6 Ideas for Tackling Racial Inequality in the Funeral Profession

Racism is one of the many elephants in the rooms in the funeral profession.

While we’re already warmed up from all the systemic changes from a global pandemic, why not keep the momentum going?

Why not address racism in the funeral profession and commit to a new way of being?

Here’s a hint… there isn’t a good enough reason to not do this important, necessary, game changing work within your funeral business and community.

We hope to continue to offer new, innovative ways that we, as a profession, can support racial equality and squash white supremacy for good. 

But for now, here are a few steps you can take, both individually and collectively, to embrace a new, unified way of running your funeral business: 

First, understand what racism actually is

“I believe everyone needs to get a true understanding of what racism really is. Stop denying it, it is a reality. The term is used constantly. 400 years of conditioning white people to truly believe they are superior is difficult to overcome.”

— Rich Brown, director, Santa Fe Office of Economic Development

Take the next step: Here’s a list of 20 books you can read to educate yourself on racism & racial injustice.

 

Second, avoid avoidance

“To be crystal clear, we can no longer sit idly while injustice impacts any group of people—Black, Latino, Indigenous, Asian, LGBT, women or anyone else. These are our colleagues, family, neighbors, clients and represent who we are as human beings.”

 — Jason Brady, president and CEO, Thornburg Investment Management

Take the next step: Contemplate on the ways you personally may have adopted the concept of white fragility into your belief systems with this article.

 

Third, take radical responsibility

“Just come out the gate and own it. This is not the time to try and couch it in vagaries and flowery language. People are going to pull up your data and look at the number of representation in senior leadership, and they’re going to call you out on your commitment to stand with Black workers and with Black people. If not, it comes across as generous charity, but it won’t transform or restructure society in any way.”

Laura Morgan Roberts, a University of Virginia professor, author and speaker.

Take the next step: Identify the ways in which you, your funeral home and your community may be contributing to the systemic racism plaguing our society with this 21-day Racism challenge.

 

Fourth, gather with your circles and teams

“For Black employees who may have already felt like the “others” in organizations where those in power are primarily white and male, this failure to address and discuss the current moment and its implications may cause irreparable harm. To counteract this, organizations should prioritize authentic connection across all levels. Leaders need to directly address the company and explicitly support racial justice. Managers need to be empowered to have conversations with their Black team members. Individuals need to be equipped to be effective allies.”

Evelyn R. Carter, social psychologist via the Harvard Business Review

Take the next step: Host regular meetings with your funeral home’s leadership team, as well as your entire team and your community to discuss new ideas that deeply support racial equality at your funeral home.

 

Fifth, create systems that support equality

“Some notable examples of companies committing to specific action are Uber, which has announced no delivery fees when customers order from Black-owned businesses. Internally, they have tied senior executive pay to measurable progress on diversity goals. Activision has added additional resources and in-game reporting systems to identify and ban racist language in their online gaming environment. These are small steps that companies have made to mitigate harm in a matter of days.”

Kira Hudson Banks and Richard Harvey via the Harvard Business Review

Take the next step: Create an immediate, short, and long-term plan for committing to anti-racism at your funeral home. Use this template to help you get in the right direction.

 

Sixth, become an ally

“Our Black communities need all of us to be allies in a movement that’s going to take intensive reflection and serious work. I encourage the business community to restructure their hiring, promotion and outreach processes so that boardrooms, business organizations and leadership include the Black community. We’re talking about meaningful inclusivity, not tokenism — Black voices in leadership is how we change this country for the better and create bold structural change together.”

Congresswoman Deb Haaland

Take the next step: Even if you’re not a leader at your funeral home, make the commitment to become an ally to your BIPOC friends, co-workers, client families and community members.

 

What steps are you taking to banish white supremacy and racial inequality at your funeral home? Tell us your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.

Rochelle Rietow

funeralOne

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