What it Means When You Don’t Show Up

In Blog, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion by Rachel Murray

We’re at a critical inflection point in our history, and what many of us have come to realize is that it’s more important than ever to show up. The good news is that there are a lot of ways to do this. First here are some ways it can look like when you don’t show up:

  • Someone says something offensive to or about an underrepresented group or group member and you walk away
  • You ask your Black colleagues if they can help teach you and/or help you understand how to be anti-racist, be less offensive, etc.
  • You don’t attend events because you may be in the minority and worry that will be uncomfortable for you
  • You worry you’ll say the wrong thing after an important moment involving racism, so you don’t say anything at all
  • You’ll choose the person who is more like you than unlike you when you hire someone, because it’s just easier
  • You only invite people who are like you to lunch, to a meeting, to an event, because it’s more comfortable
  • You don’t engage on social media by following, retweeting, liking, and sharing the voices of those from marginalized or underrepresented groups
  • You get defensive if someone expresses concern over something you said or did that was seen as offensive
  • You don’t give that stretch assignment to an employee with a marginalized identity, and instead you give it to your work friend
  • You talk more than you listen

Here’s what it means 

Not showing up means that even if you aren’t actively taking the side of an aggressor, you are implicitly doing that by not standing up for the person being attacked (whether that attack is carried out explicitly or implicitly). It can be scary to stand up for others. And you know what? You’re right. But what’s scarier is being the person attacked. Or ignored. Or judged unfairly. So here are some simple ways you can show up for others. 

  • Educate yourself. You can use social media, read books, watch documentaries, and lately, just walk outside if you live in a city. Learn about the history of oppression in the United States. It’s a complex and incredibly challenging country, which makes it both uniquely wonderful and in some very important ways, absolutely horrific.
  • Lift people up who don’t look like you. If you’re a manager, you can offer stretch assignments to employees who have been traditionally overlooked. Endorse them publicly. If you’re a colleague, and you see someone being talked over, remind the group that they’re speaking. 
  • Consider your biases when you’re hiring, promoting, and even engaging in non-work banter. Can you have a conversation with a Black person or another person of color without you bringing up race? Can you put aside that burden on them? Imagine if you’re a white woman and a white man starts saying things like, wow, #metoo, am i right? Let’s get INTO it! And you’re just going for some coffee in the work kitchen.
  • Get out of your comfort zone. Challenge someone when they say something offensive. It doesn’t have to be aggressive. Ask them what they meant by that. If they said it was a joke, let them know it wasn’t funny. These conversations can take place in person or on the internet! (Facebook group discussion threads, anyone?) If you see someone being harassed or bullied, go up to the person who is being attacked and ignore the bully. Physically stand with or in front of (shielding) the other person. Go to a protest or rally (with a mask, now, though please) and physically show your support.

We hope you find this helpful and if you want to learn more ways to show up, reach out to us anytime.