Whether you characterize the events of summer 2020 as a reckoning, an awakening, an uprising, or some combination of the three, the ripple effects of George Floyd’s untimely death resonated far beyond the streets where protestors rallied for justice in his name. From scrappy startups to multinational corporations, companies realized that saying a few solemn words wouldn’t absolve them of creating workplaces or fostering an internal culture that weren’t actively anti-racist.

In order to navigate what for many was uncharted territory, CEOs and exec teams began to reach out to DEI firms and consultants en masse. For Dr. Akilah Cadet, the founder and CEO of an organizational development consulting firm called Change Cadet, the uptick in clients happened practically overnight. “My life changed on May 25, 2020 with the murder of George Floyd,” she says. “Literally the next day I started getting more inbound [emails]. In my career, I’d never seen white people this interested in diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging, anti-racism, and wanting to learn about white supremacy.”

Dr. Cadet met the overwhelming demand for her services by working around the clock for weeks on end. “I wanted to take advantage of this momentum. If I could be in a position where, you know, someone in the workplace wasn't going to be othered or discriminated against or passed over for that promotion and finally felt heard and validated, then I was going to do it,” she says.

Unfortunately, however, now that a year has passed by and we’re collectively looking back on what’s transpired since those initial shockwaves first traveled through our workplaces, it appears that many have been lulled back into a state of inaction.

The Difference Between Performative Allyship and Long-Term Commitment

“When actions and words don't align, that creates more problems,” Dr. Cadet says of company leaders that are hoping to “reprioritize” after putting out sweeping statements about making change. The key is to analyze and differentiate your commitment of intent versus impact.

If you’re wondering how to rededicate yourself to the fight, one thing worth keeping in mind is that there’s no easy to-do list that can be checked off and stored away. “It's a long-term commitment,” Dr. Cadet says. “This is lifelong work. There’s no end date for me or you. And if we aren't mutually holding each other accountable, then we're just wasting everyone's time.”

Where to Draw the Line of Discussing Politics at Work

For those who worry about the ramifications of permanently bringing “political” topics into the workplace, she says: “The humanity and equality of Black people is not a political thing.” Similarly, the humanity and equality of the API community, Jewish people, Muslim people, and other intersectional underrepresented communities should not be considered political.

How to Couple Statement With Action

Company leaders and executives often feel pressure to say what they think is “the right thing” to their employees, when in fact admitting that you don’t know something can create trust and another opportunity to be held accountable going forward. In addition, Dr. Cadet encourages companies to supplement their words — however imperfect — with action.

Action is crucial, a fact that she honors with her ACT acronym, which stands for accountability (to ourselves and others), communication, and transparency. Don’t be afraid to call out a racist statement or behavior in the moment, even if it feels uncomfortable, and it’s okay to admit that you’re still figuring things out. “If you’re on a journey to start doing the work, you can extend the timeline,” she says. “You can even pause to hire the person or the team that you want to bring in. All of that stuff is fine, but you just have to communicate that.”

Despite the fact that complacency has replaced some of the energy around addressing systemic racism that characterized last summer, Dr. Cadet encourages companies and executives to remain committed to the work to learn and grow — for however long it may take to make meaningful progress.