It’s no secret that everything that is happening in the world right now is impacting us all in various ways. From processing the physical, social and emotional impacts of the pandemic to processing the trauma happening both inside and outside of our country – a communal sense of heaviness continues to blanket so many people. 

While some of these events impact us all, many of these issues have a greater impact on certain groups of people than others. For many Black and brown individuals – the greater impact is in fact one that is centered on what it feels like to be a constant target by both whiteness and white supremacy. 

In most cases, if one is not BIPOC (Black, Indigenous People of Color), it might feel like there is a sense of urgency to discuss or process out the multitudes of both physical and emotional trauma that comes with being marginalized in America. However, it’s important to understand that when wanting to process the experiences that BIPOC communities face, we must be aware that said discussions come with a few elements of responsibility. 

We may not want to talk about it and that is okay. Since the dawn of time, it feels like Black and brown communities have been dealing with one triggering issue after another. If it is not processing the historical pain that comes with being a Black or brown person in America, it’s the constant fear or feeling that they will end up being another name that someone must remember. 

For that, many Black and brown people carry a hefty amount of anxiety and sometimes the last thing they might want to do is acknowledge or talk about the pain they carry. More often than not, Black and brown people might be fearful when openly discussing their emotions in the workplace for a variety of reasons, including the fear that it might sour working relationships or potential partnerships.

Sometimes, Black and brown people don’t have the words to describe the frustration or anger/rage they feel (often all at once). It’s about capacity – capacity that we often don’t have time or resources to properly unpack. 

Create space and know you might not be included. One of the best things that any white peer can do in the workplace is make time/space for people to process their feelings in community/solidarity (It’s also okay to tell your peers to stay home and find that community, but we will talk more about that in a minute). 

Going back to this idea of safety – talking about honest thoughts and feelings in mixed company can do more harm than good. In moments like these where Black and brown people are processing emotions from the constant trauma they are faced with, they don’t need to be reminded that they lack privilege. For many Black and brown people –  part of the healing process is being around those with the same lived experience who know and can fully understand what shared trauma looks like. Sometimes we just need to be in the room with those who have the same lived experience to know that we are seen and that our feelings are in fact valid. 

Talking about it is hard. Do it anyway. One of the most common statements made by white people when in positions of power is that they don’t know what to do or what to say when terrible things happen outside the workplace to marginalized people. But not talking about it can cause greater harm than not. 

Thus, it’s important to create space for the conversation and then take a step back to listen to the needs of your Black and brown colleagues. A simple email that states, “I recognize that a lot is going on – let me know what you need” notes that you are paying attention to the needs of marginalized colleagues. In simply saying that – you are acknowledging your privilege. 

Some people might not respond and some people may not like the response – but in moments like this we are all learning. It is better to do something and learn from it then not and continue to create a culture that ignores the pain of your marginalized staff. 

Lead with intention. One of the most common (and important) proverbs that we can live by is that people often remember more of what you do, rather than what you say. In the matter of talking to and helping them process, the most important thing to remember is to be intentional. 

Intention can look like a lot of things, but more than anything, it’s checking in with yourself about what can look and feel like performance vs. what is a genuine concern for the overall health of your Black and brown colleagues. Hence, the idea of creating space at work is fine – but also telling them to stay home or providing the option to work half day from home/a mental health day can speak volumes. 

In addition to looking out for your Black and brown colleagues, another way to be intentional is to begin having conversations with your white peers about what they can do both in and out of the organization to make sure that Black and brown people feel supported in the workplace. This can be having conversations on racial bias, microaggressions or how to manage and navigate white privilege in the organization. 

All of these things, tied together with the understanding that “with great power comes great responsibility” is what can help make the check in process a little bit easier.


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