Here we are again
Over the past few weeks, we have seen hundreds of protests against police violence across the globe in the wake of the brutal police murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. As the country grapples with the inherent racism and bigotry that it has been built upon, celebrities, corporations, and brands have begun weighing in on these important issues. From the NFL to Madonna to local organizations, social media has been inundated with words of support and solidarity—but are words enough? That’s a rhetorical question. The answer is hell no.
If you are a small business, brand, or organization looking to be a true ally to better support the Black community, pay attention. Words and intentions are not enough—it’s time for action.
Spoiler alert: Standing in solidarity with the Black community means that you demand change and take actionable steps to achieve it—it’s not issuing a statement, joining a book club, sharing resource lists, or asking Black folks to educate you on our experience.
A note about “woke washing” and “performative slacktivism”
Remember when Kendall Jenner solved the civil rights movement with a Pepsi? Or when white folks started wearing safety pins to let POC know we’re “safe” around them? This is what we call “wokewashing” and “performative slacktivism.” These performative gestures do little to actually get at the root of the problem and are an easy way to feign solidarity. Anyone can push out a tweet or issue a statement, but what systemic change is actually being created offline? What actionable steps are you taking to get there?
I personally am tired of seeing performative gestures that take away from the actual focus of the conversation which is to create actual systemic and institutional change. Thoughts, prayers, and solidarity are not enough. Before you get involved in the conversation and push out a company statement on Black issues, you may want to consider these things before you find yourself doing a whole lot of backtracking and apologizing. It goes far beyond being authentic.
- How are you supporting your own Black employees during this time? Yes, this may be stressful for you, but can you imagine how Black people feel with this weight? Every. Single. Day.
- Are your Black employees suddenly being called on to provide the Black perspective and ensure communications and materials are diverse and acceptable?
- Are your efforts authentic or performative? Were you committed to and vocal about injustice, inclusion, and ending systemic and institutional racism before the brutal police killing of George Floyd, another unarmed Black man lost at the hands of authorities? Although you may be well-intentioned, if you are just getting vocal, it could appear that you’re jumping on the bandwagon. You just could be speaking in the heat of the moment to be relevant \ with an issue in the national spotlight. Proceed with caution and work to have your voice heard but make sure your actions are louder.
- Have you been active in hiring of Black people and elevating the Black employees on your team? Take a look at your internal team and structure, the boardroom and the partners you utilize. Is there work to be done there?
- Have you tried to educate yourself on Black Issues? It is not the Black persons job to educate white people on Black issues—that one is on you—the white person. We’ve been talking about these issues for hundreds of years and haven’t been listened to, heard, or believed. So, if you’re tempted to ask your Black friends or colleagues to explain anything about today’s political climate as related to race and justice, I’d encourage you to reconsider. There are many resources that can be available at your fingertips. We’ve developed a list of resources below where you can start.
- White Fragility- Robin Diangelo
- 13th (documentary)- Ava DuVernay
- Blink- Malcolm Gladwell
- How to be Anti-Racist | Antiracists Baby | Stamped from the Beginning – Dr. Ibram X. Kendi
- Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria: And other Conversations About Race – Beverly Daniel Tatum
- Implicit Bias Test: Harvard
Now that you’ve taken a pretty long look in the mirror and examined your own white fragility, it’s time to get to work and create some meaningful change.