Some Anti-Racism is Like Lipstick on a Pig, Part 2

Papering over the cracks with performative anti-racism “action”

Hello friends,

In my last newsletter, I shared some of the examples of performative anti-racism I’ve seen in the past year or so. Here are a few more.

Hiring Black support staff but no Black execs

I recently saw a diversity chart for a typical organization. It showed that even though the company had a decent percentage of Black and Brown hires, none of them were in top management or the C-Suite. There were a couple in middle management, but most were at the bottom rung of the company. There are so many problems with that.

For a Black person looking from the outside that says there’s no room for them to move up, which means you don’t attract the best candidates. But it also means your perspectives are monolithic, which is bad for creativity, productivity and profit. Blind hiring and recruitment from non-standard candidate pools could address that.

Using white women as your evidence of diversity

I’d never fully realized that women counted as “diversity hires”. (I don’t like that term, but work with me.) That meant that laws meant to level the playing field for Black and Brown people got more white women hired. And many them pulled the trapdoor shut behind them (orange man voters I’m looking at you). I’m a feminist, and I love to see women get hired at all levels, but what about Black women, and what about Black men?

Taking programs off air instead of diversifying your program makers

There were TV shows made in the 60s, 70s, 80s and beyond that have questionable racial politics when we look at them now. Some of them can be saved (with a content warning); some are beyond redemption. But when we were looking for you to do something, we weren’t really talking about canceling all the shows. Instead, we’d like to see more Black and Brown program makers telling our stories and telling stories that include us.

Getting upset when people point out racism instead of at racist behavior

I’ll never understand why for some people conversation stops when you - a Black person - point out racism. All of a sudden global minority people are in their feelings because they figure you’re singling them out. As they used to say on the playground, “she who smelt it, dealt it”. I don’t usually name names, so I’m usually talking about situations in general rather than specific people. That said, I’m still mystified about why actual racist behavior doesn’t attract as much aggravation as calling it out.

Using signs and slogans alone rather than making change

Signs and slogans can help to rally people to a cause, for sure, but if all you’re doing is reposting a sign, is it enough? I don’t think so. How are you using those words as a catalyst for change?

Talking without investing time and money in true change

Companies, I’m looking at you. There’s a lot of talk, and there are a lot of committees. Often these are stalling tactics meant to delay real change. In my book, it’s better to take at least one step to fighting racism, then another, then another, and to put your money where your mouth is if you’re really serious about it.

Making your model minority your evidence

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: parading your one staff member who’s Black, Indigenous or a Person of Color isn’t evidence of a commitment to anti-racism. Believe me, we know better, and can figure out if you still have work to do while you’re trumpeting your diversity efforts publicly. And we’ll look beyond the optics to see if your actions match up.

Paying lip service to better algorithms

I mentioned it last time, but it’s worth mentioning again. Even as social media sites say they are committed to showcasing and supporting Black voices, their algorithms tell a different story. If the racists have free rein, when the anti-racists are shadow banned and banned outright, then that’s definitely lipstick on a pig.

This isn’t an exhaustive list, by any means. What acts of performative antiracism or performative allyship have you seen? How would you like to see people do better? Let’s discuss, and learn and grow together.

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Thanks for reading,


© Sharon Hurley Hall, 2021. All Rights Reserved.

Cover photo courtesy of Canva.

I am an anti-racism writer, a professional B2B writer and blogger, and co-host of The Introvert Sisters podcast. If you value my perspective, please consider upgrading to a paid subscription.