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Ep N° 17 : What anti-racism looks like in business (whith Dr. Nicole Charles)


Welcome to inclusion and marketing the show. That’s all about giving you the skills and insights. You need to win the attention, adoration and loyalty of more consumers, especially those with differences that are often ignored my brands. I’m your host, Sonia Thompson, a marketer, and a person with a lot of differences. Let’s get to it. In 2020 after the murder of George Floyd, we started hearing a lot more individuals and businesses talking about the idea of being anti-racist. I even worked with a client last year that decided that anti-racist was one of the values they wanted for their team. But the more I talked to people, the more I realized that there are many folks that still aren’t really sure what it means to be anti-racist, especially when we’re not talking about the obvious KKK type imagery that may come to mind when you hear the term racist. So to make sure we’re all on the same page with regard to what anti-racism is, what that looks like in business and how you can work to embody anti-racist principles on a daily basis. I brought in an expert on the topic to school assault, Dr. Nicole, Charles, we covered a lots of good ground in this episode, so let’s get to it.

Sonia: Hey Nicole, thank you so much for joining me today. How are you?

Nicole: Okay. Thank you for having me.

Sonia: It’s my pleasure. Well, I’m super excited for us to dig into this conversation because I think we’ve heard a lot about this term anti-racist and an anti-racism more so since the summer of 2020, it’s not a new thing. So when I really get into this, cause I think that there’s a lot, we can all learn from it, but first tell the people who are you and what do you do?

Nicole: Yeah. So my name is Nicole Charles. I am an intersectional feminist and anti-racist educates an author, researcher and professor of women in gender studies. And I’m also wellness entrepreneurs. So I’m, I’m deeply passionate about working with the wellness community, business owners, practitioners, and fellow entrepreneurs to really begin to dismantle oppressive conditioning. That’s rampant within the wellness industry and to train providers in holistic anti-racist and anti-oppressive approaches to wellness.

Sonia: Very cool, definitely work that is very much needed. So I’m so happy you’re doing this work. All right. Let’s get into it. What does it mean to be anti-racist?

Nicole: Yeah, so anti-racism is a commitment, essentially. It’s a, it’s a dedication to speaking up against racism and interrogating and ultimately working to dismantle racism in, in all its pervasive and insidious manifestation. So this happens at the systemic level, the interpersonal level, and also at the personal level right within us. And this is a big part, I think, dismantling internalized racism on biases that we all hold through embodied work and reflection is a part that often goes undiscussed and missed with an anti-racist work, which is essentially a daily practice, right?

Sonia: It is. It is. And I know I was working with a client recently and they’re in the field of healthcare. And one of the things that I did with them was helped them recognize my customer and intimacy standpoint that the patients that they were serving, particularly their black patients experience a great deal of racism within the healthcare system. And that was something that I think that they were aware of, but not necessarily to the extent that it was occurring. So one of the things that they were interested in doing was figuring out how could they be an anti-racist organization to sort of help combat that in their own way. So I’m wondering what that was a very specific example for them. What is the connection between anti-racism and business on a regular basis? Like, you know, more broadly?

Nicole: Yeah. So as racism is a practice and it is also a value that one can hold in their business. So if you, as a business owner, hold anti-racism as a personal value and authentic business to you, wouldn’t be one that simultaneously holds anti-racism as a business value. And in this way, anti-oppressive practices of which anti-racist practices are a subset enable you as a business owner to attract your ideal clients and grow your business. So in the field, in which I research and work, so health, gender, race, and wellness, wellness is inherently political. And so I see the work of wellness providers, practitioners, and business owners, to be deeply connected to social justice, activism, and work as a result, feminist business consultant and coach Kelley deal says that being willing to be driven by the values you believe in such as anti-racism and to be guided by social justice is always going to be a driver of business. And this is because it leads to trust with the communities you serve or you want to serve on trust, always feel business. Right,

Sonia: Right. So I’m wondering, I think sometimes when people hear the term racism or racist, they kind of go to an image of like KKK or, you know, they go to very extreme imagery and examples and they’re like, well, no, that doesn’t really exist in our business. Can you give an example of racist practices, permeate within businesses that kind of are more normal than we think, or oppressive practices that, you know, have negative impacts on people that we serve.

Nicole: Yeah. So I think just to address what you first said in terms of what comes to people’s minds, when we think of racism and white supremacy, we might think of this pyramid of white supremacy where, or, you know, yeah. Pyramid of white supremacy, where at the top of the pyramid, we have things like lynching and police brutality against people of color in the middle of the day, Nissan next really egregious forms of violence like that. But then we have to think about what upholds this pyramid and it’s these everyday acts of micro comments that are made about black women’s hair, racist jokes that go unchecked, or that are loft at. We can think about ways that racism is ignored rather than interrupted conversations with friends and family that are just brushed off because it’s your friend or family member. And I think these are the things that enable these more egregious forms of violence to occur. So that’s the first thing. And I think if we think about that in terms of businesses, we’re thinking about the things that happen every day that are perhaps deemed less injurious, but are actually equally as problematic because they are upholding logic problems and systems. So in the workplace, again, I’ll give some examples and in the field in which I work, you know, if inclusivity is one of your business’s core values, but you don’t actually have policies or practices to foster inclusion, that’s not only palpable to communities and unlikely to build trust with them, but could actually lead to you losing clients and business and not having these policies in place could also mean you have policies in place that actually work against inclusion. Right? And so I think if you are a business owner who wants to be inclusive, inclusivity inclusion is an outcome. It’s something that is the result of intentional practices and policies. An inaction is an action.

Sonia: Absolutely. Okay. Now I love the specificity here. Can you even give some examples? Cause you mentioned that you spend a lot of time focusing on feminism as well. And I think sometimes as we’re talking about these things, people forget about women and the way, the many ways in which women are impressed in the workplace. Can you talk about that as well as even, you know, some ways that we can make sure that we’re not forgetting this important area?

Nicole: Yeah. I mean, I think when I, my practice is one of the intersectional feminism and anti-racism, and so for me, we cannot contest the logics of patriarchy without simultaneously contesting racism because racism and white supremacy and patriarchy uphold each other. Right. And so if we are only looking into deconstructing gender inequality, but not simultaneously addressing the way that racism affects woman or the way that black woman and, you know, trans black women are disproportionately affected in the workplace and in our world, we are really losing sight of the larger issue. And so, yeah, I think we can think of so many examples where quote, unquote, women are marginalized in the workplace, but our analysis is strengthened. If we are keeping our eyes on these multiple systems of oppression. So to give an example, if you are a business who has worked to include, or, you know, in your marketing and your visual marketing really worked to include trans and queer folks, but you take money from an organization who has supported the destruction of sacred indigenous lands and waterways, is that really being inclusive? Is that really being anti-racist in its broadest sense because you’re not actually looking at these multiple systems of oppression? So we can take that analogy with women, if you are in support of gender equality, but yet you take money from an organization that has ties to a white supremacist group. Is that being anti-racist, is that truly being inclusive? Because inclusion is a part of anti-racism.

Sonia: Got it. Okay. So I feel like a light bulb moment is clicked for me. It’s not just about, oh, we see something, we’re going to say something and we’re going to, you know, trying to stamp out these micro aggressions. It really is systemic. And that you have to, it permeates through every part of your business, the way you operate, who you’re engaging with, knowing what their, their value systems are and making sure that you are taking every opportunity that you can to basically dismantle a system that doesn’t work for specific groups of people.

Nicole: Absolutely.

Sonia: Yeah. Okay. It’s much bigger. And it’s, like I said, it goes back to what you first said, whenever we started, 00:11:17    it’s a commitment. Like it’s a commitment and, and I guess it’s all the more important because that’s how the systems have been in place or made in place for so long because you know, they’re, I guess there aren’t enough people committed to changing them. Nicole: Yeah. Sonia: Okay. All right. So what are some practical ways that people can get started practicing anti-racism practicing anti-depression within their own businesses so they can make the impact where they are on, you know, getting rid of these systems?

Nicole: I think we just kind of covered that. It it’s a lot, it can be overwhelming. I think of the personal work of anti-racism similarly, right? And there are ways that you can stop this work personally, that it can extend into your work as a business owner. So firstly, I always suggest, and so this is my answer for, you know, personal work and professional work. Start with reading start with willingness readiness is a lie. You don’t have to be ready. You might never be ready to do this work, especially if you are not a person of color, especially if you do not belong to an underrepresented group. And so you just need to be willing to learn and to unlearn. And that work can begin with reading. I also strongly advise that if this is a value that you hold within your business, like anything else that you would do in your business, that you invest in a plan and a community of accountability to help you implement anti-racism into your business, to transform the way that you work and show up for your clients. So in terms of investing, learning from black indigenous and people of color by financially supporting their work, that programs, that causes is such an important part of doing anti-racism work. And so build this into your financial plan, if it is part of your, if it is one of the values that you hold as a business, as you would with another value. Right.

Sonia: For sure. For sure. And as you’ve been working with people in this regard, where have you seen that people most get tripped up as it relates to doing this and engaging?

Nicole: Yeah, so I launched the embodying equity costs for wellness entrepreneurs last year. So 2021. And it’s been an incredible experience working with entrepreneurs and unwellness professionals and something that I have seen. And some, a place that we start in the course is getting really clear on your values and letting these values guide your business decisions. And so I think with the rise in social media use and, you know, slacktivism and post George Floyd’s murder in 2020, we have seen a lot of statements, public declarations by businesses of their commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion and anti-racism, and some of these businesses have spent time also sharing their values, but in the course, and in general, where I see folks getting tripped up is in upholding and defending these values in the long-term. So, you know, even in, especially when things get difficult. So for instance, if one of the values that you hold as a business is accessibility. Unlike many folks, your business might have suffered in, in the wake of the pandemic, you might realize that your costs are high up and that your income and profits are substantially lower. And you need to maybe raise your rates, right? If you’re a solopreneur, how do you still prioritize accessibility as a value? Maybe this means you need to start doing things like offering sliding scale. Maybe you offer payment plans, maybe you offer payment plans only to black indigenous and people of color as needed. Recognizing that as a group, these folks are overwhelmingly subjected to more forms of discrimination, economic, social, and otherwise. And these people are also being affected by the pandemic, right? So this is just one example of where I see folks kind of missing the mark because they, they, their business might be suffering. And so their values are not guiding the decisions that they then make in terms of the next course they need to take or how they pivot, how they respond to the situation at hand.

Sonia: Got it, got it. So just making sure that we keep B keep it top of mind. Cause I think a lot of people, as you said, have really like, they, they had a lot of desire to make a difference, but soon after the new cycle changed back to quote unquote normal or, you know, things around diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging, anti-racism, wasn’t part of the news cycle. A lot of people went back to business as usual things sort of got put on the back burner, but yeah, we can’t, if it can’t be that way, if you want to actually make positive change and sustained change. Right.

Nicole: Precisely. Yeah.

Sonia: Okay. So you and I chatted previously about the concept of decentering people who aren’t from underrepresented and underserved groups, because that can drastically change our perspective. So if we’re only always centering people from the most privileged identities, we get one view of the world or the way things are, but that can’t be the entire view. Can you talk a little bit about the challenges that come when society and businesses lean towards centering the most privileged identities as they’re thinking about what, the ways in which they should show up and operate in the world?

Nicole: Yeah. That’s a really input scent thing to think about. And I think, you know, people of color are the global majority and yet whiteness is the norm in our marketing, in the world, health providers, educators, practitioners, with whom I work overwhelmingly research with on coach counsel, educate, promote to a default white audience. And regardless of your field of work, when you focus on and promote information, content and services that are relevant only to a privileged few, you are likely contributing to the, for the minority position or exclusion of, of a global majority. And this can’t be good for business, right? A shrewd business owner wouldn’t want to be negating such a large segment of the population. So, you know, often I see with wellness entrepreneurs, a misconception that if they themselves are say cis-gendered straight white able-bodied and otherwise aligned with society’s hegemonic identities, then they can’t possibly appeal to people who can’t, who don’t look like that. Right? This is especially true of folks and business owners who might be the face of the center of their brand. They wonder what they can do. How can they attract people who look different to me? And they think beyond images and visuals, which are so important words and practices and policies and ultimately actions Mata and are crucial in terms of de-centering whiteness and other hegemonic systems as the norm within our work. Right? So if you are a white nutritionist and you care about reaching clients who don’t look like you, who come from different cultures, perhaps you spend time educating yourself about cultural foods that are different to those found in North American and European diets, right? Invest in training and education that perhaps, and very likely wasn’t part of your professional certification and training that teaches you the nutrition, benefits of cooking techniques, ingredients, and styles that differ from those, with which you are accustomed, right? And then you can use this knowledge to fit into your recommendations for clients and be able to confidently promote and speak about and encourage your clients and prospective clients to eat their cultural foods for the range of benefits that they provide them. Not only nutritionally, but emotionally, right? This is all part of de-centering Eurocentric food standards. Recognizing that food, for example is one of the tools of the violence of colonialism.

Sonia: Yeah. Oh, okay. So I want to give it a quick example of this and it’s related to you. So I follow a gluten-free diet and for health reasons, and I went on an elimination diet for, to follow the autoimmune protocol late last year, I had tried it previously and I just always struggled. Like I had bought cookbooks. I had just really try to embrace this diet because I knew it would be good for my health, but I struggled because the food often felt bland. It felt, I wasn’t excited about it. I tried recipes and my family would like try it. And they’re like, Ooh, this isn’t so good. You enjoy this Sonia. So anyway, I came across your website. This is how we connected. You’ve got also have this website heal me delicious. And I came across it and I there’s this one recipe that you have, I’ve tried several, but I connected with it instantly because I felt like the, the flavor profiles that you put in your recipes, in your food were things that connected to me culturally. And I tried them. I love them. I’ve made them, I can’t tell you how many times my waistline knows it. I’ve made it for friends, for family members. They tried it. They are like, Hey, they’ve given the, this doesn’t taste gluten-free sorta Right. But it happened. And I was able to stick to it for a good amount of time because I was able to connect with someone who bled with approaches that connected with me and my culture. And so I, I didn’t have that same success previously, whenever I followed a very mainstream, a very Eurocentric white sort of cooking style. It just, it just didn’t work for me. So that was a very tangible one that I example that I have where it just does make a big difference whenever we don’t just take one approach to try and serve a broad and very diverse group of people.

Nicole: Absolutely. I mean, I’m not, I would never promote food on my website, but isn’t seasoned and Alicia, that’s the first thing. That’s the first thing I grew up in Trinidad. That would be just the worst thing possible. But I get messages like along the lines of what you’ve said all the time, right? Like, wow, thank you for these recipes because I’m Jamaican or I’m from Nigeria. And this food actually has flavor. And I get messages from people of color all the time who say, wow, I don’t see a lot of block food create as influences or people in this space. And so this is really exciting to connect with you. And so, I mean, that, that just speaks to representation. Right.

Sonia: Right. Yeah. It’s, it’s made a very big difference. So I’m going to put your website heal me delicious also in the, in the show notes, along with the, the link specifically for the pumpkin spice, stone and sweats are my absolute favorite, so, okay. Okay. So real quick, do you have any very specific resources that you would recommend for people? I know you mentioned like reading and books, are there anything in particular also put up a link to access your course that for people to help them as they’re getting started with practicing anti-racist

Nicole: Yeah. I mean, some books that I can recommend, I really like workbook style books because reading is one is really important and a starting place. But I think the work of integration and reflection is just as if not more important, so works like Rachel Ricketts book due back to that have like questions and prompts for you to reflect on at the end of each chapter that you can use as discussion questions with your family and friends. Our amazing Rasmus mannequin has a book. My grandmother’s hands that also has a lot of questions for reflection that I think are amazing. You have so many great offerings for business owners that I would absolutely and wholeheartedly support of for business owners and, you know, just to, to plug, to plug my own embodying equity course as well for people in the wellness industry that offers a really holistic framework to anti-racism. That includes a lot of what we spoke about in terms of the different components of anti-racist work, being a daily practice, but also an embodied practice. So there’s a somatic component of this course, that’s led by a queer indigenous trauma informed somatic experiencing practitioner to really help folks dismantle oppressive conditioning within our bodies and begin that work of anti-racism on practice it at a sematic level, which is super important, right? This, this work is not just intellectual work. It’s very much embodied work.

Sonia: Absolutely. Absolutely. Which makes sense. That was the name of your course. Right? You’ve got to embody it. Right. All right. So this has Been really enlightening. I’m so glad we had a chance to talk with a thank you.

Dr. Nicole had so many wonderful things to say in this episode, as you work to think about how to apply what she covered in your own life in business, take the time to think about a specific scenario in your life where you could de-center the primary predominant narrative and what that might do for your understanding and perception of that same scenario. An extreme example of when I did this in my own life was when I went to a historically black college and university for university undergrad and grad school, rather than a predominantly white institution. It changed my entire worldview and my life. So I’m curious to know what going through this exercise will do for you. So feel free to shoot me a note whenever you have any aha moments in this regard. And of course they don’t have to be as big as my example, but any just recentering, even everything, something in your day to day can make a big difference. That’s it for today’s show. If you need more help getting started building an inclusive brand, go ahead and grab my inclusive marketing starter kit. You can find slash starter kit. And if you liked this episode, I would so appreciate it. If you’d share it with a friend and even rate and review it in your podcast app of choice, 00:26:34     it’ll help get the word out so others can get going, delivering inclusive experiences until next time, remember everyone deserves, have a place where they belong. Let’s use our individual and collective power to make sure more people feel like they do. Somebody is waiting on you. Thanks for listening.