Since reaching out about how we can stand in solidarity with Black people, we got a ton of feedback, had some awesome conversations and listened to some concerns that this was a PR trick or 'tokenism' to reduce our Liberal guilt. As you know by now, we love to learn, even if that learning requires us to question our motives, so thanks for sharing your perspectives.
Here's one response that really stood out. It was from a customer named Stephanie:
"I am a Black American who marched and was in the movement in the 60’s. We are weary but appreciate the movement now. FINALLY! Thank you for caring and trying to be open to change. You are on the right track by asking for help and ideas. I see lots of great ideas here and hope that giving back and helping with jobs and all kinds of help for the children are foremost in your agenda. Stay open, listen, and trust your inner feelings about how to move ahead. Keep love in your heart and minds as you move towards change."
It was such an uplifting message that I asked if she wanted to talk by phone and she was really excited to do so. We talked for over an hour and I hung up with that buzzy feeling you get when you make a genuine human connection.
What stood out the most was her optimism that things are finally starting to change because people are actually seeing the way Black people are being treated - thanks to all those smart phone videos. And this is opening up hearts and minds to take action and make a change.
On an even more personal level, there was something about Stephanie as a human being that left me feeling so uplifted and thankful for this opportunity to connect with her.
So, with everyone's responses swirling through my head, I've pulled together a list of the learnings and maybe some inspiration for how we can all continue to open our hearts and minds.
1- Validate that the Problem is Real
I don't think there is anything quite as painful or confusing as experiencing a traumatic event only to have someone tell you it didn't happen or that you are somehow to blame you for it. I believe the Black community, and many marginalized communities (like the Indigenous people in Canada) have experienced this for centuries. In my opinion, the first thing we can do is to accept that this is real, even if that requires some wrestling with the shadows of our own hearts and the systems and structures within our dominant culture.
2- Understand that the Root of Racism Was Born of Economic Self Interest
I think this explainer and the Armchair Expert podcast below say it best. Check them out.
3- Ask Yourself, Why Are You Really Posting 'Love' for all Black People?
Check out this article my Dad sent me from the New York Times: "I Don't Need 'Love' Texts from My White Friends - I Need them to Fight Ani-Blackness"
My Dad reads all of our emails and blogs and loves to share his opinion. Sometimes I agree, sometimes I don't. When he saw my email about Black Lives Matter, this is what he said:
"I read the email from etee looking for ways to support “Black Lives Matter”, especially right now in the wake of the death of George Floyd. Something inside of me balked at your request for ideas. Then I found this article [I Don't Need 'Love' Texts From My White Friends, I Need Them to Fight Anti-Blackness ] and it expresses so much better what was on my mind as I considered your request for ideas.Why would you now start an appeal such as this: because it’s in the news; because it’s polarizing parts of society? I would read this article over and over again, maybe even, with the author of the letter’s permission reprint it on the etee website. But you are entering a dangerous world that Black people understand viscerally and White people cannot grasp, no matter how hard and sincere we try."
4- Do Some Research
I think the more we understand, the more we listen and try to learn, the better equipped we will be to help. So here's a list of resources from one of our customers named Jamie.
5- Ask questions, Step Outside Your Comfort Zone & Lean Into the Awkwardness
If done with an open heart, I think good questions and an attempt to understand and help can never be a bad thing. This is not about reducing your own guilt, it's about understanding, learning and growing - when of course the person you are talking to is a willing participant.
Here's a conversation I had with one of our staff - Stephen Mitchell. We recorded it Live on Facebook in February because of Black History month. The topic was sustainability in the Black community. It was a good conversation, but wasn't without its uncomfortable moments.
6- Find a Way to Hold Yourself Accountable Over the Long Term
It's easy to want to make a change when the world is screaming in your ear, but what happens when it dies down? How do we stay focused?
I think it's about sharing your plans with someone who will hold you accountable. In our case, that's you! You hold us accountable. That's why we ask your opinion about all these things. By putting these questions out to you, by seeking your opinion, it also creates a very public space where we have made a commitment to change.
Stay tuned, we have a simple next step that we are planning.
If you want to support some good organizations, here is a great list of reputable organizations that raise funds to pay for Black people who were unjustly arrested.