There’s an ongoing and overwhelming burden on black people to drive DEI efforts in organizations. This is part of the problem – not the solution. 

“George Floyd’s murder seemed to anoint white people who never really had to see or think about race with a kind of 2020 vision. And what did organizations do next? Leaders all over the globe turned to the people of color in their industries and asked, ‘What should we do differently?’” – Did That Just Happen?! by Dr. Stephanie Pinder-Amaker and Dr. Lauren Wadsworth


It’s an irony that is not lost on me that employers disproportionately lean on the people most impacted to come up with initiatives, join committees and help formulate diversity game plans. 

Non-black colleagues, friends and family often believe that in asking their black associates to help them be anti-racist they are doing something positive.  

When what they should be doing is the work.

The work of learning, of being curious, of consuming black stories and experiences. 

The work of uncovering hidden and not-so hidden biases. Of examining their own privilege and the context of their black colleagues’ experiences. 

The work of humility – approaching racism as a subject they know nothing about. 

When the burden of education is placed on black people this is additional work. This is work that is not compensated. This is emotional and often traumatic work. To go from being ignored or overlooked to suddenly sought after is a seismic shift for many black professionals. And one they didn’t ask for. 

It is exhausting for black people to have to relive their experiences to educate a non-black person. Organizations need to recognise that the responsibility of dismantling systemic racism must not be placed solely on black employees. 

DEI Good Practices 


  • Put the empathy burden on black colleagues. While we are glad to see non-black people examining their actions, thoughts and beliefs, it is not our job to absolve them of any guilt they might feel
  • Assume that because you have a DEI task force or initiative that you have created a safe space for black employees to talk about their experiences
  • Tell the business to reach out for courageous conversations with their black colleagues
  • Forget about intersectionality – there will be people in your organization facing multiple levels of discrimination 
  • Be complicit
  • Ignore the data – understand where your business is right now on the DEI spectrum. 


  • Take responsibility for your own education
  • Practice ‘asking to ask’ – because it’s still OK to seek help and understanding but in a compassionate, respectful way
  • Bring in outside experts to help you create an action plan. 
  • Get comfortable being uncomfortable  – this is part of the work
  • Lead from the front – be the change, set an example to the rest of the business
  • Be an ally and advocate
  • Really listen to what you are being told
  • Speak up when you see racism 
  • Express gratitude and appreciation. 

I’ve written before about how DEI is a direction, not a destination. There is no end point. We have a long journey of understanding and taking responsibility for the past in order to dismantle and rebuild systems for the future. To create something supportive, empowering and strategic for everyone, equally. 


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