Begin with showing people of color your anti-racist framework.

Your organization just had a meeting on diversity, and your HR department has decided to hire a person of color, or two or three. Heck, maybe they've even decided to diversify the board! That sounds promising doesn't it? Well, no, not really.

I call hiring work like this the "Obama Delusion," - yer know, that racism is over because America has elected a Black President. Oh yes, I can feel the eye-rolls from white progressives permeating my screen at this moment. So if we're able to grasp the concept that racism is clearly still prevalent despite having a black president, why don't we feel the same about our hiring practices in our organizations? 

Hiring one or two people of color does not give your organization a pass at using the words "diversity", "anti-oppression" and "anti-racist" to describe your organization. For many organizations and individuals, equity and anti-oppression work begins in part, to keep up with the changing demographics of the world, and remain competitive. That's a great start, however authentic equity work requires a paradigm shift away from extrinsic gain to the intrinsic need for justice and liberation. 

Historically and at present, communities of color have had their cultures appropriated within the arts, and their work exploited in wages etc . So to expect these communities to now leverage your reputation, funding, and audience growth, without developing an internal anti-oppression and anti-racist framework, is to perpetuate oppression. Here's a good question to ask yourself, "why is it that you want people of color on your team?" The problems facing arts organizations right now is a result of years of institutional inequities caused by people in power, and the solution isn't to get people of color to solve this problem for you. If this is a priority for your organization, begin by developing an anti-racist framework, and an inclusive organizational culture first. This work takes effort and time, it may take years before any real change materializes; only the organizations that truly possess an intrinsic need to serve their community will retain people of color, and attract diverse communities. To throw another curve ball, hiring and retention should never be your end goal. You want these communities to enjoy working at your organization, and actually take on leadership positions.

So right now, you may be asking, what's in it for me? Well, developing a self-aware and inclusive organizational culture doesn't just benefit people of color, it actually benefits everyone at your organization. When you have a mission-driven team who enjoy coming to work, they begin to develop a sense of accountability to your organization, and to the communities you're seeking to serve. 
 

Stay tuned for my next post "Developing an anti-racist framework"