If you aren’t thinking about racial justice and racial equity you must have the privilege of intentionally blocking it out. You’d have to be working really hard to do that right now. If you weren’t already outraged at blatant racism and white supremacy in the US, and you aren’t outraged now, then take a long look in the mirror.
I’ve been taking a long look in the mirror for a while now. As a result, the horrific tragedies in the headlines have not been surprising. Which is so sad to acknowledge. I’m compelled to try to straighten out a few things, first for myself, and then for business leaders who have separated racial justice and racial equity as issues for activists to fight rather than issues for every person to act on, personally and as business leaders. It’s important to acknowledge that my perspective is a middle aged (how did that happen?) privileged white women passionate about racial justice based on volunteer work, equity work over the course of my career, self directed education and learning from my clients. While I’ve experienced gender discrimination along with every other women, as a white person I will never know what it feels like to be a black person. I write as an ally with deep respect for the immeasurably different experience a black person has in our society. In many ways I feel I don’t have the right to say anything about racism. Yet I also know that in order to change our society more people have to speak up. I’m speaking up with the sole intention of sharing what I’ve learned and dispelling the myths I believe are still prevalent that are blocking racial justice and equity. I’m sure I won’t get this all right, I have so much more learning to do, but at the very least I have to try.
Black people need white people, so show up white people
As was repeated continuously at Black Lives Matter protests, there is no way that People of Color can combat racial injustice and white supremacy and build racial equity on their own. And they should never be asked to do that. The only way racism ends is if white people end it. We have the power, by design, to make it happen. It’s up to us. So all of us white people, we must get educated, show up, listen, learn, and only act in ways that promote racial justice and build racial equity.
Every white person has benefited from racism
The faster we acknowledge that white supremacy was designed to benefit every white person over every person of color the sooner we move to dismantling the system that was built to keep white people in power. White people have to give up the power that has been unjustly and deliberately built into every institution in our society (our schools, government, laws, companies, technology, media, movies, shows, toys, books, it’s a never ending list). We must believe with every fiber of our being that racial equity benefits all of us.
It’s not individual racism we need focus on
White people like to think that if they aren’t racist they’ve done their duty. White supremacy is about skinheads and Neo-Nazi groups, right? And if I’m not one of them, and I view them with passionate disdain, I’ve done what I’m supposed to do, right? Those horrible people have nothing to do with me, so I’m good, right? This is one of the biggest lies we tell to convince ourselves that everything will be OK once people stop being bigots. This thinking will forever perpetuate racism. Yes, there are racists that make your stomach turn and blood boil. However this is not a chicken vs egg problem where we don’t know where to start. It’s clear where we must start. We start with the systems because our deliberately built racist systems breed racism and racists. Do not let anyone fool you into thinking otherwise.
Once you see it you can’t unsee it, and that’s the point
Once you really acknowledge your systemic white privilege you will see evidence of it everywhere. You can’t get away from it. You will be constantly disgusted, dismayed, demoralized, frustrated. And that’s not even an iota of what it would feel like to be walking around with a different skin color. So when you want to just bury your head in the sand remember that you are privileged to have the choice to do so. You must keep working as an ally for every marginalized part of our society. Everywhere you see oppression happening, regardless of who the victim is, benefits white supremacy and must be stopped.
This is a long game
For those of us passionate about building conscious businesses long term orientation is familiar thinking. Racism was deliberately built into the framework of the United States and has been around for over 400 years. We must work steadily together to dismantle it and it will take a long time. How long, no one knows. But we, white people, control the accelerator. Let’s be thoughtful, deliberate and swift. Let’s celebrate all progress and not get discouraged. When the protests end and the media coverage shifts, there is a ton of work to do and we all have to do it together.