"What we do is more important than what we say, or what we say we believe."
A couple weeks ago, I attended the Reimagining Small Business Town Hall led by Rachel Rodgers, Ericka Hines, Sonya Renee Taylor, Robert Hartwell, Susan Hyatt and Nathan Berry.
One of the pieces that has stuck with me the most was Ericka's introduction of Barbara J. Love's Liberatory Consciousness Framework, which provides a structure for moving towards anti-racist allyship. In this framework, there are four stages:
Before the recent murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, and subsequent murders and protests, I would say that I was in stage 2 when it came to anti-racism. I have been aware of these systemic injustices for years, going back to my university days when I had my eyes opened to the concept of the White Supremacist Capitalist Patriarchy (barf) that we live in. I had also moved into the work of analysis: evaluating my own behaviour, integrating what I was learning, and understanding the broader implications of racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia & all the other forms of marginalization and discrimination our culture is so fond of embedding into our systems and ourselves.
But over the past few weeks I have learned even more deeply, from a wider spread of Black teachers and leaders. I have learned that it is equally important to experience and support Black joy as it is to recognize Black pain. I have learned that I've been wrongly spelling Black with a lower-case "b" my whole life. I have learned that I was missing out on so many incredible teachers and ideas due to the homogeneity of my Instagram feed & newsletter subscriptions. I have learned that many of the people around me had never really thought about race before. 🤯
Above all, I learned that I had not yet moved to stage 3 of this framework: action. Barbara J. Love defines the step of action thusly: "Asking what, if anything needs to happen to move the reality that we are witnessing or experiencing on a path toward liberation, and what our role should be in that movement."
The best time to take action in dismantling white supremacy was years ago. The second best time is right now.
At the Town Hall, we were asked to sign The Anti-Racist Small Business Pledge, a thoughtfully curated list of commitments that small businesses can take to interrupt racism in themselves and their businesses. I was so grateful to the organizers for doing this labour, which they offered for free, in order to help well-intentioned business owners turn their good intentions into tangible action that will actually be felt by BIPOC. You can see and sign the pledge, as well as watch the excellent Town Hall discussion right here.
After a couple weeks of analysis about my business specifically, I am moving into action. I am starting by publicly announcing my commitments to creating a more anti-racist business. Not everything on this list is in motion or completed, but the accountability commitments that I mention below are designed to keep me engaged with this work to implement these and further actions.
In honour of the stage of "action", I am drawing inspiration from the quote mentioned up top from bell hooks: "What we do is more important than what we say, or what we say we believe." Each item on this list is framed with a verb to represent a different form of action I commit to taking in my business or personal life.
Here are the steps that I will be taking in my business, starting now.
- I will take active anti-racist training for myself quarterly in my business
- When I have employees, I will pay for them to take this training also
- I will be using this list of courses as a starting place in my continuing education
- I will include BIPOC-owned businesses and software on any list of referrals I make
- I will create a resource of BIPOC professionals that I can reference & add to
- I will prioritize establishing professional connections with BIPOC
- I will prioritize diversity when I am hiring for any kind of coaching, support, or consulting, or implementing new business systems
- I will review my current software choices and research what, if any, commitments they have to anti-racism as a company, and switch from those whose response has been insufficient
- I will analyze my current business budget and work towards having 30% of it go to Black-owned businesses
- I will make anti-racism work part of my mastermind group, to ensure mutual accountability and shared impact
- At my twice-annual internal business retreats, I will include anti-racism as an ongoing quadrant of concern
- I will set aside one day per month for anti-racism study, review of my actions, and transparency to my community
- I will seek out and consume books, articles, Instagram accounts, courses, art, movies, newsletters and more created by BIPOC that are not specifically about anti-racism or social justice
- I will pay BIPOC creators to teach me about things other than anti-racism and diversity training
- I will keep track of the books I read and the diversity of their authors in an Airtable database
- I will make these commitments public and easily accessible on all my platforms & website
- I will add diversity and inclusion clauses to all of my contracts and my policies page
- I will be doing research into non-profit organizations who are fighting for equality
- I will set up recurring monthly donations to these organizations
- I will also set up a monthly local rotating donation to a cause I believe in
- I will continue to share resources & ideas from BIPOC on my Instagram stories, feed, newsletter and blog
- When I create presentations or resources, ensure I am using quotes from BIPOC, specifically Black women
- When I recommend books, I will ensure that I am prioritizing all forms of representation in authorship
- If I am asked to speak, or take part in something (course, panel, podcast, etc.) I will ensure that BIPOC have been included as well
- If not, I will encourage the organizers to invest in diversity and recommend specific BIPOC business colleagues for the role in my stead
- I will be discerning about the events, networking groups and trainings I attend to ensure that they are safe spaces for BIPOC as well as other marginalized groups
- I will develop a sliding scale model for my 1:1 and group coaching offerings
- I will implement and offer more flexible PWYC options for my courses and products
- I will find ways to offer my business coaching services pro-bono to marginalized groups
- I will remain open to feedback, critique and suggestions on how I can improve and do more to become an anti-racist business
- I will create an anonymous suggestion box to collect ideas from my community
- If I mess up and cause harm, I will apologize fully and quickly, and take concrete steps to make it right
- I will continue to update my commitments as I learn more
- I will add to this page regularly to create a sense of transparency
- I will talk publicly about my anti-racism education & action steps
It doesn't end here.
I am committed to taking these steps (and others I've likely missed) on an ongoing basis in my business and personal life. This will be a lifelong journey, and (as with my business as a whole!) I'm in it for the sustainable, slow, effective long haul. I will also be updating this page on my website regularly to keep my community informed of my action steps & ongoing commitments.
What kinds of action steps are you taking in your business to become a more anti-racist organization? What teachers have you been learning from? What are your favourite BIPOC-owned businesses to support? Let me know in the comments below, or on Instagram @stephpellett.