Your Business Says Black Lives Matter, Now What? Three Considerations for Your Next Steps
Updated: Jun 20
There's a steady buzz around the intentions of organizations that have released statements about racial injustice in society. Some say, "about time!". Others say, "that's not the role of the corporation." Once organizations take that leap of publicly disclosing their stance against racism, these statements must be followed by action.
This action doesn't end with clicking send on an all-staff email, or an email to all your clients, posting a hashtag laden black box with white font on social media channels, or even hosting a town hall meeting. That, in fact, is where it begins.
These next step actions aren't confined to spaces that affect the business directly. Actions should be holistic, and they should impact every facet of society that is affected by racism: you (personal), the business, and the community.
And there is no reason why any of these facets should take priority—they should all be addressed in tandem, at the same time, and with urgency. They are accretive to one another, and to the well-being of corporate America, and thus, society. Individually, they are key components to a more equitable and anti-racist society. Together, they reinforce your stance against racism with an undeniable trail of action resulting in its dismantling.
Become a beacon within your sphere of influence. Corporate American workers are humans with full lives after their 9-5, too. Right? Within that sphere of influence, you have a responsibility to speak up against racism, even if it means standing up to a loved one. Racial inequity is too costly, as we are reminded each time a Black body is lost. And to be silent, is to be complicit.
Engage in reflection about your biases, prejudices, and how they impact your actions. Anti-racism work starts with our own selves. It starts in our homes, in our hearts, and in our minds. We have the power to change our own minds about what race means (to feign colorblindness is not enough), and how we navigate a diverse world; each inhabitant worthy of respect and dignity.
We have the opportunity to seek educational resources and to guide our own development. Understanding the construct of race, and how it became such an important and damning piece of American identity is a great starting point. Pursuing an understanding of how race, and prejudice based on race provides a basis for the denigration of others and the justification of inequality, will illuminate even the most ignorant. The internet is a powerful place where all of this information can be found from trusted sources.
Consider the ways in which your personal perspective around race influences how you show up in the world. Be honest with yourself. It will not be comfortable.
Hold space for those affected within your community. The holding of space is one of the most generous and simplest gestures that one can offer to individuals suffering from the traumatic impact of racism. In that space, those affected get to determine how best it would be for you as an ally to support, listen, and act. The space doesn't belong to the ally, and the ally can’t genuinely hold space without relinquishing their own interests, or the seeking of absolution.
Amplify Black voices. Retweet, re-share, recommend, and reference Black voices speaking about the issues you care about. Let them tell their story. White supremacy is the formative concept that white race and cultural identity is superior. With this superiority comes privilege and access. Allies can be most effective when they use those privileges to amplify Black voices and narratives. They can use their access to help messages from Black voices permeate spaces where those perspectives are needed most.
Being anti-racist, and actively dismantling institutional and systemic racism means you'll need to make tough choices. Consider where you’ll need to move over (or out) in order to make space for Black voices and leadership.
Your Business Should Follow Its Outward Messaging with Internal Reform
Your company has made a statement. Good. Maybe even committed some money to non-profits that combat racism. Better. Now it must do the internal work of understanding how the business itself plays a role in promoting systems that are based on anti-Black racism and white supremacy. Not so easy.
Anti-Black racism and white supremacy have been used to create inequity in our society. Slavery in America is the foundation of capitalism. It is entrenched in our businesses and corporations. In this system, Black employees feel that they need to work harder to achieve the same levels of success and compensation as their white counterparts; and even then, some never do.
Hire and promote with equity. Start with an independent review of the entirety of the recruitment, compensation, and promotion processes. Seek to understand how your company's leadership and governance structures work to support white supremacy. Redesign them to be fair, and intentionally anti-racist. And if you can't see it for yourself, hire a Black consulting firm to do the audit.
Equity and inclusion; buzz words of the day—doesn't start with the D&I leader. Consider it an enterprise-wide initiative where directors, executive leadership, managers, and staff play a role in investing in and growing diverse talent, valuing their ideas and contributions, paying them equitably, and putting them in positions of leadership and power.
Support staff as they navigate a workplace that will be full of human emotions as policies are changed and culture is shifted. Provide space and opportunity for your staff to acknowledge and confront racism, and allow them to contribute to drafting action items to which leadership will be held accountable. Crowd-sourcing ideas from inside of the organization will reinforce a culture of inclusion, and create buy-in.
Review business relationships to ensure that they are aligned with the anti-racist policies and mores by which your organization guides its own actions. Review vendors with the same level of scrutiny. Hire and patronize Black consultants, firms, and builders to do the work that your organization outsources.
Review your investment portfolio. Investigate how your investments impact the most marginalized communities. Make financial decisions that align with anti-racist efforts to support other businesses and ventures that do not contribute to racial inequity or harm Black communities. Reconsider who you consider friends of the organization, especially if they have weak stands against racism.
Review, then dismantle internal structures that promote racist behaviors. Training is a start, but not a panacea. It has the potential to provide the organization with the tools to navigate diverse workplaces committed to anti-racist office culture. Once the tools are developed, they must be put into practice with clear expectations. Create a workplace culture where there is zero tolerance for racism and bias.
It will not be easy or straightforward to convince people who have benefited from white supremacy and prejudice to shift their actions, or relinquish power. But it will be necessary to create a more just and equitable company. Measure how your organization is making change. Track those metrics over time. Disclose this information to shareholders, staff, and to the public.
The Community is Your First Stakeholder
Divest from relationships, business transactions, and investments that do not align with anti-racist frameworks. Stop allocating corporate resources to organizations that do not take strong anti-racist approaches to their work. Instead, fund movement work done by grassroots organizations that have their pulse on the needs of the community, and that implement innovative and radical approaches to reform. Allocate corporate resources including funds, volunteer hours, and pro-bono services to organizations and individuals that will use those resources to drive anti-racist movement work.
Organizations just don't change based on the will of a few people. That is the role of policy and strong leadership. A public statement lets your community and the world know where you stand on the issue; it should be a pact—a commitment to action—that will position you as a leader in corporate America that will pursue equity and be anti-racist in all facets of the business.