Many challenges face those who endeavor to incorporate an antiracist perspective into the executive management of health and human service organizations, but the benefits of embarking upon this path are compelling. As Scott Page (2008) has pointed out, “What each of us has to offer, what we can contribute to the vibrancy of our world, depends on our being different in some way, in having combinations of perspectives, interpretations, heuristics, and predictive models that differ from those of others. These differences aggregate into a collective ability that exceeds what we possess individually” (p. 374). As the demographic shifts in the United States point toward a more and more diverse population, the need for culturally competent, race-sensitive practices in human service organizations grows (U.S. Census Bureau, 2012). The necessity of this work has been articulated by many organizations in many different forms. In an article for the New Social Worker, Barbara Trainin Blank (2006) noted, “The social workers and social work educators we interviewed indicated that while there has been some progress, the problem still exists—albeit in changed ways. They feel that reduced vigilance and a sense of satisfaction are premature.”

While deliberation on such practices is helpful, organizations must go further to engage in action. Action plans may include the assessment of white privilege within the organization as well as intentional efforts to engage both staff and board members who mirror the populations of the communities being served. Trennerry and Paradies (2012, p. 22), drawing on the work of Ahmed (2006), have noted:

In embarking on an organizational assessment, there is a need to ensure that findings from such assessments inform rather than replace action. Just because an organization is committed to being a diverse organization does not necessarily mean that they are one (Ahmed, 2006). Reflecting on developments in the U.K., where public bodies are required to have a race equality and action plan, Ahmed notes that the process of developing race-equality policies “quickly got translated into being good at race equality.” Similarly, in undertaking an organizational assessment, what is essential then is not the process itself but the action that it generates. Accountability is therefore at the heart of this disjuncture between assessment, policy and practice.

Identifying manifestations of white privilege may require surveying staff at all different levels of the organization. Many scholars (DeAngelis, 2009; Hunter, 2011; Sue, 2010) have documented manifestations ofwhite privilege in organizations, which frequently include instances related to the work culture. This may include the unspoken expectation of a white, European racial worldview in the workplace; microaggressions impacting professional identity, such as a majority white voice prevailing in case disposition discussions, even when the client is a person of color; agency systems that include disproportional white leadership in positions of power; professional opportunities such as promotions influenced by an “old boys” network; and client care where white staff may serve clients of color but the reverse may not often be true.

It would be unreasonable for two white male authors to embark upon a chapter about antiracist work in organizational leadership without first acknowledging the white privilege underlying this endeavor. The mere fact that we have held executive-level positions in large human service agencies already demonstrates the access to power and educational opportunities that have arisen from white privilege. Along the way, there have been numerous other manifestations of white privilege that valued our experience and background and paved the path for higher levels of responsibility. We acknowledge this privilege and the need to defer to the expertise of executives of color in our field; we share our perspective in the hopes that white people talking about and taking responsibility to integrate an antiracist approach into executive and board leadership will convey a useful perspective and, we hope, broaden the commitment of others to this important work.

As we know from the literature on change management (Gamson, 1992; Kotter, 2012; Lewin, 1945, 1951), effective change begins with a sense ofurgency arising from dissatisfaction with the status quo. If an organization wants to maintain or grow “market share” and address emerging health and human service issues, then it is important to recognize the issues of the growing communities of color across the country.

In many cases, organizations that consider issues ofbecoming more culturally competent and race sensitive also need to reflect not only on the configuration of their staff but also the recruitment and retention efforts that allow staff to better mirror and articulate the racial and ethnic backgrounds ofthe communities being served. Bringing staff members into a work environment where they represent a small contingent of the overall workforce will present challenges. How does a staff member bring her or his authentic self into the workplace? Will that person's voice be heard in programmatic and clinical discussions if he or she brings a different perspective, or even a divergent view, from that of the dominant culture? Is there room at the decision-making table for people from diverse backgrounds, or are decisions still made by a homogenous (or at least not fully inclusive) subgroup of the organization's workforce? What are the implications for retention when someone is “the only” of his or her race in the room or part of too small a group to have a seat at the table? Creating a revolving door of entering/departing people of color is not an answer to the challenge of diversifying a workforce; in fact, it may be counterproductive to those goals.

Human service agencies are practiced in seeking broad input when it comes to decision making, albeit in arenas that are more clinical than administrative in nature. For example, while not analogous to the power dynamic and historical context ofoppression, other recent shifts in human service organizations—such as multidisciplinary team conferencing, interdisciplinary clinical decision making, and the shift in mental health from the expert-to-patient relationship of clinicians toward a client-driven, recovery-based approach to service delivery—required a multipronged effort to educate staff, recognize and address the (perceived) loss of power of the privileged staff, and create feedback channels so that progress could be monitored. In human services, the concept and value of multidisciplinary or interdisciplinary teams—social workers, medical doctors, nurses, psychologists, counselors, direct care staff, family members, peers, and clients—is now widely accepted (0vretveit, 1993; Schofield & Amodeo, 1999). But the understanding that these teams should also include cross-racial, cross-cultural, cross-class, and cross-gender representation is not yet as accepted.

Workplaces need to prepare to be more inclusive by rethinking how—and by whom—decisions are made. Embracing the views of an oppressed group may not be possible, however, until public consciousness is raised about the history of injustice and racism to which many clients and staff members have been and still are subjected. In his book Erasing Racism, Molefi Kete Asante (2003) described a “wall of racist ignorance” (p. 268); this wall continues to affect practices ofdisparate treatment in bank lending, insurance underwriting, ethnic and racial profiling, health care, educational opportunities, unemployment levels, and incarceration that disproportionately impact people of color in the United States. How, then, can we expect people of color to speak freely and inform the thinking about service delivery unless we acknowledge such disparities?

At the executive level, building the infrastructure for antiracist practice in an organization involves a long-term, multifaceted approach. The baseline conversation must directly address the case for redressing issues of racism for clients and the organization. However, it is uncommon for senior leaders of an organization to share a language to discuss issues of race and racism. Perspectives on racism are as varied as the people who make up the executive team, not to mention the program managers, supervisors, and front-line staff. In many cases, experience, history, shame, guilt, ignorance, and political “correctness” get in the way of an authentic workplace dialog about racism. The first task is to develop a common understanding and language through which to enter into a meaningful discussion. This early process must also include acknowledgment of differences around the table in definitions of racism.

Executive management must contemplate and create time, space, and structure for conversations and planning among the diverse racial and cultural groups represented in the staff. One structure for such conversations is the creation of “affinity groups,” which is a proven strategy to help people with shared interests support one another and foster direct action (Gamson, 1992, pp. 62-64). Such affinity groups are already popular within not only within community organizations but also major corporations (General Motors, 2015; Skadden, Arps, Slate,

Meagher, & Flom, 2015). For example, one large mental health and social service agency in New York City developed affinity groups in each county to contemplate the impact of race and racism on the organization and its client base. Although it might seem counterintuitive, staff members specifically requested separate affinity groups for individuals who identified as white versus those who identified as persons of color. As one staff member astutely explained, without these distinctions, it would be like creating an art class in which advanced artists worked in the same studio as those only able to finger paint; the advanced students might become quickly uninterested if they needed to routinely discuss finger painting or the use of primary colors. This analogy helped to highlight the need to create space for beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels of discussion about race. Moreover, various strategies for ameliorating the impact of race on the organization and client service should be allowed to emerge.

Conversations about race and executive-level interest in antiracist work are important steps, but action needs to take place as well. Executive-level members of the staff need to shoulder ownership and accountability for addressing the manifestations of racism within the organization. When executives support the development of antiracist action plans, those plans are more likely to garner agency support and to acquire priority among the myriad challenges that the organization must address. Affinity groups may be asked to detail the various manifestations of white privilege within the organization, or task forces may gather to report these issues directly to executives. Such steps move the work beyond discussion to concrete steps that require and are met with action.

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