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.
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.