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How can you be an ally against racial discrimination at work?

You’d never dream of engaging in racial discrimination yourself — but you’d like to do more. That’s where being an ally can make all the difference.

Allies help stop discrimination and harassment from the outside. While not part of a community that’s being subjected to discrimination, allies provide essential support — and can help change situations for the better.

So, how can you be a good ally to your co-workers of color and help change your workplace — and the world — for the better? Here are some suggestions:

  1. Pay attention. Conscious awareness of the issues that are affecting minority communities both in and out of your community makes it easier to understand the pressures your co-workers are facing.
  2. Be open to new information. You may make mistakes as you try to offer support. If you do, remember that listening — and a sincere apology, when warranted — can go a long way.
  3. Speak out against racism when you see it happening. You don’t want to speak for the victims, so focus on speaking about your own feelings and perceptions instead. You can say, for example, “I don’t appreciate that kind of humor,” in response to a racist joke.
  4. Ask questions that quietly challenge racist attitudes and actions. For example, if you hear someone say something obliquely racist, you can respond by saying something like, “What do you mean by that?” Sometimes, that’s enough to make it clear that discriminatory comments aren’t acceptable.

It can be difficult — and very uncomfortable — to challenge someone who is acting in a discriminatory manner. Behavioral health professionals recommend that you challenge the behavior rather than the person in order to minimize conflicts.

Ultimately, combating racism and discrimination in the workplace is everyone’s responsibility. Allies can help make a difference in the battle.

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