At the Rustandy Center, our hearts are heavy as we reflect on recent events and absorb the gravity of the moment our nation is in. On some level, they shine a bright light on what we already knew about discrimination and the unacceptable racial disparities that exist across our society. The senseless deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and countless others are tragic examples of well-sown, systemic wounds.
We are committed to no longer being complicit.
In times of crisis, we tend to reach for what we know. And for us, that means equipping students and alumni, as well as business and nonprofit leaders, with tools and insights to create positive change in their workplaces and in their communities. We’re proud to call Chicago’s South Side home and actively support research, programs, and class projects that engage with the issues within our diverse community. We need to do even more going forward.
Each of us can be an influence in our own world to combat racism, sexism, and discrimination—in big and small ways. As all of us think about how our individual actions will need to change, we must figure out our distinctive contribution to the world and align that with a new understanding of what the world is and can be. Together, we all can and should do better.
To help in your journey, here are some small ways we can check our own biases:
- Create space for employees to really see each other. Booth professor Marianne Bertrand’s “Field Experiments on Discrimination” shares several “de-biasing strategies.” The intergroup contact theory, for instance, poses that under appropriate conditions, interpersonal contact is one of the most effective ways to reduce prejudice. Researchers found that intergroup contact reduced prejudice in 94 percent of 515 studies reviewed. Stepping into the shoes of another person, known as perspective-taking, can also help individuals better understand the emotional impact of stereotypes.
- Recognize the psychological impact of recent events. Research shows that how organizations respond to large-scale, diversity-related events that get significant media attention can either help employees feel safe or contribute to racial identity threat and mistrust of institutions, according to a recent Harvard Business Review article by University of Virginia professor Laura Morgan Roberts and Georgetown University professor Ella F. Washington. They urge business leaders to avoid overgeneralizing when talking about race and to educate themselves without relying on minority employees to lead these efforts.
- Stand up for your colleagues right now. Duke University professor Angelica Leigh asks “How are you using your privilege to help advance equality in your community, workplace, and other organizations that you are members of?” in a recent essay, “Black lives matter: Now what?” In her research, Leigh notes the benefits of non-black people engaging in “positive deviance,” which means doing something outside organizational norms to benefit a group, like speaking up for a colleague of a different race. “Too often black people shoulder the burden of both suffering through oppression and being asked to fix it,” she writes. “I think it is long past time that we all share this burden.”
We agree. It is long past time that we all share this burden.
—Rob Gertner, Marianne Bertrand, and Christina Hachikian