At this time, racial violence and threats of injustice towards Black people are pervasive — and sadly, this has long been a part of our society’s history. The people of color in your network may look like they are ok, but they are not. They are hurt, and frustrated, and restless; especially after witnessing the killing of George Floyd and many more at the hands of the police.
The response you deliver at this critical time can make the difference between Black people around you feeling safe or feeling deep distrust . Below are meaningful actions you can take to denounce racism, regardless of your position, your business, or your relationship with the person of color on the receiving end. Many of these points echo sentiments from Laura Morgan Roberts and Ella Washington’s piece in the Harvard Business Review today .
Show Empathy — Acknowledge the pain that you see the Black community feeling — even if you have never felt this way yourself. Ask “How are you doing?”, and most importantly listen.
Speak Up — Speaking up against racism is synonymous with speaking up against human rights violations. This is allowed. If you have a broader platform you’d like to use in uplifting the Black community, then do so. Remember that this is a non-political human rights matter and it is not a time to make this about yourself — so have open conversations with allies, colleagues, friends, and family about denouncing such injustice.
Do The Research — Learn the facts, listen to podcasts, read literature from creators — and equip yourself with the background on how we arrived here. You are much more inclined to find a personal connection to solving a problem when you have done the diligence yourself (see Resources below).
Allow Time — People are hurting, grieving, and feeling unheard. If you’re a friend, manager, or colleague, give people space and remove unnecessary obligations. For example, you might skip your usual Zoom call, as we are not in “business as usual” times.
Staying Silent — Resist the urge to quiet your voice due to your own discomfort. The absence of denouncing abhorrent racism, will instead condone it (see Speak Up).
Passing Ownership — Do not wait for your employer, city official, or government body, etc. to direct you — and do not require that Black people find answers for you, this adds another task to their list while they are already suffering (see Do The Research).
Changing the Narrative — Do not attempt to find a related story you are more comfortable debating, in lieu of addressing racism, as it belittles the Black community’s pain (see Show Empathy). As HBR describes, “when learning about police brutality against unarmed Black people, one reaction might be to search for evidence about what the victim did to deserve abuse, rather than demonstrating compassion”. Take the route of compassion and understanding.
Our response to systemic racism, racial violence, and police brutality must elevate to a place of learning and empathy. As uncomfortable as it can be, taking action and vocally denouncing racism is important and is possible.
- “America’s Racial Contract Is Killing Us” by Adam Serwer, Atlantic
- The 1619 Project by The New York Times Magazine
- “How Studying Privilege Systems Can Strengthen Compassion” by Peggy McIntosh, TEDxTimberlaneSchools
- Black Feminism & the Movement for Black Lives: Barbara Smith, Reina Gossett, Charlene Carruthers
-  “Black and Blue: Exploring Racial Bias and Law Enforcement in the Killings of Unarmed Black Male Civilians” by Alison V. Hall et al, Am Psychol
-  “U.S. Businesses Must Take Meaningful Action Against Racism” by Laura Morgan Roberts and Ella F. Washington, Harvard Business Review
- George Floyd Memorial Fund
- Black Lives Matter — Ways You Can Help
- Bail Funds for Protesters
Kaego Ogbechie Rust is CEO at Foresight Advisors — working with foundations, investment firms, non-profits, and for-profit ventures — offering comprehensive support across vision & strategy, investing & financing, and operational planning during critical periods of your growth.
If you’re looking for help, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.foresightadvisors.co.
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