Congratulations, you have a racialised person at the head of your organization, now what?

During the uprisings of 2020, we saw an increase in the willingness to act, to speak out, but above all to question several practices that affect the lives of black people and more broadly racialised people. Although this movement began to denounce police brutality and social injustice with the deaths of Georges Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Regis Korchinski-Paquet. The movement didn’t stop there. Black communities, particularly those in North America, were at the forefront of the movement to dismantle systemic racism. In an effort to go beyond the performative messages evoked by certain organizations showing their support. A number of activists began to denounce the representativeness of racialised people, but especially that of black people on the boards and in senior positions of these organizations.


Nonetheless, it was possible to see that some organizations have decided to put their money where their mouth is, by putting racialised people at the head of their organizations. A change that COCo also recently made by appointing women representatives from various marginalized communities at the head our organization. Now that this is the case, this article by Cyndi Suarez highlights a few points of tension raised to her by several racialised leaders. 


In the article, Suarez takes the liberty of listing several points of tension, but we found two of them particularly interesting. 


   1. Higher standards

“People expect more from leaders of color and there is often lack of agreement about who’s vision leads the organization.”


Here, the author explores the issue of boards making the decision to appoint a racialised person as the organization’s leader. In the hope that this person can also address the organization’s social inequities and dysfunctional dynamics. It’s important not to put a racialised employees in this position, otherwise you risk tokenizing their role.


   2. Lack of resources to get to the root of the problem

“boards hiring leaders of color to address organizational equity and justice issues without appropriate support and resources”


She goes on to explain that, while these black, indigenous and racialised leaders are willing to make changes, it’s important to provide the right resources to make them happen. It’s important to provide the resources to make these changes happen. That’s when it’s important to be a good accomplice for racialised people.


What can be done?


Among these possible solutions, two proved to be relevant to the points of tension raised:

  1. It’s important to address seniority and ageism, when starting discussions and reflections around our new racialised leaders. A topic we’ve already covered here
  2. Offer space and time for racialised leaders to express their leadership in multiple ways. Not to expect them to resolve all the racial disparities in the organization. But rather, to welcome these conversations transversally.


All in all, the work is not limited to representing marginalized people in his organization. Through these discussions with a number of leaders in the community sector, Suarez helps us explore the multiple facets that such a decision can have on the organization, but above all on our leadership.