This conversation is both timely and long overdue. We see in the U.S. but in a Canadian context as well, incidents of anti-Black racism, and a widespread awakening or rather “acceptance” that there’s a problem. And we see organizations commenting in public forum where they stand on the issue, because they know, and likely have a communicator telling them that it is to their detriment to stay silent.
Many of these organizations don’t know what to say and they don’t know how to say it. This is a huge opportunity (and sadly a threat) for the communications profession. We know communicators are the ones who shape what and how an organization communicates. Our goal as communicators of course is to do this in a way that positively impacts reputation.
It becomes hugely problematic if:
- you don’t have communicators who are part of the Black community, who understand the nuances of the conversation and who don’t know how to engage.
- it looks contrived if all of a sudden organizations are touting their one Black employee to be their public spokesperson, because for many, it begs the question “why was that employee ere not visible before, why do they only now have a seat at the table?”
I completed a study in late 2018 that is extremely relevant now, given the boiling over we’re seeing in our sociopolitical landscape relating to anti-Black racism. My study, completed as the final research for my Master’s degree, sought to uncover why there seemed to be so few Black female communicators in Canadian public relations.
At the time, there seemed to be a hidden underbelly of racism in Canada that “polite society” refused to admit existed. Canada itself holds a reputation of openness, tolerance and diversity, this false sense of blue skies and rainbows. Even anecdotally, as a Black communicator, I’d look around any table at work, or any networking event, and I would stick out like a sore thumb.
If I thought about what images I saw in the media of PR professionals, I saw the high-powered, aggressive, well-dressed, white female spin doctor persona and I wondered whether there was a lack of diversity (lack of Black women in the field), and if there was, what was keeping us out?
If this topic interests you, I implore you to watch my presentation, and share. The most valuable thing about these types of forums is the ability to have engaging conversation and discourse. This is how we all learn and grow.