by Alondra De Leon
In the weeks that followed the resurgence of social justice demonstrations and the spotlight that has been cast on race and racism since this past summer, many of us felt like the scab had been pulled off an old wound. The focus has been on the Black Lives Matter movement, but the introspection also extended to groups such as indigenous people and people of color. This has presented an opportunity for many Hispanic/Latinx communities to share our experiences, advance the discussion and contribute to solving the problem for all.
The sense of urgency to address race and racism in all aspects of life has transcended race, ethnicity, age, and social status. Its power burst the seams of the well knitted fabric of the workplace. The days of leaving those conversations at the doorstep of the workplace have been replaced by many organizations doubling down on their efforts to bring about changes to address implicit bias and racism in their practice and culture. As a woman of color, I felt compelled to be part of that necessary change. As a leader of a Hispanic/Latinx ERG, I felt responsible to do so. But how does one approach issues that make most of us uncomfortable? The answer is by getting used to being uncomfortable.
When discussing with fellow employee resource group leaders and stakeholders the proposal to use our platform to host a company-wide discussion about race and racism in the Hispanic community, the outpouring of support from senior leadership was unparalleled. No fancy pitch needed; no business case necessary. Hispanics Organizing Leaders @ Gilbane ([email protected]) invited its members to participate in what we named “Let’s Talk About Race,” open forum discussions aimed at offering an outlet for our stories to be shared on how we have experienced race, discrimination and microaggressions in our lives.
The ability to have these challenging conversations in a productive and solution-seeking approach has allowed for these realities to be heard with empathy, thereby upholding one of Gilbane’s core values: caring. [email protected] members and allies alike have had the courage to enter a place of vulnerability, speaking with candor, respect and civility which has felt like the best therapy and a necessary exercise to bring about meaningful change. In a time when leaving race and ethnicity at the door has not felt like an option, “Let’s Talk About Race” has served as a platform for those conversations to proactively take place at the workplace.
As we cross the threshold of a new year, [email protected] aspires to continue to create programming to support our social, business and educational goals while maintaining our vision to foster a place of belonging for Latinx at Gilbane. If 2020 pulled the scab off the wound, 2021 and the years ahead promise the purposeful pursuit of moving the needle forward in the inclusion space for our talented Latinx employees throughout our company and the industry. We have also crossed an important threshold in the fight for social justice and advancement of people of marginalized backgrounds. We have learned that walking into vulnerable situations using strategies that turn discomfort into a strength can bring productive results. Using our collective voices and that of our allies, we have taken significant steps to create meaningful impact, beyond checking the inclusion box.
Alondra De Leon is a project manager with Gilbane Building Company.