A few months ago our inboxes were flooded each day as companies and friends put out their response to the spreading news of the coronavirus pandemic. When would the gym close, and what were they doing to maintain staff levels during a shut down? What restaurants were pivoting to take out? So much to learn as we transitioned to quarantine life at different stages around the country.
Now we are experiencing an inbox flood of a different sort as companies issue their statements condemning the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, others, and our history of systemic racism. We hear words of inclusion, people and companies are sharing lists for deeper understanding – anti-racial reading lists, podcasts, movies and videos. Companies are announcing huge financial donations to racial justice organizations, and they seem to be taking a stand to support diversity and to speak more loudly in condemnation of racism. People and companies are making clear where they stand and welcoming anyone else to stop supporting them, stop following them, to end their friendship if they disagree with equality.
I don’t recall anything like this in my lifetime. If the collective ‘we’ does not give up, I think there could be real changes stemming from this moment. Yes, there are policy changes that will make a difference, but if we open our eyes and ears, we realize that change also starts at home. It starts with our conversations with those around us, with educating ourselves about racism and what role we can play, and for making clear what we believe. (At least this is in part what I am taking from this past week of listening).
As a citizen, I realize that I have kept my voice muted. If I vote and donate, isn’t that enough? I hid behind shyness.
I realize this description fits me perfectly: “What ends up happening is [white people] freeze and do nothing. When we feel uncomfortable, sometimes, like a turtle, we crawl into our shell to self protect. However, to people of color this is deeply hurtful. It feels like you have chosen your perceived fear over our real fear. In the words of Dr. King, “At some point your silence feels like compliance.” There is no such thing as a silent ally.” ~ An email from Trevor Jenkins, a black employee at Active Campaign, an email provider.
As a business owner, I recognize that it comes with the responsibility to not stay silent. Despite the law treating businesses as people, businesses are not in fact people. Businesses are more than the head of a company, and they have a greater responsibility to the people the business seeks to serve.
I am still learning what that means in my own business in this moment, but I am making a commitment. In my realization, part of me wanted to to stay small. Can I just go back to getting a job?
But, no, that is not what I want. I will make a commitment to continually strive to help create an economy that is accessible to all citizens and not just the white elite. I feel it is a bit of a cop out to say other than that I’m still learning, but I also feel it is important to take more than this week with eyes and ears and heart open to decide the steps I can do. But know that I, as citizen and business owner, strive to be an ally towards racial equality in the United States of America.