results. Perhaps even more problematic is the false impression of progress that’s been achieved. She prompts readers to consider, “If you spent billions of dollars on anything else and had nothing to show for it, would you still be able to keep your job? Why have diversity efforts failed so miserably?” Newkirk shows that to change an institution’s systems, we must confront our past. “Without truthful encounters with the past, racial reconciliation is doubtful and diversity will remain little more than a hollow abstraction.”
Racism isn’t always obvious to white people, but they have always had advantages and privileges that they may fail to notice. Many would not consider themselves racist, yet they unconsciously practice racism and/or passively benefit from it. This vital read refers to the defensive moves that white people make when challenged racially, characterized by emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and by behaviors including argumentation and silence. These behaviors function to reinstate white racial equilibrium and prevent any meaningful cross-racial dialogue. In this in-depth exploration, Robin DiAngelo examines how white fragility develops, how it protects racial inequality, and what we can do to engage more constructively.
Minda Harts delivers an honest look at the odds stacked against women of color in professional settings, from the wage gap to biases and micro-aggressions, with actionable takeaways. The Memo is chock full of practical career advice for anyone struggling to navigate the unwritten rules of corporate America, but centers on black and brown women specifically. It ends the one-size-fits-all approach of business and provides a sense of community for women. With chapters on network-building, office politics, money and negotiation, The Memo covers all the basics that any good business book should. Through the author’s lens, it offers support and long-overdue advice, particularly for women of color.
Racism is difficult for some people to talk about or acknowledge; consider this anti-racism 101. Ijeoma Oluo has some excellent advice for white folks in “So You Want to Talk About Race.” This book may be most helpful to people who think “I’m not racist.” Oluo addresses topics that we may hesitate to raise with our black friends, encourages us to revisit our understanding of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, and explains concepts like emotional labor and white privilege. Oluo calls the reader to move beyond talk and into action, and to use our privilege to help dismantle the systems that have done so much irreparable damage to black people and communities.
In “Talking to Strangers,” Malcolm Gladwell argues that the strategies we use to make sense of people we don’t know are ineffective and often harmful. Gladwell suggests that many of us have an inflated opinion of our ability to size people up, and studies show that most of us who encounter seemingly benevolent individuals are subject to believe that they are all genuine. Research suggests that we are not as objective as we would like to believe, and are therefore prone to misinterpret comments, intonations, facial expressions, and gestures. Additionally, we do not always realize that people whose backgrounds differ from ours may communicate in unfamiliar ways. This book helps readers to examine their first impressions and interactions with others.
To live in a country where anyone is treated less than equal or denied basic human rights is simply unacceptable. For diversity programs and initiatives to be successful, it’s vitally important that organizations proactively prioritize dismantling the barriers to inclusion within their organizations.
CoachDiversity Institute works with forward-thinking corporations, foundations, nonprofit organizations, and government entities who are ready to enrich their organization and work toward a future of success. Contact us today to learn more.