Jack Lyons | The Berkshire Eagle
PITTSFIELD — Institutions in Berkshire County are pledging to promote racial equity inside and outside their organizations, as frustration over systemic racism continues to ignite protest after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Demands for action, not words, are growing louder.
But not all responses are created equal, one local expert said, and organizations must be deliberate and sincere to create real change.
Gwendolyn VanSant, chief executive officer of the local diversity nonprofit Multicultural BRIDGE, advises organizations to be personal and honest in their response to outcry about systemic racism.
"The most important thing is if they talk about what's happening and they reflect on where they are as an organization. So if they haven't talked about race, they have to start there," she said. "If they've been doing training for some time, and they've been working at it, then I think they need to take stock on where they are; what goals they've met and what goals they haven't."
VanSant emphasized that creating an equitable culture is a process, and organizations shouldn't pursue actions like significantly adjusting hiring practices if they "haven't done the work."
"In our county, what happens when you just start hiring people of color is you cause a lot more harm," she said. "You actually reinforce negative stereotypes because people aren't used to working cross-culturally, they don't understand that the culture is hard to penetrate for someone of a different background."
"All of that turns into being perceived, most of the time, as somebody's confidence or `good fit,' when really it's white supremacy culture," she added.