Blackout Tuesday was encouraging in some ways for me.
I didn’t learn of it until late the night before and was able to adjust our social media strategy and workday immediately. I contacted clients early AM and they agreed to join in solidarity to pause their focus on social media for their businesses.
And then I spent most of the day talking with friends and colleagues about ‘what next?’.
I saw so many social posts reiterating the stance against racism. Again, this is very encouraging. Yet, my brain is stuck on ‘what now?’.
I am a pretty optimistic person with that #findthegood mentality in all things. I see some ‘good’ coming from all of this, but I’m also a very big realist.
Words are how I make a living. They’re my passion, however, they’re rarely enough. I don’t believe in saying words to flame the fire. I don’t believe in hollow words. I believe in saying something — and then backing it up.
Yet, where does this leave me — a white female business owner? When not at RSM, I’m working with a soccer club that’s predominantly white.
As a business, a company, white people of the majority, what does all the chaos, hurt, and social injustice mean for you? How can you be more than words and add positive change to the world vs going back to the same day-to-day of what you’re used to.
The problem is, I don’t really know exactly either. But I’m a planner, I LOVE figuring things out. So, here’s where I’m at with social change:
Talking about it.
We need to be more than words, yet collaboration and brainstorming is where the shift starts.
The peaceful protests turned into riots this past weekend lead to me having lots of conversations.
I was called a pessimist for the first time in my life for saying ‘the world is a horrible place.’ I wasn’t referring to the riots, I was referring to racism. Yet, a great conversation came out by saying that where we discussed white privilege.
I live less than 2 miles from the center of Pittsburgh where the police car was set on fire. I considered going down for the protests on Saturday and I asked myself ‘what do I do if it turns violent?’ I couldn’t sort it out, so I didn’t go.
Some of you may be like ‘wtf, you should have gone anyway.’ The fact I couldn’t answer that question knowing many have that thought in the back of their minds when leaving their homes regularly… that made my heart hurt even more.
I KNOW I can use my skills in other ways than being at the protest. AND I know that living where I do — in an area that has diversity, poverty, drugs, a police presence, frequent (enough) shootings — that I can go for a run without a damn care in the world. (Past the beautiful caring neighbors, the flowers, the gardens, the smiling souls.)
So, I’ve been talking about it. With one friend, we brainstormed for days and hours in messages back and forth. We talked about the need for change starting with the police unions — the idea of employment tests that many are using to look at cultural fit being used in the police force and updated annually. We talked about annual questionnaires that could be given to ensure that as times shift, there are accountability measures in place.
Another friend shared a conversation about as a white mother of two boys with a friend that has a bi-racial daughter, how to have the racism conversation with these boys that don’t see their small friend as any different.
Another conversation revealed the innocence of a child’s heart (one of my nephew’s when he was 5).
“Mommy, skin really only comes in three same colors. Light light brown, brown, and dark brown… but it’s all just brown. Shirts come in lots of colors though.”
All of these conversations were with humans that do not promote and support racism, yet aren’t ones I talk to about it. They’re a start.
Also notable, nearly all of these conversations I had with colleagues/former colleagues. Sure, these people are my friends, yet the conversation started as ‘hey, I need help brainstorming, what can we do.’ It’s really that simple.
As a leader, you don’t need to have all of the answers. You do however need to be able to encourage and cultivate the conversation to encourage your workforce to talk about it. To understand. To listen. To share. To find a way that is unique to your community and determine how you can help.
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Be more than words.
It was ‘nice’ to return to work after taking off #BlackOutTuesday a bit to learn and listen.
Recommended listening: I’m not a podcaster typically, yet listened to every word: The Importance of the Nationwide Protests Over George Floyd’s Death Higher Learning with Van Lathan and Rachel Lindsay
I do love what I do, and the to-do’s (to an extent), and that feeling of productivity. I planned my return to the gym next week. I discussed strategy with colleagues. I responded to a million emails.
But then I wrote this blog. And I brainstormed some more by scrolling Instagram, clicking onto educational and resources that are being shared right now.
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The blackout box on instagram was encouraging a bit that people were finally taking notice. The ‘words’ that continue to be shared are good. But the ‘more than words’ step has to come now. I believe the act of ‘more than words, being anything from allowing employees flexible work to participate in the protests (if that’s what moves them) to financial support provided to organizations in your community if the means are there.
And if you can’t donate time or money, I still fully believe there is great power in SHARING others’ information and words to instigate social change.
Here’s an extensive national list of aids, resources, charities to check out:
Here is a list of resources for white people and parents to deepen our anti-racism work.
Social media is a beautiful place to learn and encourage and listen. It’s crucial to pay attention to the sources, the message, and try and not fight. We need to engage in conversation. Sharing in those words is its own form of action.
Use your skills.
My skills are words and planning. My skills include getting groups of people together. My skills include messaging and critically thinking about what’s being presented and when and why. My skills are marketing!
It’s said it takes 7 points of contact in sales and marketing. So using my skills, for example, I could attempt to influence a shift in perspective on social media. Say I go on Facebook and see a post promoting racism. I can skim responses to identify previous points of potentially opening that person’s view to different opinions. How and when I use my words could make the difference. Or maybe, I could start the conversation.
I know buying cycles pretty well. We’re all at different levels of exposure to topics (beginner, immediate, advanced) and we’re at different points in our buying decision (awareness, consideration, decision). So, using those skills, maybe I can join conversations to help ‘move’ people through the ‘buying’ cycle of social justice.
Those are my skills that are actionable. Yours could be art! They could be singing! They could be on the street protesting and offering water. They could be writing to the unions. They could be speaking to friends. They could be finances and legal and anything!
You have skills. Don’t let anyone make you think your skills have to be what theirs are. We do need to ‘stand up’ and demand change together. And we need ALL of our skills to make the changes.
These are all words. Everything here is not action. But then again, maybe it’s point 1 in your cycle of ‘seeing’ options. Or maybe it’s your friend’s point 7 when you share this post.
It’s time to do something. Focus on the ‘do,’ my friends.