From “I’m Not Racist” to Becoming an Ally: A Journey of Personal Growth

“I’m not a Racist!” Anger or tears often accompany this proclamation and may be proof that, yes, you are a racist. But take a breath and pay attention. You can become an ally and also lead your credit union into a diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) reality.

In today’s world, acknowledging and addressing racism-related issues is crucial for fostering a more inclusive and equitable credit union. Many individuals start their journey with the assertion, “I’m not racist.” This declaration may reflect an initial awareness, but it is essential to move beyond mere self-declaration and actively work toward becoming an ally and an anti-racist. The journey is hard because it requires acknowledging your privilege and taking intentional steps toward understanding and supporting marginalized communities. Becoming an anti-racist is a transformative process that leads to the broader fight against systemic racism. In the following, I will explore the critical steps in this journey and provide insights into how you can evolve from a passive stance to becoming a genuine ally.

  1. Self-Reflection: The first step in this transformative journey is honest self-reflection. Acknowledge and examine your biases, assumptions, and preconceived notions. Recognize how your own experiences and upbringing may have shaped your perspectives. It’s essential to confront these uncomfortable truths about yourself to pave the way for growth. You must be willing to forgive yourself for these preconceived notions because you didn’t realize your background, history, and upbringing implanted these biases and assumptions in your consciousness. By examining these biases, preconceptions, and privileges, we recognize that we are not alone; everyone holds some degree of bias. This introspection sets the foundation for a more open-minded and empathetic approach towards dismantling systemic racism.
  2. Acknowledge Your Privilege and Bias: We begin acknowledging our privilege and implicit biases from this self-reflection. Privilege comes in various forms – racial, economic, gender, and more. Recognizing our own privilege is not about guilt but about understanding the advantages we may have in society. We begin to realize that “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps” assumes we all had bootstraps to start with, and some bootstraps were unreachable because of skin color or barriers erected by society. This privilege inherent in our background creates implicit biases. We are unaware of these implicit biases and the unintended result of creating unconscious prejudices that influence our thoughts and actions. Yes, you are a product of your history, so forgive yourself.
  3. Educate Yourself: We must become well-informed about the history and systemic issues surrounding racism. Knowing this history will serve as the foundation for informed conversations and actions. Becoming an ally is an ongoing learning process that involves understanding the historical context of racism and marginalized communities’ experiences while staying informed about current issues. This education can take various forms, such as reading books (see the reading list at the end of this article), watching documentaries (list provided below,) and conversing with people from different backgrounds. It is crucial to approach this step with humility and a genuine desire to understand.
  4. Listen and Amplify: To become an ally takes learning how to be an active listener seeking to understand the experiences and voices of those who face discrimination. By engaging in conversations with humility, openness, and a genuine willingness to learn from marginalized individuals’ experiences and differing perspectives we set our pathway to allyship. This is done by creating spaces for these voices to be heard without overshadowing or silencing them. Allies use their platforms to amplify these voices so they can share their stories and advocate for change. Centering marginalized voices in discussions about racism is a powerful way to contribute to a more inclusive credit union.
  5. Acknowledge Mistakes and Learn: As we move through this process, mistakes are inevitable. Acknowledge and learn from your mistakes without being defensive or emotional. Use these moments as opportunities for personal growth and commitment to continuous improvement. Becoming an ally is a constant process that involves making mistakes and learning from them. Individuals must acknowledge when they have fallen short, reflect on their actions, and commit to doing better. Growth comes from being open to feedback and actively working towards improvement.
  6. Challenging Microaggressions: As you progress in your allyship journey, it is essential to confront and challenge microaggressions and discriminatory behaviors when and where you observe them. This involves stepping out of your comfort zone and having difficult conversations with coworkers, friends, and family. Allyship requires a commitment to standing up against racism in all its forms, even when it is uncomfortable.
  7. Advocate for Inclusivity: Use your influence to advocate for inclusivity within your credit union, social circles, and community. Encourage diverse perspectives and support initiatives that promote equality. Allyship involves actively working towards dismantling the historic and systemic barriers that contribute to inequality. Allyship is not just about words; it’s about taking tangible actions to support anti-racist initiatives. This may involve donating to organizations working towards racial justice, participating in community events, volunteering your time and skills, and supporting businesses, artists, and leaders from marginalized communities. Allies actively work towards creating a more just and inclusive society by using their voices to raise awareness about systemic issues and encourage others to join the conversation.
  8. Listen and Empathize: Listening is a powerful tool in your journey towards allyship. Actively listen to the experiences and perspectives of individuals who have faced racism. Develop empathy by putting yourself in their shoes, understanding their challenges, and validating their feelings. Creating a safe space for open dialogue fosters mutual understanding and trust. This action includes not becoming defensive or emotional when your own biases or actions are challenged. In the journey to allyship, these challenges to our behaviors, attitudes, and biases are how we understand where and what we need to change and improve.
  9. Stay Committed: Becoming an ally is a lifelong commitment. Stay engaged with the ongoing fight against racism, advocate for change, and be receptive to evolving your perspectives. The journey towards allyship is dynamic, requiring continuous learning and active participation. True allyship involves ongoing self-reflection and growth. Acknowledge mistakes, learn from them, and commit to doing better. Embrace discomfort as a sign of personal growth and use it as motivation to continue challenging preconceptions and biases.

By taking these steps, individuals contribute to the collective effort to dismantle systemic racism and build a workplace and society that values diversity, equity, and inclusion. Allyship is not a destination but an ongoing commitment to growth, solidarity, and positive change.

Reading list:


  • “Slavery by Another Name” a documentary series on PBS
  • “The African Americans, Many Rivers to Cross” a documentary on PBS
  • “Freedom Riders” a documentary on PBS
  • “Eyes on the Prize” a documentary on PBS
  • “Soundtrack for Revolution” a documentary on PBS
  • “Dark Girls” a documentary on PBS
  • “The 13th” a documentary on Netflix
  • “Just Mercy” a documentary on Warner Bros.
  • “Say Her Name: The Life and Death of Sandra Bland” on HBO
  • “The Hate You Give” from 20th Century Studios
  • “Selma” from Paramount
  • “I Am Not Your Negro” on Amazon Prime
  • “Time: The Kalief Browder Story” on Netflix
  • “Crime + Punishment” on YouTube
  • “Who We Are” on YouTube


Rich Jones is the Founder/Principal of Leading2Leadership LLC. Before starting his strategic planning agency, he spent over 20 years in leadership roles in the financial services sector. Before becoming an executive in the financial services sector, Rich was an entrepreneur, building and selling two businesses and working for early-stage start-up companies in executive roles in marketing, business development, and seeking investment partners. With more than three decades of experience, he brings innovative thought to companies and executives. Rich published “Leading2Leadership, a Situational Primer to Leadership Excellence.” The book is available on and was designed to be used as a book study for leadership development programs; it breaks leadership skills into manageable situations for discussion and reflection. Rich works with credit unions, CUSOs, and vendors, designing digital, data, culture, marketing, and branding transformation strategies. In 2014, Chosen as a Credit Union Rock Star by CU Magazine, and in 2018, Rich received the Lifetime Achievement Award from CUNA Marketing and Business Development Council. A Marine and graduate of Colorado State University, Jones shares his expertise at

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