Our country is fragile.
Emotions were already all over the place because of the pandemic and the stay at home orders. But now with the tragic and racially motivated deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, emotions are at an all-time high. The deaths of these two human beings started protests and rallies across continents. And these protests have sparked a national conversation towards change in helping unwind racial bias and equal rights for our black citizens and colleagues.
After seeing these protests, you may be asking yourself, “What can I do to help?” They could also have you wondering, “What exactly is the problem?” Or they may even have you muting social media and turning off the television until it blows over.
As a black woman in the tax profession, this is hard for me to watch. I have sons and grandsons that will grow up in this racially-tense environment. Also, as a minority woman in this industry, I am continuously fighting for my black colleagues all across the nation to be seen and heard as experts in the field. I know change does not happen overnight. I also know that there are tons of accountants out there who never recognized there was a problem until one of these cases of police brutality took center stage.
Did you realize our current tax system has existing racial inequalities? Here are a few articles to help illustrate those inequalities and possible solutions to correct them in the future as shared with #TaxTwitter, by Brakeyshia R. Samms:
- Racial Disparities and the Income Tax System
- The Illusion of Race-Neutral Tax Policy
- How the Federal Tax Code Can Better Advance Racial Equity
- Advancing Racial Equity With State Tax Policy
There were several other resources shared on that Twitter thread, so make sure to check it out if you would like to learn more and help influence policy legislation in the future.
As mentally challenging as this is for me in this moment, I will to do my best to offer you some suggestions on how you can currently support your black colleagues and become a better ally (and hopefully more self-aware) for the long-term benefit of our profession and country.
- Listen – now is the time to listen with your ears and not your mouth. The experience of black Americans is vastly different than what you think you know. If someone of a different race offers to share their story with you, listen. Try not to craft a response but actually commit to being present in the moment and putting yourself in their shoes to find some empathy. Make sure to ask if it’s ok to ask questions before diving deeper. If the answer is no, say thank you anyway. Appreciate the fact that they shared a possible open wound with you that they haven’t healed from. And if you don’t agree with their point of view it’s ok, but try and keep it to yourself at this time. And if you find that you really need to say something, share it with a friend who looks more like you; maybe they can offer some insight and clarity that you don’t yet see.
- Learn – now is the time to read about our rich culture and divisive experience in this country. Understand why we may be frustrated. Again, this helps with empathy. Here is a free anti-racism training being offered online, and a list of resources that was shared with me online complied by Sarah Sophie Flicker, Alyssa Klein.
- Don’t stay silent – although now is a time to listen, it’s also a time to speak up. Your black brothers and sisters need you to speak up for them where you see or suspect unfair treatment in your workplace or in your communities. Become an ally. They may also need your voice to help them get noticed. If you are participating as a speaker or leader at an event, and you see there aren’t any minorities on the roster, consider speaking with organizers about the clear lack of diversity and inclusion and/or consider giving up your spot and suggest a minority expert in the field to take your place instead.
- Donate – some of you may feel stuck and aren’t quite ready to talk or listen but you want to help. We appreciate donations to causes that are set up to help individuals who have been affected by social and racial injustices. Here a few reputable charities that I personally have donated to:
You can also find charities in your local jurisdiction, helping the black and brown people in your communities. This way you are truly making a difference closer to home. I also want to remind you that just throwing money at a problem does not make it go away. So even if you make a donation, I implore you to still work on steps 1-3 to become a better ally for your black colleagues.
Hopefully, these ideas and resources will help you commit to being a better tax professional. Not one that just simply prepares tax returns day in and day out, but one that can find compassion and has the empathy and understanding to work with and serve people of color through all walks of life. I also hope that these ideas will help you raise up the next generation with less internal biases and truly strive for equality for all.