written by
Michele Heyward

How To Discuss Racial Injustice At Workplace?

WocInSTEM Anti-racism DiversityandInclusion 4 min read
“Talking about race in the workplace is hard. White people often do not want to say anything because they don’t want to say something that can paint them as racist. Black, Indigenous, and other people of color do not want to sound like they are complaining or risk their jobs, so they stay quiet.”

Talking about racial justice or injustices has far-reaching consequences in any organization. If not done right, it can further estrange people of color, especially black people. If done right, these conversations can prove to be liberating and help people with diversified backgrounds connect on a better level. In any case, the time for organizations to start paying attention to and talking about racial injustice and inequity in the workplace. The senior management, mid-level managers, and the C-suite executives have to take the initiative to enable a more inclusive work environment for their diverse employees.

To get started, you’ll be guided through suggestions, considerations, and options; companies must keep in mind while talking about race at the workplace:


The conversations surrounding racial injustice require the ability to brave through discomfort, honor each other’s feelings, respect each other’s opinions, and express views without judgment. So, the first thing any organization needs to do is investigate its culture and assess its values. While investigating your organization’s culture you’ll need to include not only employees but customers and vendors' assessments of your culture. This is especially important for supplier diversity and the growing interest and support of ESGs by Generation Z.

Then, when there is a norm of open conversations and constructive feedback, the employees will find it easy to talk about racial injustice. Otherwise, there is a need to instill organizational values, principles, and culture. This would require engaging employees in readiness workshops, exploring the concepts like growth mindset, and learning how to listen actively.

The second step would be to equip managers and leaders to manage these conversations’ emotions and issues. They should be well-versed in learning to reframe or pause the talks when they are not context-appropriate. Moreover, there should be coaching for individuals who require further support, especially those affected by race discrimination the most.


When discussing racial injustice, it is essential to have a skilled facilitator. With the help of a professional, there is an increased likelihood of black employees and other employees of color sharing their experiences with white people in having open conversations. It is also significant to have a facilitator onboard because discussions like these can easily be mishandled or misunderstood. Companies can easily hire external support with the lived experience of racism to support these conversations with honesty, credibility, sensitivity, and confidentiality.

Another important thing is to create an environment that doubles up as a safe space for all employees to be seen, heard, and respected. Black and other minority team members should feel safe to share lived experiences and world views, while white team members should seek understanding, empathy, and conscious awareness of the part they have or might have played in it.


Acknowledge, listen, and learn. This should be the mantra of white leaders and employees when engaging with racial injustice conversations in the workplace. White leaders may want to acknowledge their privilege when they learn more about the experiences of their black and people of color counterparts. Still, it is also vital not to center the discussion around them. They play a critical role in initiating crucial conversations about race in the company. Hence, allowing employees of color to talk about their experiences openly should take priority.

White leaders and employees should start by acknowledging that they have benefited from white privilege. Opening sensitive conversations with “I’m sorry” is always an excellent way to make racially discriminated people feel valued. Second, they should listen to their BIPOC colleagues and help them amplify their voices. Using phrases like “I’m listening, I hear you, I’m acknowledging ??” helps strengthen the racial narratives. Finally, showing the willingness to educate on dismantling biases, prejudice, and internal discrimination should take a front seat. Openly acknowledging that “I’m learning, I’m actively listening” can help create a better atmosphere and open & honest conversations.


It is initially tough for white people to confront their privilege. When someone aggrieved by systemic racism shares their experiences, listeners might become defensive or tend to compare it to their knowledge, which might be hard but necessarily does not have a parallel with racial discrimination. This is the biggest mistake resulting in microaggressions and racism. Do not do it and do not allow other white employees to engage in it. Instead, be open and listen to others with an open mind. Take their experiences in and learn from them.

The leaders should also ensure that the purpose of open and honest dialogue surrounding racism is discussion and not conflict or debate. There should be rules with specific racist terminologies and points of discussion as completely no-go zones. Do not let anyone feel invalidated after they share their experiences, and there should be no counterarguments and perceptions at all.

“In the end, set goals and honor feedback. Treat open discussions of racism the same way you would for any important team meeting or discussion surrounding job performance. There should be one goal, and that is zero tolerance for injustice, racism, discrimination, and bias in the workplace.”
Women of Color in STEM Diversity and Inclusion