I realize that you likely didn’t pop over to my blog for a hit of activism, but surprise, darling! Here we are, and it’s important.
2020 is giving us the opportunity to get very, very clear. We’re finally asking the hard, uncomfortable questions that the majority of us have been too comfy-cozy and cocooned by to engage in. That’s especially true in the case of the rise of the Black Lives Matter civil rights movement because: there are, and there have always been, broad-reaching systemic problems that have caused the Black community generations of pain and suffering in which white folks have all benefited and been complicit in, knowingly or unknowingly. It’s unfair, it’s morally wrong, we need to acknowledge and accept that – and we need to address it to change it.
To dismantle the systems of institutional racism requires us all to follow the lead of the BIPOC voices who are driving the movement for change.
There are lots of ways to do this:
→ Actively support and centre those who have not had access to opportunity because of the colour of their skin.
→ Leveraging our platforms online and offline to raise and feature BIPOC expertise, voices, businesses.
→ Purposefully connecting our core values, our intentions, and our actions on an on-going basis. Intentions are meaningless if inaction follows. Yoda has always been on the money with this one: “do or do not, there is no try.”
With the privilege of having a platform as a small business owner comes the responsibility not just to say that white voices must take a stand to centre BIPOC voices, but to demonstrate it, too.
Last week, white friend asked me if I’d consider creating a highlight of the anti-racist posts I had been featuring. She asked because she wanted to come back to it, it was a lot to take in. My immediate reaction was “no” – and then I had to do some self-inquiry about why I reacted that way.
What’s happening in the world right now is not a “vacation highlight” where the reel has a start and an end date. Anti-racism is an on-going commitment and practice. Much like other non-negotiables in life, results only happen with consistency.
I really appreciated the reason my friend asked that question, and the chance it gave me to think about it.
Qualify the clients we take on → Develop a vetting framework that extends beyond the problem your business solves and looks at for whom it solves those problems. If your company is B2B, the vetting framework can include looking at the inner-workings of potential clients to see how they address issues including anti-racism, inclusion and promotion of employees across under-represented communities.
My clients are both individuals and businesses. I prioritize working with women-owned/led and POC-owned/led businesses, and with companies that put their employees and customers first. Now, I’m implementing active investigation and inquiry about corporate diversity and inclusion actions in the discovery phase with potential corporate clients.
Be purposeful and inclusionary in our imagery → For personal brands where visuals reflect an individual, this might seem difficult. But, there are lots of ways to be expansive and inclusionary even if the brand is “all about you.”
Refocus on your audience. Review the images you use for your website, blog, and social to find where you can use images that paint an inclusive picture of your audience or clientele, or raise and forward BIPOC leadership, beauty, entrepreneurialism, or talent in your areas of interest.
Do the same when choosing images for proposals and deliverables. If your brand aesthetic is super niche, consider investing in a custom photoshoot to get what you need.
Prioritize BIPOC mentorship, collaborators, and partnerships → Consultants, assistants, mentors, agency partners – our teams are our partners and our partners build our brands. But hiring isn’t enough. Working with consultants, listening to our partners, trusting their expertise, implementing their ideas, and promoting BIPOC to positions of visible leadership are actions that will create measurable change.
Some of the specialized mentors, trainers, and consultants that have made significant impacts in my business and whom I highly recommend include Content Bistro, GoKnowWear, Jasmine Star, and Socialee Media Agency.
Invest in anti-racist education → Ongoing education is an important facet of growth, and that’s particularly true in broadening our perspectives, skillsets, and allyship.
Not every teacher is for every student. Listen to many and find yours. Some teachers I really enjoy learning from include the leaders of Erica Courdae, Osheta Moore, Rachel Ricketts, and Tough Convos. I also love Red Table Talks. The show is about “current social and cultural issues from an intergenerational perspective,” much of which centers on race and privilege, and provides the different perspectives of three hosts in conversation with their guests.
Assess brands or resources we feature or endorse → The list of brands we rely on can be pretty big, and ever-evolving based on our client portfolios and industry or corporate developments. But, how often do we actively look for BIPOC-owned or run businesses or brands vs making the easy, trip-over-it choice? How often do we look into the brands more carefully to evaluate them and whether or not they align with anti-racist values? Making educated choices internally is one side. The other is sharing that information to help build awareness and make it part of the client conversation.
When we work together, I engage my clients in education about the brands, designers, even the textiles and patterns they’re wearing via conversation, links, and texts. Now, I’m implementing tailor-made addendums to formalize this part of our relationship and give clients more knowledge to hold on to.
These are only some of the ways we can implement anti-racist action into our daily lives as small business owners. This is how change happens. Not with one time decisions but with ongoing committed actions.
If you’re still reading this, then I know you’re someone who embraces conscientious growth and change with sincerity. This is not a hashtag trend moment, this is the start of real, systemic change.
It’s time for us to take the next step and ask ourselves, how well have we examined our own business and life, and how often? What have we seen been uncomfortable or brought up defenses? What will we do to break them down and make progress in our lives and our spheres of influence?
My appreciation goes to Gabby Woltz and Tahira Benjamin for talking through the intention of this post before pressing “publish.” I’m grateful for your expertise, your leadership, and your friendship.