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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It is one thing to read and another thing to understand what you are reading. Not only do you want to understand, but also remember what you've read. Otherwise, we can safely say that if we're not gaining anything from what we read, then it's a big waste of time.
Whatever you read, there are ways to do so in a more effective manner to help you understand better. Whether you are reading by choice, for an upcoming test, or work-related material, here are a few ways to help you improve your reading skills and retain that information.
Read with a Purpose
Never has there been a shortage of great books. So, someone recommended a great cookbook for you. You start going through it, but your mind is wandering. This doesn't mean the cookbook was an awful recommendation, but it does mean it doesn't suit nor fulfill your current needs or curiosity.
Maybe your purpose is more about launching a business. Maybe you're a busy mom and can't keep office hours, but there's something you can do from home to help bring in more money, so you want information about that. At that point, you won't benefit from a cookbook, but you could gain a lot of insight and find details here on how-to books about working from home. During this unprecedented year, millions have had to make the transition to work from home, and millions more are deciding to do that. Either way, it's not a transition that comes automatically or easily, but reading about it will inform you about what working from home entails.
When you pre-read it primes your brain when it's time to go over the full text. We pre-read by going over the subheadings, for instance, the table of contents, and skimming through some pages. This is especially useful when you have formal types of academic books. Pre-reading is a sort of warm-up exercise for your brain. It prepares your brain for the rest of the information that will come about and allows your brain to be better able to pick the most essential pieces of information you need from your chosen text.
Highlighting essential sentences or paragraphs is extremely helpful for retaining information. The problem, however, with highlighting is that we wind up highlighting way too much. This happens because we tend to highlight before we begin to understand. Before your pages become a neon of colored highlights, make sure that you only highlight what is essential to improve your understanding and not highlight the whole page.
You might think there have been no new ways to read, but even the ancient skill of reading comes up with innovative ways; enter speed reading. The standard slow process shouldn't affect your understanding, but it does kill your enthusiasm. The average adult goes through around 200 to 250 words per minute. A college student can read around 450 words, while a professor averages about 650 words per minute, to mention a few examples. The average speed reader can manage 1,500 words; quite a difference! Of course, the argument arises between quality and quantity. For avid readers, they want both quantity and quality, which leads us to the next point.
Life is too short to expect to gain knowledge from just one type of genre. Some basic outcomes of reading are to expand your mind, perceive situations and events differently, expose yourself to other viewpoints, and more. If you only stick to one author and one type of material, you are missing out on a great opportunity to learn new things.
Having said that, if there's a book you are simply not enjoying, remember that life is also too short to continue reading it. Simply, close it, put it away and maybe give it another go later on, or give it away. There is no shame or guilt in not liking a book; even if it's from a favorite author. It's pretty much clear that you won't gain anything from a book that you don't even enjoy, let alone expect to learn something from it.
If you're able to summarize what you have read, then you have understood. When you summarize, you are bringing up all the major points that enhance your understanding. You can easily do so chapter by chapter.
Take a good look at your life and what's going on in it. Accordingly, you'll choose the material that is much more suitable for your situation and circumstances. When you read a piece of information that you find beneficial, look for a way to apply it to your life. Knowledge for the sake of knowledge isn't all that beneficial. But the application of knowledge from a helpful book is what will help you and make your life more interesting and more meaningful.