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For DEI Practitioners Who are Sick & Tired of Being Sick & Tired: Afrofuturism as a way to Sustain

In the diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) space and social justice/advocacy work, it can feel tempting to give in to pessimism. After spending over a decade in the education system and advising nonprofits, I've seen more than my fair share of injustice. Over time, that wears on your spirit and faith of substantial change ever being made. After all, once you're conscious of the many interlocking systems of oppression around you, it's impossible to turn that off.

But if we're ever to achieve a future that's built on ending racism and promoting solidarity across different communities, at some point, we have to switch into dream mode. Envisioning and dreaming up the future that we want can bring clarity on the action to take and reignite hope for changes that are indeed possible.

Today marks National Racial Harmony Day in Singapore, a day that originated as a time to commemorate the 1964 race riots. Here in the United States, we can learn lessons from this day to re-energize and dream up a future where solidarity across racial groups is a reality. It's a principle that transformative Black leaders understood; before the time of their murders, Malcolm X, Fred Hampton, and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr all had visions of inter- and intra-racial solidarity that brought people from all classes and ethnic backgrounds together to dismantle the disease that is White supremacy.

That same unifying vision is possible for the workplace. When creating your organization's DEI strategy, build it from an abundance perspective that questions not if transformation is possible but what that transformation will look, feel, smell, and taste like. One of the gravest symptoms that White supremacy culture has inflicted on the workplace is robbing people of color of the ability to dream. Yet, if we take an Afrofuturist perspective for a moment, we can envision a working world that doesn't equate proximity to Whiteness with power, prestige, worthiness, skill, intellect, or ability. Leadership would not be hierarchical or segregated by race. Accountability for outcomes and achievements is a shared and communal responsibility that teams take on with care and consideration for one another as whole people, and voices that would typically be ignored are given the space to speak.

Since toppling racism in the workplace also means dismantling oppressive capitalist structures, the wage gap and non-living wages are also tackled. Employees of color that today remain underpaid in this futurist vision would be compensated not just for their direct responsibilities on the job but provided a wage that addresses centuries of harm. Professional development opportunities, employer-funded degree programs, and benefits supporting employees of color in getting out of debt and investing in their health and future are standard.

I also see a future of racial harmony in the workplace that ends the cycles of anxiety, bullying, bias, and mistreatment that far too many people of color experience, with policies that don't police, oppress, or reprimand people of color simply for existing, employee satisfaction and retention increases. People of color can feel free to express themselves unapologetically.

It may feel like a pipe dream, but much of this vision I've expressed here includes things that your organization can begin making progress on today. I've found that what prevents many organizations from taking these actions often has less to do with the resources at their disposal and more to do with their fears of what this racially harmonious future could look like. Power structures would not only have to shift but completely topple for this futurist vision to be possible– but that toppling is just what's needed to set us all free.

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