6 Lessons We Learned From the George Floyd Protests

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.  

 

     

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    Comments


    • My advice to you is to be very cautious on who’s voices you are elevating, no one should be a politician as every single one of them has crafted the economic and societal system of government, including the ones we love, they’re all guilty no matter how nice they speak. A great person to start with is Dr. Cornel West, NOT Cory Booker, Booker has stood in the way of meaningful drug pricing reforms and economic reforms, he is a Democrat in name only and whatever he says is just a disingenuous act to get your vote since any light research will show you he is no ally to Black Lives.

      Also I’m disappointed that you didn’t acknowledge my suggestion on donating supplies directly to protesters when their lives are in danger every single day. Police are now openly killing protesters with live ammunition and 57 police officers resigned in solidarity with the 2 officers responsible for violently pushing a 75 year old man and sending him to the hospital with a concussion bleeding from his ear.

      Just seeing the tweeking around the edges suggests from people saying that we should just partner with black owned companies is something we should have done centuries ago and now we need to make sure they don’t die. The comments made me uncomfortable as it really seemed people, though obviously well meaning, still don’t understand the severity of the situation is.

      We all ultimately need to actually go into black neighborhoods, go door to door, and talk to people and I mean REALLY TALK & LISTEN, make yourself uncomfortable because it’s better in the long run than what seems to be a civil war between cops and citizens about to happen. It’s up to ALL OF US to make sure it doesn’t escalate to that point of no return.

      Seriously give Dr. Cornel West a listen, he is the sweetest individual you could ever meet and he is patient and loving to even his ideological opponents, it’s actually very difficult to not get along with this guy and he is a shining example of humanity’s potential evolution.

      Peace

      Mark Burgess on
    • It is not just black people that suffer discrimination and racism. My husband was East Indian, and consequently my son was obviously not the typical white child in the school system. He suffered a living hell on a daily basis. We could not get through to his school about the way he was treated, because ,of course they didn’t see it in the classroom . He was also bullied by the newspaper delivery teenaged boys at the ‘paper shack’. He was hit repeatedly, and the spokes of his bike kicked in. In Junior High School it continued. Finally in Senior High School it ended. His sister, being much fairer , suffered less , but was beaten up on her way home from school, and taunted with racial and character slurs, yelled at her in the school hallways. In Senior High, she was left in peace, largely because the cadre of students who had been so cruel did not attend her Senior school. My daughter in law came from Korea as a toddler and suffered much the same thing.

      My son is still singled out every time he crosses the border into the US.
      As a retired teacher, I believe that children should be taught to value the idea that everyone is different, is valued, regardless of their skin colour , eye colour , skill in sports etc, In older elementary grades children should be taught about the origin of writing, and the various parts of mathematics and science. I’m sure they would be very surprised to hear who first determined that the Earth was round, for instance. Every culture has contributed to the world’s accumulated knowledge, but most adults as well students, don’t know that. A n enlightenment for everyone might help. Also, children are not born racists. They are taught!

      Lois Hosein on

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