06/05/2020|Inside Verizon

Go further than being an ally, be an accomplice for a change.

Willie Jackson, a Diversity & Inclusion expert, joins us for Wellness Friday to discuss how to have difficult conversations during this time.

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If you are looking to start a discussion on race with a colleague or friend, here’s a toolkit with resources to help get the conversation going.


If the events of the last two weeks have you asking, “What can I do to help?”, you’re not alone. Broaching these topics in the workplace is not easy and requires some preparation. For today’s Wellness Friday, Diana Alvear spoke with Willie Jackson, a consultant and facilitator with Ready Set about why it’s not enough to be an ally, it’s more effective to embrace being an accomplice for change.

Accomplices put allyship into action.

First, let’s define allyship: An ally is someone who isn’t part of a marginalized group but who supports that group actively. That’s a good start, but Jackson said what matters is putting that allyship into action, aiding efforts to support marginalized groups..

“What we’re inviting people to do is re-imagine how they’re activating their allyship, to make it less of an identity and more of an active partnership with someone that might need your support, that might benefit from your privilege or that might need your support in that moment.”

It could mean speaking up when you hear someone say something inflammatory, or when you witness a colleague get talked over or passed over in a meeting. Maybe you’re the person who said something that upset someone, so instead of getting defensive, you listen to and learn from the other party, thereby opening up space for dialogue.

Even better is taking action to create more opportunities or a more equitable environment for everyone, especially marginalized groups. Jackson often cites the story of actress Octavia Spencer partnering with her colleague Jessica Chastain that resulted in a bigger paycheck for them both. It’s an example of putting allyship into action that creates a net positive impact for everyone.

It starts at the top.

In order for this to happen, Jackson said it’s crucial for the support and space to come from the top. “It’s one thing to put out a statement saying, we stand with protestors. It is yet another thing to take a look inward and say what am I doing to measurably and appreciably address the concerns these folks are saying. How am I addressing this in how I am hiring, how am I looking at the demographic composition of my team and bringing it into parity with the US population?”

Accomplices don’t have all the answers.

It’s important to note, said Jackson, that this is tough work and you’re not going to get it right every time. “The unfortunate reality is that when people have tried to broach the topic and it has gone poorly, they shut down and say, ‘I’m never doing that again.’ We have to give each other and ourselves grace and compassion to mess it up. What we really need is the grace to say, ‘I see your effort, I acknowledge your effort, I acknowledge your harm.’ We all can do that.”

Do your homework.

It helps to do your homework prior to having these conversations. We’ve assembled a comprehensive toolkit for you to listen, learn and prepare to engage in this type of dialogue. It’s hard work, but it’s the work that will create a more just and equitable world and workplace for everyone. It’s as simple as reading books and watching movies. “Just Mercy” is one of many films that help us understand our nation’s past and some of the injustices that led us to where we are today. The film is available to watch on Fios at no cost for the rest of the month, so we encourage you to watch that film as well as a collection of other similar movies that shed light on this subject and help everyone gain a better understanding.

For more on Willie Jackson and his work, please visit him on LinkedIn.

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