This week was #BlackOutTuesday, and many brands and businesses have been posting black squares on their own social media channels as a way of demonstrating their support for Black Lives Matter. If you intend to show support on social media, that's wonderful, but be prepared to answer questions about what else you are doing (outside of social media) to support the movement.
Here are some actions you can consider taking:
1) Talk to your staff and listen. It’s a difficult and emotional time and now is not the time to go about business as usual. Consider scheduling an all-hands meeting to discuss feelings, actions, and ideas for next steps. Be open. Listen carefully. Try not to take things personally, even if it’s hard to hear. Create a safe space for your staff to express themselves with the goal of building trust and deeper understanding within your team.
2) Donate to an organization that is fighting racial injustice. From national policy organizations to local grassroots organizations serving your community, there are many different organizations you can support. You can start by researching organizations here.
3) Take stock. Perform a thorough assessment of your own business through the lens of fairness and equality. Ask yourself if, for example, your hiring practices are equitable—are you recruiting from schools or areas that offer opportunities to students of color? What is your written policy for handling complaints regarding racism or discrimination? Do you think it’s enough? Now is a good time to comb through every aspect of your business and identify ways you can improve your policies and approach. If your initial feeling is to try not to address or look too closely at these issues, putting this on the backburner will no longer work. Customers, employees, etc. will be holding businesses and employers a lot more accountable moving forward; think ahead to that.
4) Provide better training. Here in California, sexual harassment training is mandated by the state for companies with 5 or more employees. But you can go further by hiring an anti-discrimination, anti-oppression trainer to come to your business, ask important questions, encourage folks to reflect on things they haven’t thought about before, and teach your staff how to treat their customers, their peers, etc. in a way that promotes compassion and human dignity. You can Google trainers in your area or contact YK Hong for resources.
5) Form a working group within your local, regional, or national business associations to address systemic injustices that might be plaguing your industry. Meet regularly to discuss what you are hearing from staff, colleagues, customers, or in current events. Try to actively identify ways in which your industry can continue to evolve and create an environment where everyone is treated and valued the same and given the same opportunities.
6) Volunteer with local organizations. You can even incentivize employees to participate by making it an ongoing team activity or offering individuals paid time off to volunteer. Consider researching local community-based organizations or simply asking for ideas from your staff.
7) Support Black and other minority-owned businesses. Engaging and sharing resources with folks who are historically marginalized helps to form connections in our communities. We may not be conscious of it, but it’s easy to fall into doing business with people who look like you or come from the same background. However, there is value in working with people who may offer a new perspective or approach. We don’t get better by staying the same.
8) Assess your values. This is a good time to reflect on what your core values are as a business. Write down those values and share it with your staff so that everyone can have a guiding light and know what to strive for. As business owners, you set the example and the tone for your business—there’s power in that and you can use that power to change your corner of the world.