Silence Is Acceptance: HR Cannot Avoid Talking About the Black Experience

“There can be no movement without friction.” – Marc Perry

Nothing I say here is going to be new. It isn’t going to be earth shattering. It isn’t going to be profound. But it is all something that I need to say.

I had wrote an article about how silence is acceptance when it comes to discussing mental health in the workplace. Now, I expand upon those themes here under a different context.

Those familiar with the DISC personality assessment will understand. There are four personalities according to the theory. D – Dominance, I – Influencer, S – Steady, and C – Conscientious.

I am an “S.” Those with this persuasion generally avoid confrontation if possible. They generally disdain combative situations, and do their best to ensure that things stay smooth and comfortable.

Talking about the Black Experience in America is the complete opposite of what a typical S would want to do, which is something, regrettably, I have done far too often.

One of my biggest professional regrets was not calling out someone I used to trust and look up to when this person made a blatantly racist comment in an attempt to justify not hiring a young black man for a position. I was gob smacked. I didn’t know what to do. So, shamefully, I did nothing but walk away.

That experience haunts me to this day. I wish I did more. I was silent in the face of racism, so racism won. It was accepted.

This past week has crushed my soul. Every time I see that monster kneeling on George Floyd, I picture a lion crushing a gazelle’s windpipe in its mouth. A lion, however, isn’t killing out of hatred.

Despite my sorrow, it pales in comparison to the pain, anger, and suffering every single black person who lives in America today has experienced and is experiencing. This scene has been part of their daily lives for far too long.

Trayvon Martin. Eric Garner. Michael Brown. John Crawford. Laquan McDonald. Ahmaud Arbery. Breonna Taylor. George Floyd. So many other.

All of these black men (and children and women) should be alive today. None of them are. America is sick. It’s been sick for a long time, and its sickness has little to do with COVID-19.

I have thought about my failure a lot this week, and how I make amends for it. I’m overwhelmed. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to help.

Not knowing what to do cannot be an excuse. I must do something. I have to start somewhere.

And, thankfully, I know where to start – I will start by eschewing my comfort and begin speaking out. I cannot continue being silent. I cannot let my own desire for comfort overpower what is right. Right is might, and might is needed now more than ever before.

This is my promise to my black friends, my black colleagues, my black coworkers. I will speak out when I see racism. I will confront it head on. You have an ally in me.

But I will not stop there. I will continue learning. I will continue engaging in conversation. I will ACT.

I will act where I can, but I will begin in my place of work. That is where I can have an impact right away. Being an HR Director affords me an opportunity to advocate at the workplace for black employees. I will look to empower black Americans in the workplace.

I won’t stop there. I will raise my son to be better than me, braver than me, so that eventually one day, he won’t look back at a moment in time he failed to combat racism.

White Americans, I know we can do better. We must be better. We can’t afford not to be.

If you are struggling with where to start, please see the following resources. I have used them to learn and force myself to become uncomfortable. The only way to move forward is to create friction within myself and with others when necessary. There is no movement, without friction.

Please read this entire thread… Dr. Erin Thomas gave a brilliant synopsis of what we need to do.

https://tatianamac.com/posts/save-the-tears/

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1BRlF2_zhNe86SGgHa6-VlBO-QgirITwCTugSfKie5Fs/mobilebasic

Black Americans, I see you. I hear you. I will fight with you. I promise to not walk away from the face of racism again. You deserve better. Your children deserve better. Please know I am trying. I will continue to do what I can to the best of my abilities — despite it making me uncomfortable — or maybe because of it. I know then that something is working.

Published by Paul LaLonde

Husband. Father. Passionate about HR, helping people, and doing the right thing. Also, heavy metal, craft beer, and general nerd things! #SHRM19Blogger. Find me on Twitter at @HRPaul49 and LinkedIn. Thoughts, views and opinions on this site are solely my own and do not represent those of my employer or any other entity ​with which I have been, am now, or will be affiliated.

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