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Addressing White Supremacy Culture with Hella Social Impact

by mangrove team
published on 06.30.2022
4 Hella Team Members standing in front of a colorful wall

pictured above, from left to right: The Hella Social Impact Team: Edita Rodriguez, Lynn Johnson, Stefania Pomponi, and Ashley Keeler

 

Our commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice (DEIJ) has become a core part of who we are as a business (read our full DEIJ statement here). It informs how we show up for our clients, teammates, and partners as we strive to become an example for how small businesses can identify and destroy systemic oppression.

We recognize that this commitment to racial justice means that we constantly need to be learning and evolving, especially within our team. Last year, we focused on addressing racial inequity within our organization by participating in the Hella Social Impact Intensive—a six-week anti-racist action training led by Hella Social Impact. We are sharing this experience in order to cement our own learning, encourage our peers to engage in a similar process, and create ongoing accountability for ourselves.

What is Hella Social Impact?

Hella Social Impact is a group that offers actionable resources for organizations seeking to show up for racial justice and prevent systemic harm, exploitation, and marginalization of Black, Indigenous, and other non-Black people of color.

Showing up authentically and impactfully for racial justice belongs at the heart of every company—not just something we do when there’s yet another blatant demonstration of racism on the news. The team at Hella recognizes this—and they also recognize it’s not easy to know where to begin to make a change. That’s where their program and subsequent training, discussion, and action plans come in.

When we joined the Hella Intensive in 2021, we participated in their first beta cohort, consisting only of BCorp company representatives. For six weeks, three of us from the Mangrove Leadership Team participated in weekly two-hour sessions with this group. We learned how white supremacy culture is all around us, presenting itself in various ways—both obvious and insidious. For a description of white supremacy culture, see “(divorcing) White Supremacy Culture,” published by Tema Okun in 2021 and listed as a reputable resource by the organization Showing Up for Racial Justice. Hella’s trainings focus on blatantly calling white supremacy culture what it is, and they provided us with a framework to identify and begin to address the characteristics that are prevalent in our organization.

The Hella Framework

Hella’s framework for addressing workplace racial inequity consists of three action areas: Notice, Name, Dismantle™. Hella defines each area of action as:

  • Notice: “Your company’s ability to see and believe the experiences of racially marginalized groups. To understand that a system of white supremacy is based on a number of lies that must be unlearned in order to see the truth of systemic racism.”
  • Name: “Your company’s ability to speak the truth of racism and white supremacy, to call out harm, and to hold yourself and others accountable to the work of anti-racism.”
  • Dismantle: “Your company’s ability to radically change and/or eliminate policies and structures that cause harm to Black and Non-Black people of color and to replace them with policies and structures focused on equity and full inclusion.”

Taking Action to Notice, Name, Dismantle™ White Supremacy Culture Within Mangrove

With the help of Hella’s framework and ongoing support during the Hella Intensive, we were able to identify white supremacy norms within Mangrove, call out the resulting harm, and work towards demolishing the existing structure of oppression and replacing it with inclusive policies.

Notice: Identifying where we fall short

  • We identified a power dynamic in which some members of our team often don’t feel empowered or have the opportunity to engage in our decision-making processes. This relates to the white supremacy culture characteristic of paternalism (lack of shared decision-making)
  • We exhibit some other characteristics of white supremacy, especially perfectionism, and a sense of urgency.

Name: What we must do to break down racial inequities

  • We must intentionally build our company culture based on the needs of all of our core team members.
  • We must create a culture of fully noticing characteristics of white supremacy culture and power dynamics in our organization and surface them regularly and directly.

Dismantle: How we’re structuring our culture around racial equity and inclusion

  • Give everyone a seat at the table
    • Hold team DEI workshops monthly to support shared decision-making.
    • Schedule monthly 1:1s with each team member to facilitate a safe space for employees to surface any feedback, questions, or conversations.
    • Employ multiple channels of communication and feedback so everyone on the team has a way to speak up that they’re comfortable with.
  • Hold our leadership team accountable for modeling an inclusive culture and taking responsibility for changing practices we’ve identified as problematic.
  • Eliminate a sense of urgency by centering conversations around people before business, and taking a moment to pause and mindfully prioritize when faced with immediate or urgent requests.
  • Continue to offer a flexible work schedule to accommodate our team’s personal lives and afford contractors some of the same benefits as employees.

Why Consider Joining the Hella Community?

Though we were part of Hella’s very first pilot cohort, we found the framework, the resulting conversations, and the ongoing action plan to be invaluable in our ever-evolving diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice work. This program helped us shape a revised version of our DEIJ statement and company values (coming soon) through the lens of breaking down systems of oppression that marginalize Black, Indigenous, and other non-Black people of color. Both the formal training sessions with Hella and our internal DEI workshops with the extended Mangrove team have brought our team closer on a deep level. Most of all, we’re grateful to have continued support from the Hella community and a plan of action so we can continue to Notice, Name, Dismantlewhite supremacy culture within Mangrove, our ecosystem of partners, clients, and collaborators, and the tech industry as a whole.

As of spring 2022, Hella Social Impact is now open for others to join its digital community of organizations and individuals committed to showing up for racial justice. Whether you’re a seasoned DEI leader or you care deeply about racial justice but you don’t know where to start, the team at Hella offers tools to support you in making real change. You can join the community and learn more about Hella here.

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