COVID-19 is a Truth ExposerThe pandemic has exposed deep cracks in our systems.

I have been at home for 41 days now. Like others, I have had work paused, delayed, or outright disappear as every sector adjusts to a new COVID-19 reality. As I adjust personally, one thing about the pandemic has become clear to me — COVID-19 is a truth exposer. It is a deadly virus that is stealing our loved ones. Yet, it has also exposed the deep cracks in our institutions and the vulnerabilities in our economy.

 

Here are two other thoughts I have been sitting with, recently.

 

Inequities are showing themselves. If it wasn’t crystal clear before the pandemic, it should be now that the racial inequities that have always been there are now GLARING. I would describe them as red writing on a white backdrop — literally. For example, as schools have pivoted to virtual learning models, that comes with assumptions about equipment at home, broadband access, parent educational level, and of course — time.

Other examples: medical discrimination, the accessibility of COVID-19 tests (by race and place), weathering this financial storm, buying food after a job loss, and the demise of personal economies as we practice social distancing.

Racism in red letters on a gray nametag


What does today’s truth moment mean for racial equity at work?
At this point in the struggle, if your organization’s leaders are resisting adopting racial equity as practice. It’s will-full and intentional.  

 

The other truth?

 

White Dominant Norms Abound Inside Organizations. I believe managers assume similarity where it doesn’t exist and make universal assumptions. We are experiencing a collective trauma. Yet, we are not experiencing it together. Yes, we are in the same boat, but our oars are not the same length. Staff within organizations have differences in bandwidth, home life, and family responsibilities (both immediate and beyond). Sometimes my clients struggle to believe that their practices are rooted in dominant culture norms that reflect white supremacy. 

Think about how your workplace is functioning at this moment — around deadlines, accessibility, and time?

  1. How many Zoom calls have you hosted this week? 

  2. Is getting things done more important than acknowledging that our world is not the same as it was 4 weeks ago? 

  3. Have you checked in more about tasks this than about people and how they are doing?

These moments of high stress often clearly demonstrate that we are walking our talk OR we aren’t. Managers of people and projects, are you managing from a place of equity? I do not mean in the programmatic areas of your work. The question is referring to the internal people-centered part of management. Is there an equity perspective in that place? 

 

We need to use an equity perspective now — more than ever as we navigate this crisis. We are not in it together. 

 

Organizational leaders check in on your staff. I guarantee, they are not okay. 

Author: Joanna Shoffner Scott
Joanna Shoffner Scott is an experienced management consultant with deep expertise in racial equity. She is the founder and principal of Stamey Street Consulting Group, LLC, and is a Senior Consultant with the Race Matters Institute of JustPartners, Inc. Joanna has consulted with numerous organizations all over the country on unpacking race in their every day work.