Better Together: Making Sense of the National Conversation on Black Lives Matter and What It Means to Be Black in Corporate America

The past couple of weeks have been challenging; as a black woman in corporate America you go through a lot of different emotions — worry, frustration, disappointment, hope. I constantly worry about my younger brother who is a black man. And my two-year-old nephew, who I hope that, by the time he’s of age, doesn’t have to go through the social injustice we’re experiencing today. I also think of my amazing father, who has been fighting since he came to the US 35 years ago. And I think about my close male friends who are black. And I can’t forget about my male black coworkers. If I’m concerned and frustrated, I can only imagine how they’re feeling: to wake up and be targeted because of the color of their skin.

It’s not fair. At times, life just isn’t fair. The title of this blog is making sense of the national conversation on Black Lives Matter. But the truth is: There is really no sense to be made for something that’s so senseless.

What Is Black Lives Matter

The Black Lives Matter movement is more than just protests. It’s about creating equities in the fabric of our country and bringing awareness and change against violence and systemic racism toward black people. For me, that encompasses how we fix our broken justice system, how we create better educational opportunities, and importantly, how we hire, retain and promote black people in corporate America.

Historically, change happens when we amplify each other’s voices. Today, that means becoming allies with our non-black friends — not just at work, but when they’re among their non-black friends and family. I truly believe we can change America’s issue with systemic racism — but only if we all work together as allies — black, white, yellow, brown, purple, whatever color your skin.

How You Can Elevate the Conversation

I understand it might be uncomfortable for many to talk about this. But imagine how much discomfort the black community has been experiencing, not just today or this week, but for decades. I do know that lasting and beautiful transformations happen when we all get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

  1. Leaders, check on your black employees.

My boss, peers and top-line leaders reached out to me this week and it meant so much. It’s helping me push through the pain, anger and fear that I’m experiencing. I have black friends whose manager, or company, haven’t even addressed the issue and are conducting “business as usual.” I am fortunate. It becomes detrimental to mental well-being and productivity when managers are silent and do not address the current situation. It’s also concerning. Please check-in with your black team members. We are not okay right now.

If your company has resources available to assist your black employees, like EAP, legal assistance, or simply allowing them to take a mental or wellness day off, please make sure you offer it to them.

  1. Show kindness and empathy.

Kindness is the quality of being friendly, generous and considerate. And empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

It’s easy to confuse empathy with sympathy, which is the feeling of pity or sorrow for someone else’s misfortune. It’s the difference of a hug (empathy) and a handshake (sympathy.) For lasting change, we need to allow ourselves to be vulnerable and empathetic — and with this comes honesty and authentic connections.

As you check-in with your black team members, peers, colleagues and friends, start the conversation from a place of empathy. Be honest if you don’t know where to begin. And, most importantly, create the space to listen. Actively listen to understand and know that not having words to respond is 100% okay. Listening to understand is a great first step.

  1. Be open to unlearning and relearning.

Black people, especially black women, have been leading the fight against racism for decades. Everyone needs to listen to the voices of these activists, parents, artists and educators — and they must be willing to unlearn a lifetime worth of bias to relearn and contribute to the change that’s necessary. It’s not the black community’s responsibility to serve as your private mentor or tutor. It’s your responsibility to be resourceful and educate yourself.

Allies and the Future

Professionally, I would love to see these conversations being brought to the table — with more of us hired, retained and represented in leadership roles. Not because the color of our skin, but because we are the most qualified candidates, hard workers who deliver results and are sought after.

I would love for people to feel comfortable having these conversations and bringing awareness to the systemic issues we face. And I want us all to come together — blacks, whites, people of all color — to brainstorm on how we can take action, with both short- and long-term goals. We need our allies, but we also need them to self-educate on the issues and challenges that we, as black people, face. We need our allies to take educated action and be advocates in rooms where we’re not in… yet.

The days and weeks ahead will be more telling and important than the days behind us. I’ve already seen some quick and reassuring measures that my CEO and leadership have taken this week to open up the conversation and to bring ideas from within our Genesys black community, allies and global peers.

The definition of Moments Connected is being delivered, and it feels good to be a black woman working here at Genesys. I have hope that, with the amount of support I have personally experienced and the momentum I have witnessed among my peers, change will happen. I understand it won’t happen in a day. But we, at Genesys, are proactively taking the steps in the right direction. Not everyone will feel the same way, but I truly believe we have enough people to move the needle. I choose to put my focus and energy there. The great Martin Luther King, Jr said, “We cannot walk alone.” And I look forward to walking with my One Genesys family.