I’ve had an angry week. Some of the anger is directed at parts of day-to-day life that don’t matter much in the bigger picture. Some of the anger is resentment that’s resurfaced from situations I thought I’d already dealt with. And then there’s the outrage I’ve been feeling about bigger issues. Depending how you’re feeling these days, you might not want to read any further.
When I say “bigger issues”, I include the discovery of 215 little bodies. I hate that word for this situation: “discovery”. One of the things I’m angry about is that it’s taken ground-penetrating radar for many to believe something that others have been describing for generations. It feels similar to what I recently wrote about how it shouldn’t take a murder being video-recorded to prove mistreatment.
This past week has also ripped the scab off a recurring frustration I have with companies and other organizations that make grand, sweeping statements. I am so tired of statements designed to look like meaningful change. But Kelli, you say, these statements help show solidarity and raise awareness, and they signal that we can talk about social issues at work and in other settings.
Sure. Maybe that’s the intention. And if/when that happens, great! But how often does the intention match the reality? Here are some questions I’d like to ask the companies whose statements are in my inbox and plastered across the internet:
If you make a public statement about a race-related murder(s), is it because everyone else appears to be doing it? Or is it because you actually have sincere concern? When will you make your next statement? Which kinds of human-inflicted horror will prompt you to comment or not comment?
If you put out a statement last year that Black Lives Matter, what have you done to demonstrate that belief in the months since?
If you celebrate International Women’s Day, do the women in your company get promoted (and demoted) based on the same criteria as men?
If you’re talking up June as Pride month, what are you actually doing – aside from hoping to make extra money on rainbow-wrapped products?
If you put out a statement on Kamloops this week – or say something about it being National Indigenous History Month – how are you supporting Indigenous employees? Do you have any Indigenous employees? If the answer is no, or there are only a few, have you seriously considered the history contributing to that situation?
These questions can also be applied to individuals.
We wave a rainbow flag, or we wear an orange shirt, or we change our profile pics to a black square. Great. Then what?
If we can wear an orange shirt, we can also talk about residential schools with friends and family – even if it’s not previously been the norm around our dinner tables. We can reach out to Indigenous people in our lives, even when we don’t know the “right” words and without expecting them to make us feel better about ourselves for doing so. We can support our Indigenous colleagues to be heard in a meeting. We can donate money to the charities supporting residential school survivors. When we hear an Indigenous language, watch a jingle dance, or see a ribbon skirt, we can feel wowed by the strength it took for culture to live on despite many attempts to snuff it out.
We can aim to be kind, caring humans…even when our employers don’t put out an “official” statement about it. Some of my most impactful learning has come from opportunities facilitated by my employer. At the same time, we don’t need a public relations department to show we care. And I hope one day we won’t need to see proof of horrors either.