I was raised with, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all,” and “There are two sides to every story.” I try very hard to see the best in people and look for silver lining in situations. I mean, there is literally a f*ing pandemic right now and I’m like, “Well, at least I get to spend more time with my family.” (Yeah, I know… I’ve been called a pollyanna, and they’re not wrong.)
So when the death of George Floyd led to protests in Minneapolis, and then throughout the country including the Detroit area where I live, I was dismayed at the news, the situation, the injustices that led up to it, and so very sad that his family members lost someone they loved.
But, it didn’t seem like my problem to solve.
I was wrong.
I didn’t think it was my place to say anything. I was afraid to say the wrong thing and offend someone.
I was wrong.
It’s my problem to solve, starting with myself, my attitude, my silence, my lack of education, and the privilege and biases that I didn’t know I had. First and foremost, I will start by educating myself and learning from others to try and understand white privilege and racism.
It’s my problem to solve by speaking up, and not minding my own business any more. I will call people out on hate, racism, prejudice and injustice, in my own circles. If they are willing to listen and learn, I will share resources from people much more knowledgeable than me, but I will have the conversation. People will probably get mad at me and I’m ok with that. Perhaps another silent person will hear me and do the same thing in their circles.
“I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision.“Maya Angelou
It’s my problem to solve by taking a hard look at where my time and money goes. I’m doing both a gut-check and a financial-check to adjust where my personal and business money is being donated and spent. I will research the businesses and groups I spend money on to see what their values are, and actively seek out inclusive, equitable, and diverse companies to work with.
It’s my problem to solve by putting myself “out there” and sharing my values and causes I support. I strongly believe in supporting BIPOC and LGBTQ communities, causes, and businesses, but you wouldn’t know that, would you? This is not politics, it’s human rights.
It’s my problem to solve by learning more about the good AND bad sides of my ancestors’ contributions to the history of the United States. The more I understand how we (not “they”) have created and perpetuated racism and hate in this country, the better I can do personally to take part in being part of the solution.
It’s my problem to solve by taking a hard look at the media I consume, and making a concerted effort to read, watch, listen, and consume more books, movies, podcasts, videos, blogs, created by non-white people. Just Google “decolonize your bookshelf” if you’d like some suggestions to do this as well.
As a woman-owned business, I thought I understood. If you’re a white dude reading this, you probably have a vague acknowledgement of the fact that women get paid less and are often overlooked in the workforce. We have to work twice as hard to get half the recognition. But I don’t think my husband “got it” until our daughter started studying engineering, and it dawned on him that she may never get paid as much as she deserves because she’s a woman. Suddenly, he was pissed off. I was like, “Yeah, where have you been?”
I apologize to my BIPOC friends and colleagues, who have been dealing with this for generations, that it took me so long to really hear you. I was wrong. Thank you for calling me out (in the past and hopefully in the future) for saying dumb sh*t. I will continue to listen and learn, and I pledge to do better and use my voice to speak up. I know you’re tired, and I want to help.
I have to say a public thank you to Kronda Adair at Karvel Digital, not only for her kick-ass business coaching and tips, but in the context of this topic, her straight-forward perspective in posts like, Doing Business While Black in the Face of White Supremacy (check out all the links in that post as well). Through Kronda, I also learned about the What Does It Mean to be White course at Jore Consulting, Trudy Lebron’s Show Up and Serve workshop for white coaches, and Rachel Rodgers’ Small Business Town Hall at Helloseven.co, which leads to the next and last point in this long blog post.
On behalf of my business, Surelutions, I have signed the Anti-racist Small Business Pledge and am committed to building an equitable, anti-racist organization.
“We as small business owners, have resources, influence, and power. Let’s use it to make real change that goes far beyond a single public statement or a single Facebook live.”– Rachel Rodgers, helloseven.co
If you’re a small business owner and have no idea what or if you should do or say anything, I encourage you to take 2 hours of your time to watch the Small Business Town Hall discussion video. You learn ways you can take action, and opt to sign the pledge for yourself and your business to be better and do better.
I would love to hear your thoughts and suggested resources. What are you doing in your organization to share your values? Have you seen good examples of small business owners using their influence to promote racial justice and equity?