“Happy Black History Month!” Sometimes white people tiptoe around saying that. Wish you didn’t have to say it? Well, think about how black people feel. They probably don’t want to say it either. They probably wish that we learned about the history of everyone in this nation including African Americans. But nay, as a country we have failed to teach all of our country’s history, and so the very least that we can do is celebrate Black History Month. It’s a start. “But Kylie, how can you say that we failed at teaching this stuff?” Well, friend, I used to be a history teacher.
How can white people do better at promoting Black History Month in the workplace? If you are a leader, even without the title, then you have a responsibility to do so. Here are some ideas:
- Say, “Happy Black History Month.” Seriously, it’s a great way to start.
- Send an email to your team celebrating Black History Month. Even if you don’t have any African Americans that work for you, with you, or in your company.
- Learn the history of Black History Month. The History Channel makes this easy in this short video.
- Embrace it. Don’t just accept that we have to take a month out of the year to celebrate black history. Enter a long term relationship with Black History Month, so that it infiltrates the whole year for you. Need ideas? The NAACP made an easy list for you.
- Educate. For the past five years, I have sent an email to teams that I have led reminding them of Black History Month, educating them on the history, and urging them to embrace diversity. This short little lesson on microaggressions is a great conversation starter.
- Examine your organization’s recruiting efforts. Do you focus on people that look like you, or have a similar background? If so, mix it up. A great place to start to find African American talent is by connecting with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).
- Analyze your company. February is an excellent time to look at the distribution of talent within your organization. Is your workforce 70 African American, but your leadership is only 10 percent? Red flag. Stand up and say something about it.
This list is only 7 things, and I recognize that it is not exhaustive– however, it’s a heck of a start. Don’t be afraid of Black History Month. Everyone in the country has a right to dive in and celebrate it. In addition, I encourage you all to take the time to self examine the ways that you validate people of color every single day.
What’s the right way for a white person to celebrate Black History Month? By celebrating it.
Kylie Quetell is an Organizational Development professional, focusing on people, strategy, and process (notice that “people” is listed first). She is a Chief Operating Officer and a phenomenal public speaker, coach, and leader. She holds a Masters Degree in Educational Leadership and certifications in Leadership Development and Change Management.
Kylie was formally a national champion rugby player, and has coached high school and women’s club sports. She has also volunteered her time working with Veterans and for environmental causes.
A Maine native, Kylie brings a love for salty language to her current home in Metro Detroit where she lives with her wife, dog, and cat.