4 Min ReadBusiness 18 June 2020
A message to CEOs, business leaders, and white people in general. For the past five years, I have worked with a grassroots organization, I Grow Chicago, to heal the root causes of trauma and violence in Englewood, a neighborhood that is 95% Black and 100% low income. As I've engaged with this work, it has become increasingly clear that the root causes of trauma and violence in our community boil down to racism and white supremacy.
If you believe Black lives matter, you need to do the work to ensure that Black lives matter in all of your actions.
Of the people we serve, 15% don't have regular access to running water, 59% are food insecure, 62% don't have reliable access to internet, 73% are unemployed, 59% have been incarcerated, 87% don't have access to affordable childcare, and 41% don't have health insurance. This is the reality for human beings in our country.
But none of this is going to change for Englewood until white people, especially those in decision-making positions in corporations, step up and put action behind words. If you believe Black lives matter, you need to do the work to ensure that Black lives matter in all of your actions.
When the news cycle moves on, make sure your company doesn't.
Here's How You And Your Business Can Do The Work:
Sit With Discomfort And Stop Looking For Quick Fixes
To do anti-racist work, you will need to commit to an ongoing, daily growth process, which requires discomfort. You will feel challenged. You might feel defensive. Or you might feel that you're on the right side of history, and it's others who are the problem. You might blame everything on Trump. You might feel tired and hopeless, or you might feel ready for a change. Commit yourself and your team to the process, even when it gets hard, even as it challenges all of who you think you are. Because it will. And if your anti-racism work doesn't challenge you to the core, you aren't doing it right. A helpful book to get started with sitting with these feelings is My Grandmother's Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies by Resmaa Menakem.
Sign Up Your Entire Team For Anti-Racism Trainings
Create a shared language among all members of your team. Sign up your entire board and executive staff, but also make sure you include lower-level staff in these training sessions. Often team members of different positions and power have very different perspectives on how well a company is doing on anti-racism. Make sure you listen to all voices in this process. Enrich Chicago has an upcoming Introduction to Race & White Supremacy Webinar June 18 and 19. Michelle Cassandra Johnson has a four-part Dismantling Racism online workshop June 22 - July 1. Find a training program that works for your team and sign up immediately.
Do An Audit Of Your Business Practices
Look at the makeup of your board and staff. Look at the businesses you source from. Look at how much people are paid and if there are any correlations between race and pay scale. Look at your budget as an expression of your values. All aspects of your operations are an opportunity to advance justice.
Listen To And Trust People Of Color
Please note that this does not mean asking people of color to hold space for you, explain racism to you, or comfort you. This means that when a person of color shares feedback, asks for help, or highlights a problem, truly listen. Recognize that you do not share their lived experience and that their voice is invaluable. Recognize it as a gift that they trust you enough to share, and maintain that trust by responding appropriately with compassionate action.
Get In Proximity With The Problem
This is one of the core tenets of social justice lawyer Bryan Stevenson and is foundational to developing true understanding. I didn't and couldn't believe that people in my own city could be without basic human rights until I saw it with my own eyes, until I couldn't unsee it. Get involved with grassroots work. Donate substantially to small organizations on the ground. Be in community without posting pictures and without publishing a press release
Walk Before You Talk
Justice isn't a marketing campaign or a way to check the box. Please do not release a diversity statement unless you are willing to do the work. Please do not over-publicize your efforts. Yes, a company that does good is attractive in the market, but your effort will be disingenuous if you promote before you truly engage in tangible anti-racist practices. This kind of virtue signaling, when not backed with committed, ongoing, tangible actions, is nothing more than marketing. BLM posts without anti-racist practices reads as inauthentic as "natural flavors" in our junk food. Do this work because lives are on the line, not because of your bottom line. Once you walk the walk, then you can talk the talk.
Anti-racism is an ongoing practice. The media cycle will move on. It might seem easy to continue "business as usual" soon or to "get through" this. Racism isn't something to "get through" — it's something to dismantle. When the news cycle moves on, make sure your company doesn't.
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Help! My Friend Is a No Show
Dear Armchair Psychologist,
I have a friend who doesn't reply to my messages about meeting for dinner, etc. Although, last week I ran into her at a local restaurant of mine, it has always been awkward to be friends with her. Should I continue our friendship or discontinue it? We've been friends for a total four years and nothing has changed. I don't feel as comfortable with her as my other close friends, and I don't think I'll ever be able to reach that comfort zone in pure friendship.
Dear Sadsies,I am sorry to hear you've been neglected by your friend. You may already have the answer to your question, since you're evaluating the non-existing bond between yourself and your friend. However, I'll gladly affirm to you that a friendship that isn't reciprocated is not a good friendship.
I have had a similar situation with a friend whom I'd grown up with but who was also consistently a very negative person, a true Debby Downer. One day, I just had enough of her criticism and vitriol. I stopped making excuses for her and dumped her. It was a great decision and I haven't looked back. With that in mind, it could be possible that something has changed in your friend's life, but it's insignificant if she isn't responding to you. It's time to dump her and spend your energy where it's appreciated. Don't dwell on this friend. History is not enough to create a lasting bond, it only means just that—you and your friend have history—so let her be history!
- The Armchair Psychologist