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Be The Change. Black Lives Matter.

By Cristina Garza

Dear Fellow Business Owners:

Do you feel powerless seeing protesters fighting against police brutality, systemic racism, bigotry, oppression, and senseless violence against black and brown communities? People who are our neighbors, friends, relatives, colleagues, community leaders, and teachers? 

 

Hell yes- it is easy to feel powerless. 

 

Are you afraid to protest in the middle of a global pandemic, but feel that you have to do something? Do you feel you can’t be silent, because in your heart you know that silence means betraying your community and yourself? 

 

Yes? Well, I’m right there with you. 

 

As both a business owner and a citizen you have the power to inspire change that will help your local community, all while navigating these troubled economic times. Don’t let fear paralyze you- even a small effort may snowball into something bigger than you imagined. My hope is that you can engage with this historical moment in a way that leaves you feeling empowered and ethical.

 

OK I want to help… How?

 

First, begin with empathy and compassion. Begin by understanding the plight of black and brown people so that you can have more context around our struggle. Don’t confuse empathy with sympathy. The difference between empathy and sympathy can be as simple as changing your statement from, “I’m sorry, that sucks” to “Tell me more, so I can understand where you are coming from”. With empathy we help others feel seen and heard, with sympathy we risk making them feel dismissed or diminished.

 

The New York Times recently published, An Anti Racist Reading List which doesn’t aim to make you “not racist”, but rather actively “anti-racist” which means that we, “continually rededicate ourselves to the lifelong task of overcoming our country’s racist heritage.” 

 

Victoria Alexander, a PHD Student at UMD and Anti-Racist Researcher, recently published an Anti-Racist Resource Guide, with an exhaustive list of organizations to connect with, non-profits to donate to, and articles and books to read. Holding on to your empathy while reading through this list is a good way to begin. It will help avoid many memetic pitfalls that come along the path of unlearning racism.

 

Next, if you plan to buy books and other media, do so while supporting local, black-owned businesses. Refrain from going to the big box retail store and putting still more money in a billionaire’s weighty pockets. Did you know that for every $100 spent at a local business, $43 stays in the local economy vs $13 if you went with the big box chain? Did you also know that entrepreneurship is one of the best ways to create true, long lasting wealth? You vote with your wallet and if you want to see black people be successful- support their businesses. 

 

If you are in a position of power- hire black and brown people and provide mentorship and avenues for their success. Actively audit your hiring process and look for ways in which you can objectively assess candidates, eliminating personal bias which would limit opportunities for black and brown people. Seek out software like Bryq (we use it at Accountingprose), which allows you to hire based on skill, capability, and potential. Continue to actively seek out education and resources to build a more diverse and inclusive team. 

 

Speaking of diversity… Rather than including black and brown people on your diversity panels only, try having us speak about other topics we are experts on. I have been on panel discussions where the focus is mainly on being a woman or being a brown woman. Invite black people to talk about their specialty, not just on the color of their skin. Yes, these talks are important. I’m not saying these discussions are not important- rather, find ways to highlight our expertise, which will position us as thought leaders in our community and industry and avoid the risk of tokenism. 

 

Finally, if you can’t be out in the street protesting, you can help those who are showing up for justice by paying their bail. Make a donation to the National Bail Fund or choose to donate to your local freedom fund, if you want to keep the money in your community. You may also consider donating to the NAACP Legal and Defense Fund, which fights against racial injustice. It is clear that the police in many states are actively seeking to hurt peaceful protesters (don’t believe me? check this out and take a look at this) and have even gone as far as denying bail/bond to those protestors who have been arrested. Even a small donation is an appreciated act of solidarity. 

 

Don’t let your silence be a betrayal to those looking to you for leadership, and don’t let your fear paralyze you. 

 

“Be the change” and together we will change the world.

 

Thank you, 

Cristina Garza

Cristina Garza

Founder, Accountingprose