With Whom Will You Stand?
Updated: Aug 13, 2020
In the past two weeks, several companies and organizations have made verbal statements about their commitment to the Black Lives Matter movement and racial equity. Some of them are even making commitments to invest organizational dollars and resources to support social change. And I’m glad to see it.
But this is where the hard part comes in. Eventually, the topic of the day will change and most of America will move on the next thing that makes 2020 an absolute dumpster fire. And when the spotlight dims and there’s less pressure to verbally commit to racial equity, what will people do? To be in solidarity with Black and Brown folks at this moment, it is important to be CRYSTAL CLEAR about whom you will stand behind and what choices you will make. Because rest assured, you will be challenged with some competing ideas about who you should be in solidarity with and you will have to make a choice.
The commitments people are making today, if they see them through, will disrupt systems that have created privilege for some and inequity for others. In my experience, any time people’s privilege is threatened, they will do everything in their power to maintain their privilege and crush anyone leading up the charge to make changes. It is in these moments that we all must decide with whom we will stand.
When your staff use anonymous forums to spout racist ideas about diversity, what will you do? Will you soften and roll back your Diversity Equity & Inclusion efforts to appease white staff who feel threatened? When you have customers who are offended that you’ve chosen to support Black and Brown people, will you stand firm for what you say you value, despite the blowback?
Will you change the bold statements about your commitment to stand in solidarity with the Black community and to strive to be an anti-racist organization when you hear from a funder that they are outraged and that the language is inflammatory? Will you roll back programs intended to disrupt persistent patterns of microaggressions and more blatant racism that Black and Brown people encounter every day (experiences that literally take years off of the lives of the Black and Brown people you say you are in solidarity with) because some people are uncomfortable about what they learn through those programs?
And when you misstep on this journey towards racial equity — because there will be missteps — what will you do? Will you focus on your intent and influencing the person your actions have harmed to see you as a good person? Or will you work to repair the harm, make amends, and do better next time? Will you commit to making change even if it means decentering yourself? Can you move beyond seeking validation of yourself when you move in solidarity with Black and Brown people? Will you give up your privileges to achieve equity? Progress and learning require discomfort and sacrifice. You cannot change without getting uncomfortable.
The push back is already happening. People are already complaining about being “forced” to make changes to create a more inclusive and equitable society. They want to maintain the privilege of being unaccountable for actions that harm others and create inequity and injustice. To achieve change, we will need to stand up and not be moved by the push back. So when the push back happens — and it will happen — you will need to choose with whom you are in solidarity. Your actions will matter even more than your words of support. I hope you choose wisely.