I’ve been thinking a lot about how I, as a privileged white CEO, can personally help with the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as how a startup like Engagio can make a difference. The last few weeks have helped me realize a) just how pervasive the privilege I (and many of my fellow Engagio employees) enjoy really is, and b) just how deep the racial inequities and problems of police violence in our society go.
I can no longer ignore the fear, unequal treatment, and extreme violence inflicted on Black people. I’m increasingly realizing that “not being a racist” isn’t enough, and that I and we have an obligation to be “anti-racist,” and to work to fix the problems. In Leviticus, one of the five books of the Jewish Torah, it says “Do not stand idly by while your neighbor’s blood is shed,” and to me, this means there is a moral imperative to act, to do something.
So, action is required, but I’ve struggled to decide on the right way to act. Some of the questions I’ve been pondering: we don’t typically talk about social or political issues on our blog or social media, and neither do I personally. Is it odd to speak up now, on this topic, but not on others?
What should the message be, and what are my/our true motivations for speaking up? Are we doing it because everyone else is doing it and want to “support our brand,” or because we really believe we can make a difference? How do we ensure we’re being authentic and not succumbing to corporate pandering? Check out this excellent post from our friend Katie Martell: What Is The Impact Of Brands Pandering To The Protests? Is Your Response Performative Allyship?
I’ll also admit I was simply scared to speak up and act. What is the “right” language to use? What if I say something “wrong”?
I’ve come to a few conclusions:
- First, being scared is something Black people have to deal with every day, everytime they get in a car, everytime they see the police. I need to suck it up and get over my fear; this is nothing in comparison.
- Second, activism isn’t a “zero-sum game.” Speaking up for Black Lives Matter doesn’t diminish or lessen support for other causes.
- Third, simply showing support can make a difference. Just like with voting, any one vote is unlikely to swing an election, but collectively every vote counts. Similarly, any one person or company may not be able to make much of a difference, but together we can build a groundswell of support that can make a difference in this country. For that reason, it does make sense why we would talk about these issues now, even though we haven’t in the past.
- Fourth, I have an obligation to educate myself, my children, and others about white privilege, deeply-rooted racism, police violence, and the challenges faced by those who are Black, Indigenous and People of Color. I believe that driving change and creating solutions starts with knowledge, and that it’s imperative for white people to make the effort to understand what is happening, why it is happening, and what they can do about it.
To this end, as a company, Engagio is dedicating this Friday, June 12 as a day for our employees to educate themselves on racial issues and the challenges faced by the Black community, and to take action that’s meaningful to them, perhaps to protest or to volunteer. Needless to say, they’re welcome to expense any books that will help with their education.
Below is a list of resources we’ve compiled for our company that we hope will also help you educate yourself and drive meaningful change. I’d love to hear more recommendations from you in the comments.
White Debt (NYT)
What Is Whiteness? (NYT)
Who Gets to Be Afraid in America? (The Atlantic)
The Case for Reparations (The Atlantic)
The Problem with “Color-Blind” Philanthropy (HBR)
How Do We Change America? (The New Yorker)
6 ways to be antiracist, because being ‘not racist’ isn’t enough (Mashable)
8Can’tWait (from Campaign Zero)
How can white people combat racism? (Hint: It takes more than social media posts) (DeseretNews)
Dear White People, This is What We Want You to Do (Inside the Kandi Dish)
Promises, Promises: 7 Risks of Performative Brand Allyship #BLM (LinkedIn via Katie Martell)
The 10 Commitments Companies Must Make to Advance Racial Justice (HBR)
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. Dubois
The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Native Son by Richard Wright
Stamped by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi
How to Be an Anti-Racist by historian Ibram Kendi
Biased by social psychologist Jennifer Eberhardt
White Fragility by multicultural education scholar Robin DiAngelo
The Person You Mean to Be by organizational behavior professor Dolly Chugh
For a curated list of books for kids, check out Here Wee Read
Organizations (where you might consider donating)
National Bail Out: National Bail Out is a Black-led and Black-centered collective of abolitionist organizers, lawyers and activists building a community-based movement to support our folks and end systems of pretrial detention and ultimately mass incarceration.
Bay Area Bail Fund: The Bay Area Anti-Repression Committee stands against political repression and is in solidarity with all those who challenge the state, capitalism and other forms of systemic oppression and domination. This bail fund is for people taking actions that are anti-patriarchal, anti-racist, anti-imperialist & anti-capitalist but that do not have the resources to bail or bond themselves.
National Lawyers Guild: The National Lawyers Guild is the nation’s oldest and largest progressive bar association and was the first one in the US to be racially integrated. Their mission is to use law for the people, uniting lawyers, law students, legal workers, and jailhouse lawyers to function as an effective force in the service of the people by valuing human rights and the rights of ecosystems over property interests.
American Civil Liberties Union: The ACLU dares to create a more perfect union — beyond one person, party, or side. Our mission is to realize this promise of the United States Constitution for all and expand the reach of its guarantees.
Campaign Zero: Campaign Zero is on a mission to end police violence in America. Funds donated to Campaign Zero support the analysis of policing practices across the country, research to identify effective solutions to end police violence, technical assistance to organizers leading police accountability campaigns and the development of model legislation and advocacy to end police violence nationwide.
Black Lives Matter: Founded in response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer, Black Lives Matter Foundation, Inc is a global organization in the US, UK, and Canada, whose mission is to eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes.
NAACP Legal Defense Fund: The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. is America’s premier legal organization fighting for racial justice. Through litigation, advocacy, and public education, LDF seeks structural changes to expand democracy, eliminate disparities, and achieve racial justice in a society that fulfills the promise of equality for all Americans.
Oakland Anti Police Terror Project: The Anti Police-Terror Project is a Black-led, multi-racial, intergenerational coalition that seeks to build a replicable and sustainable model to eradicate police terror in communities of color. They support families surviving police terror in their fight for justice, documenting police abuses and connecting impacted families and community members with resources, legal referrals, and opportunities for healing.
Brennan Center for Justice: The Brennan Center for Justice is a nonpartisan law and policy institute that strives to uphold the values of democracy. They stand for equal justice and the rule of law, and work to craft and advance reforms that will make American democracy work, for all.
Equal Justice Initiative: The Equal Justice Initiative is committed to ending mass incarceration and excessive punishment in the United States, to challenging racial and economic injustice, and to protecting basic human rights for the most vulnerable people in American society.
Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law: The mission of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is to secure equal justice for all through the rule of law, targeting in particular the inequities confronting African Americans and other racial and ethnic minorities. They are dedicated to supporting and advancing diversity within its workforce and board.
National Museum of African American History and Culture: The National Museum of African American History and Culture is the only national museum devoted exclusively to the documentation of African American life, history, and culture. It was established by Act of Congress in 2003, following decades of efforts to promote and highlight the contributions of African Americans.
National Urban League: The National Urban League is a historic civil rights organization dedicated to economic empowerment in order to elevate the standard of living in historically underserved urban communities and spearhead the efforts of its local affiliates through the development of programs, public policy research and advocacy.
Thurgood Marshall College Fund: Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF) is the nation’s largest organization exclusively representing the Black College Community. It provides unparalleled access to a funnel of opportunities for students to journey to college, through college and into a career. Despite the universal challenges that today’s college bound students face, TMCF transforms the lives of thousands of students each year.