I have been professionally engaged in furthering equal employment since 1992. Working in the Human Resources Department at United Parcel Service was an extraordinary opportunity for someone so young, and I will admit that I had blind spots.
I am certain I still do–about racism and a lot of other things. That is by no means an excuse for my ignorant behavior, but I do ask your forgiveness for things like writing a horribly offensive word, even if it was an exact quote. My legal training had me believe that was the correct way to quote someone, and I question more of that training nearly every day. I’m still committed to upholding the laws of the country and New York State, but that doesn’t mean I will continue to do so blindly.
I have amends to make for my occasional lack of awareness, insensitivities, and times I have hurt Black people when they didn’t feel they could speak up. If I have hurt or offended you, please contact me privately, and let’s work it out whenever you’re ready. I’m also open to constructive feedback on how to best open transformative conversations about race. It’s long past time for healing.
Q: What is your biggest challenge as a white woman in diversity training right now?
Knowing when I am the best person to speak on an issue or the right person to work on a project. I believe it is important to have all voices heard as we create solutions to problems that have existed for more than 400 years, but that doesn’t mean I need to be heard every time on every issue.
Q: How do you resolve that issue?
Ask more questions. Offer to partner with people of color, where appropriate to meet the goals of individual projects. Decline to participate in all-white speaker panels and demand more diversity of opportunity. This is not always easy. When my income is low and I am afraid my business might not survive the pandemic, I sometimes think about keeping the work just for me. Then, I remind myself how many Black people have been where I am, and I look for ways to be the change I wish to see. I’m not perfect at it, but I will continue to get better with practice.
Q: Are you anti-racist?
Like most people, I want to think I am. But I haven’t read Ibram X. Kendi‘s book yet, and I’m not sure I fully understand how anti-racist is defined. No matter how I answer this question, someone will disagree. So I’m focusing on my behavior more than the label. Hopefully, my behavior mirrors my heart. If not, I again invite you to contact me.
Q: What books should I read?
That depends on your intent. If you want to expand your knowledge about systemic racism, its history in the United States, powerful Black leaders, and ordinary Black people doing extraordinary things, you don’t necessarily have to read what is on the media’s best-seller lists. Those books each have their own value, but be careful not to sit on your hands while you wait for one of them to be available. There are plenty of great works by Black authors that will give you new insights, including a new one by my friend and colleague, Leslie Short. More importantly, there are vast numbers of Black people you can speak to–if they are willing.
Q: What’s your biggest regret regarding racism?
I wish I had spoken up more productively earlier. I was in high school before I started really challenging the racial hatred and nonsense I had witnessed for years.
Q: What’s your biggest hope regarding racism?
I hope we can find an appropriate way to repair the injustices and hurts that have been inflicted. There are several possibilities that seem promising, and it is becoming easier to imagine people working, living, and loving together more harmoniously. We see it every day, as much as we see the opposite–if we’re looking for it. I know that seems naive to some, but I really do see it. At the grocery store. On the street. In the park. Along the river. In my building. Even online. The disrupters are there, too, but there are fewer of them.
Nance L. Schick, Esq., is a workplace attorney, ethno-religious mediator, and conflict resolution coach based in New York City. Her goal is to keep managers and small business owners out of court and build their conflict resolution skills so everyone has a better work experience. She is creator of the Third Ear Conflict Resolution process, author of DIY Conflict Resolution, and an award-winning entrepreneur acknowledged by Super Lawyers (ADR, 2018, 2019 & 2020), the New York Economic Development Corporation/B-Labs (Finalist, Best for NYC 2015 & 2016), U.S. Chamber of Commerce (2015 Blue Ribbon Small Business), Enterprising Women Magazine (Honorable Mention, 2014 Woman of the Year awards).