Racial equity fatigue is real — here’s how to overcome it

Racial equity has hit the news a lot in the last five years. First, we had Brexit. Then the Covid pandemic and the inequities that uncovered. Then the unforgettable swell of BLM in summer 2020, along with constant reports about racism in sport and the ethnicity pay gap.

Of course, it’s a good thing that we’re talking about racial equity. The only way forward is by having constructive conversations and raising awareness on a global level.

And yet there’s no denying that it can sometimes feel overwhelming.

It can also be frustrating: conversation is great, but why is action so hard to inspire?

If you’re feeling disheartened more often than not in your role as an advocate for change, there’s a good chance you’re experiencing racial equity fatigue. But, don’t worry, you’re not in it alone.

How to keep on advocating through racial equity fatigue

It’s tempting at times to just give up. We get it. It’s hard to constantly expend a lot of energy campaigning for change, only for nothing noticeable to happen in your organisation.

But as the saying goes, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going” and we must keep our heads up and keep moving forward. Let’s go through some actionable steps to help combat racial equity fatigue.

Step 1: Figure out your ‘why’

Allies are essential for promoting racial equity in any organisation or institution. Racial equity is good for society and for business, but when your energy starts to wane, ask yourself: Why are you so passionate about racial equity?

Spend some time figuring out, and then reconnecting to, why you believe the push for racial equity is so important. First, look at your emotions and values. What gets you fired up? Are there certain news events or instances of institutional racism that set you off more than others?

It’s also important to look at the data, especially if you’re right-brained and organisationally-minded.

Step 2: Accept that there’s no silver bullet

If someone could snap their fingers and solve all the world’s issues, we would have done it a long time ago. But it’s just not that easy.

When tackling racial equity fatigue, it’s essential to accept that there’s no silver bullet or magic solution. The only way to see change is with decisive action.

We’re talking about making changes that have direct results within your organisation. For example, exclusion, discrimination, and bias is likely a systematic problem in your industry. That means a data-informed, systematic approach is required to interrupt it.

Sitting around and thinking about this approach isn’t going to do anything. It’s up to the C-Suite and HR teams to get the ball rolling, lead with data-driven approaches to DE&I and enact change within their organisations.

Step 3: Check and map your privilege

If you’re in a changemaker position within your organisation and your industry, then chances are you have a certain level of privilege.

Think about what you have — in terms of resources and power — and how you can deploy that to help others. Explore the advantages that current team members within your organisation have that may not be extended to others.

This is all about realising and accepting that we’re not all dealt the same cards in life. Talent and potential are equally distributed among us –– but opportunities are not.

Mapping your privilege can be very confronting. After spending a lifetime working to get where you are, it can be hard to realise that your race and background may have given you an unfair advantage. But acknowledging this is a crucial part of being a true ally.

This white privilege assessment from Monitor Racism is a great place to start.

Step 4: Remember what the “I” in DE&I stands for

There’s a lot of talk around Equality and Diversity, but sometimes we (ironically) forget all about Inclusion.

Organisations tend to focus a lot on diversity reports and championing equality. And inclusion is often pushed to the wayside. Perhaps this is because it’s not quite so easy to qualify. We can’t really map subjective feelings like belonging, the same way we can chart the progress of our diversity measures.

Particularly in a corporate environment, we tend to be more comfortable relying on facts and figures when making changes. We need to put more of a focus on inclusion and belonging.

Looking ahead and moving past the fatigue

Ready to move forward, embrace change, and leave racial equity fatigue in the past?

You’ll need to:

  • Understand – and that’s something you’ve already started doing. By reading this article and acknowledging your fatigue, you’ve already begun your journey to move past it.
  • Action – take these tips and start actioning them in your workplace. We can’t have progress without action.
  • Optimise – true DE&I strategies aren’t ever just “set and forget”. You need to constantly be analysing and tweaking your approaches to make sure they’re working to better your organisation.
  • Report – this is essential. It’s hard to get fatigued when you can actually see the results of your work and the positive changes you’ve instituted. So keep reporting on the change you’re creating, and then keep on going!

One of the most important things, as a leader in your organisation, is to not be too hard on yourself and your staff.

As we’ve said, it’s easy to get downhearted or discouraged by the lack of change –– both on a local and a global level. Especially if you work in a big organisation as transformations never happen overnight.

We need to keep pushing for change anyway. Fight the fatigue by being optimistic, but realistic. Introduce structural changes that will have long-lasting impacts on DEI, not just for your staff but in your industry as a whole.

We’ll get there together.

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