Black Lives Matter, Now What?

Photo by frankie cordoba on Unsplash

Over the past week, organizations across the country have clogged my inbox, and my social media feeds with messages declaring or, in some cases implying that “Black Lives Matter.” Some of the declarations were non-statements like Lily Pulitzer’s initial Facebook message, while others boldly called for an end to white supremacy like Ben & Jerry’s. For some, these declarations align with their organization’s ethos and internal practices; for others, this is new territory. When I onboard clients, one of the first things I share is that embarking in justice, equity, and inclusion work creates expectations. Employees expect, or at least hope that employers will uphold their commitments and starting an initiative or organizational change process when there isn’t a firm commitment, is a grave mistake. Having conducted hundreds of interviews with employees, I can tell you they are almost always skeptical that anything will change. That will also be true of the latest declarations, and with good reason. Many organizations have made public pronouncements before and offered little concrete change.

“Justice, equity & inclusion work creates expectations.”

The uprisings happening across the country while inspired by the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and countless others, they are only part of the story. Racism is ubiquitous in every facet of human life in this country, criminal justice, healthcare, employment, housing, media, education, and our economic system. While we have not seen as many global uprisings in the past, this is not the first time that America has come apart at the seams, nor is it the first time protestors have spilled into the streets demanding change. Each time there is a promise to do better, but time and time again, there is little tangible change. Based on some indicators, we have slid backward. If you are serious about making Black Lives Matter in practice:

  1. Stop giving to causes and campaigns that explicitly or implicitly support structural racism. You can’t say that Black Lives Matter and then continue to contribute to the Trump campaign or other such causes. Your employees, customers, and the broader community are watching and are more interested than ever whether or not you are putting your money where your mouth is. Give money to Black-led organizations without strings attached and start or expand your supplier diversity efforts — actively seek out Black businesses.

You’ve taken the first step by acknowledging that Black Lives Matter — but words aren’t enough. The question is, will Black lives still matter in your organization when the protestors are no longer in the streets, and the media is on to the next breaking story? We’ll be watching.

Dreamer + Doer+ Seeker of Justice + Organizational Culture Consultant

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