Today is International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Today takes on a whole new meaning after March 15, 2019 when members of the NZ Muslim community were gunned down by a terrorist during their weekly prayer time. End racism; End hate.

Like the rest of New Zealand, I have been in a state of shock. We are in mourning for those that have died and for what has happened in New Zealand. We are sorry that we couldn’t keep you safe. The banner ‘this is not us’ has gone viral. However, this happened in NZ and maybe this is ‘us’ and we need to speak up and take action. Being silent can easily be construed as approval.

So what can Companies do? Is there a way where we can create an environment that puts an end to racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance?

1. Hire a diverse workforce
We have written at length about the benefits that a diverse workforce has on a business. From a social viewpoint, it is offering the opportunity to interact with different cultures, age groups. Bigotry does not start with hatred but with the fear of the unknown. Create an environment that encourages diverse thinking, tolerance and challenges stereotypes.

2. Create an inclusive and safe work environment.
Ensure that the values of the Company are one of inclusivity. Create an environment where everyone feels comfortable to speak up and there are equal opportunities for all. Furthermore, invest time in telling your employees that this is a safe environment and stress the importance of supporting each other.

3. Celebrate differences
Take time to learn about staff cultures and special events. We have an area where we have put up different phrases or greetings from the various languages spoken by the team. We make a point of celebrating events like Chinese new year or Dwali, days that are important to some of our team members.

4. Avoid tokenism
In one of my earlier jobs, I was constantly being asked ‘What do Māori think?’. Don’t do this and remember that you’re asking for one’s perspective. If you really want to know what a group is thinking then go out and do some research and talk to relevant groups.

5. Call out racism
Most Companies have various policies to deal with discrimination and bullying. This normally covers the workplace but what about when you’re dealing with a client? Or practical advice on how to tell someone that what they are saying is racist? Tell staff that you will support them if they have the courage to say to clients or other people in their working life that what they are saying is not ok. Create an environment where ‘racism is not ok’ and ‘you will be safe if you call someone out’.

In the words of Brené Brown ‘we must walk into the arena, whatever it may be with the courage and the willingness to engage, rather than sitting on the sidelines and hurling judgment and advice, we must dare to show up. It’s time to start having those difficult conversations. Be bold, be courageous and speak up. Show the world that ‘this is not us’ by creating an environment where ‘it is no longer us’.

To the victims, their family and the muslim community. Our thoughts and aroha are with you and we stand together in solidarity.

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This is an opinion piece by Aimee Walker but it has been endorced by Lautrec.