Please Stop ‘Just Checking In’ on Your Black Co-Workers
Sending open-ended messages asking how we’re doing puts emotional labor on Black folks when we’re already struggling
We’re all figuring out how to navigate this world of multiple pandemics — Covid-19 and anti-Black racism. In the wake of the social unrest and insurrection that has engulfed our country with George Floyd’s murder, it feels like the world is standing witness to the collective grief and trauma we as Black folks are currently navigating.
I spent last week trying to function while also taking time to grieve and express my real ANGER. Anger that Black people are again met with a parade of Black death on TV and social media. It feels like we’ve had a decade of this same cycle and I am fed up.
At the same time, I’ve also gotten a lot of messages from co-workers who are “just checking on how I am doing.” While I do appreciate the sentiment and care of this action, I also want to say that it is not helpful right now.
Why “just checking in” isn’t helpful
You, in an effort to show kindness or awareness or maybe just to alleviate guilt, may feel inclined to ask: “How are you holding up? Are you okay?” The answer to your question is no. We are not okay. Who would be okay under these circumstances?
What is more, when Black folks are faced with this open-ended question, we are faced with two impossible choices: minimize our emotions for the sake of workplace civility or risk reopening an emotional wound we’ve been working hard to heal.
Private messages of support are nice but public messages of solidarity are better.
What you can do instead of “just checking in”
If you are someone who wants to do something and who cares about your Black co-workers, here is what I recommend instead: