FULL VERSION: SOCIAL CHANGE: EVERYONE HAS A ROLE TO PLAY (#useyourprivilege #unlearnracism)
Number of crowd-sourced solutions / actions as of June 4, 2020 @ 10:30pm: 45.
If you are here, you are interested in learning more or contributing solutions focused on undoing the structural racism in response to the recent murders of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd in 2020. Police brutality is an outcome of a system — one that sees racial disparity in policing, sentencing and accountability.
I am not an experienced organizer nor have expertise in this space; I’m just tired of seeing people say they don’t know what to do. Here’s my take on ways ordinary people can get involved: the focus is on actions to be taken (not just reading anti-racism materials). It’s really critical that we acknowledge white supremacy and racism are part of the founding of the United States, and while some change has been made the rate of change is still very far off from equity.
The list below will be actively updated as more solutions are sent my way — please send research, articles, suggested solutions, etc that you think should be added. Not interested in “Devil’s Advocate” positions or anti-black perspectives. Abusive behavior will be reported.
Here’s a “table of contents” to find ideas based on your profession / expertise though I recommend you read all of them.
· Teachers and educators
· Lawyers and legal professionals
· Tech employees
· Finance and investment professionals
· Hiring managers
· Members of the media
· Discretionary income
· Student advocates
· Those with 10K+ social media followers
If you have an hour to spare, you could:
1. Research the founding of your city: Both to see what indigenous land you are on and if the incorporation of your city has a racist past. Article: Does My Town Have a Racist Past? Some examples include Portland, Oregon as well as cities that saw demographic changes as a result of white flight. The first starting point: Wikipedia.
2. Familiarize yourself with your city’s budget and what the last 3 years of expenditures have been. A few questions to consider: How easy was the information to find, how clear is the information, do you agree with how the funds have been allocated (e.g. police budgets compared to funding educational programs and public hospitals). Tweet, share or blog about the 1 thing that was most surprising to you — and what actions you plan to take to support or reverse something you saw.
3. Attend a city council meeting: Awareness of what is happening in your neighborhood / city is part of being informed. If you have the ability to attend, share your notes or suggested actions on a easily shareable platform. Your notes or speaking up will ensure those who are not able to attend (often the working poor and marginalized) are also informed. Article: Attending City Council Meetings.
·4. Create voter guides: If you have the ability to synthesize and organize sources of information, you could create a “voter guide” that breaks down the platforms of local politicians including school board, district attorney and city council roles. (Added 10:30pm June 1, 2020)
If you are a CEO/Founder, you could:
1. Add first-person narratives part of required reading for employees: Amazon has this Article: Maintaining Professionalism In The Age of Black Death Is….A Lot as “informally” required reading — meaning Jeff Bezos posted it and employees are all expected to have read. (Added 8pm May 31, 2020)
2. Make a public statement in support of your black employees & communities: @TPInsights has compiled a list of tech (and related) companies that have spoken on racial justice, Black Lives Matter or police brutality since May 28, 2020. (Added 8pm May 31, 2020)
3. Take a stand on who you want to be and who you refuse to be: If you’re a CEO, you should be aware of your largest accounts and customers. Are your products and/or services supporting the prison industrial complex or ICE detention centers? Do you have a policy explicitly stating you won’t allow your products to be used in such a way? If not, work with your HR and sales teams to create one this week. For example, Wayfair employees staged a walk out in 2019 in protest of the company supplying furniture to Texas detention centers. (Added 8pm May 31, 2020)
4. Engage communities of color at work, in the local community and your company base: Are you aware of any efforts your company is actively in to engage with the black and other communities of color within their own work force? Is there a black employee resource group (ERG), is it funded and what are their activities? Does your front-line employee base look different from your headquarter (HQ) staff? Do you engage with the community where your business is based?(Added 10:30pm June 1, 2020)
5. Corporate matching: Companies can offer to match up to certain dollar amounts (above and beyond their normal match ratio) during this period. Employees should channel their gifts if there’s a corporate matching program. If you work within the business unit that oversees corporate matching, can you expedite approval of reputable 501c3 charities.(Added 10:30pm June 1, 2020)
If you work as a teacher or within an educational space, you could:
1. Acknowledge narrative bias: All of the materials you teach have a bias that reflects the perspective of the source. You can read this Article: History Class and the Fictions About Race in America to start. You should encourage your students to ask of every source they read: “who benefits from this narrative being true.” Exploring this question and how this might contribute to perpetuating structural racism is part of acknowledging bias.
2. Seek out curriculum feedback and acknowledge gaps: Share your syllabus / curriculum with a diverse group (e.g. your colleagues, friends and anyone you think is reflective of the society you want to see). Ask for feedback and if there are any gaps in the perspectives spoken from, the biases in narrative, the diversity of your curriculum itself. Aim to incorporate the feedback — where you cannot incorporate or change the material, start your class by acknowledging the gaps.
3. Inclusive lesson plans and curricula: There are several publicly available lesson plans and curricula that are inclusive and discuss hard topics written by marginalized peoples. If your Google search yields minimal or unhelpful results, create your own content and share it. Add to the public knowledge base to make it easier for the next educator.
4. Share scholarly articles and research: There are several papers, articles and studies that show how racism and discrimination show up within the educational space. Keep these bookmarked for easy sharing if someone reaches out for feedback on his or her lesson plan.
5. Parental advocacy: Parents are also educators and constituents of their children’s learning. Review your children’s syllabi and reading lists. Organize with other parents and provide solutions to your school board or school leadership. Teachers have a lot on their plates already and could benefit from your advocacy with the school’s administration.
6. Keep police officers out of public schools: Minneapolis Public School (MPS) Board wrote a resolution to cut ties with the Police Department ($1 million had been set aside to fund 11 school resource officers). The vote is June 2, 2020. (Added 8pm May 31, 2020)
If you are a lawyer or have JD, you could:
1. You could offer to provide pro bono services: Several lawyers on Twitter have offered pro bono representation for those protesting. Lawyers could also provide subsidized representations and/or consults to marginalized communities.
2. Create informative 1-pagers: Many citizens are unaware of their rights (beyond the constitution) and creating informative one-page summaries for what to do (or not do) when you’re arrested would be helpful. For example: what are your rights to protest and if it differs by state, can you create one for your state.
3. Amplify and recommend the voice / message of lawyers focused on justice reform: If you do not personally know any legal professionals working to reform the criminal justice, search your network for one. Recommend reputable lawyers to local community organizations disproportionately impacted by structural racism and the criminal justice system.
If you work in tech, you could:
1. · Use your expertise as leverage to get your leadership to speak up: Engineers are the lifeblood of most tech companies. Your words may carry more weight if you speak up and/or request your leadership make a statement. In 2018, Twitter engineers spoke up to ban a popular user that regularly incited violence and shared misinformation. Earlier this week, 2 software engineers at Facebook quit after the company’s handling of Trump’s tweets. (Added 8pm May 31, 2020)
2. · Remove bias from machine learning and artificial intelligence systems: AI is being used in some court systems to assess risk and set bail amounts. The problem is that these automated systems are as biased as the current system and don’t typically have measures in place to reduce bias. MIT Technology Review Article: AI is sending people to jail — and getting it wrong. (Added 8pm May 31, 2020)
3. · Build a product roadmap: PMs in tech are used to gathering business and technical requirements. If the problem to be solved is structural racism, can you apply that thinking to develop a product roadmap. For example, is the MVP creating a list like this one with constant iterations.(Added 8pm May 31, 2020)
If you work in marketing, you could:
1. · Amplify messaging in the right channels (channel marketing): Many of the resources that have been created for anti-racism purposes only reach the audience of the original sharer, and unfortunately won’t reach the audiences most insulated from the matters at hand. Channel markets could help craft strategies and share their insights about how we can amplify these messages. (Added 10:30pm June 1, 2020)
·2. Call to Action at Log In: When your customers log into enterprise software (e.g. Salesforce) or your eCommerce platform’s homepage, share i) your company’s stance ii) planned actions and iii) ways their customers can do the same. Idenati included this resource guide for their entire consumer base as a helpful resource with hashtag #BlackLivesMatter. LinkTree and Amazon have also include these call to actions on their home pages. (Added 10:30pm June 4, 2020).
·3. Communicate how your product can support the movement: If your company’s products or services could be used in support of this movement, you could show your consumers how. For example, sales platforms could be applied to schedule send communications to state legislators or payments companies enabling donations to mutual aid organizations. In fact, LinkTree has a “Support Anti-Racism” feature to drive donations, share information and encourage anti-racism education that you can easily opt into. (Added 10:30pm June 4, 2020).
·4. Update your corporate email signature with pertinent links + actions: Marketers can help drive traffic through their email signatures. For example, graphics or links that can be clicked by email recipients with more information, ways to become educated and actionable items like donating. (Added 10:30pm June 4, 2020).
If you work as a finance (or investment) professional, you could:
1. Revisit your process and outcomes: Map your loan (or investment) process step by step and run a report on outcomes by race, gender and other demographic data points. If there are differences in interest rates, investment amount, number of meetings to get to the same the ideal outcome, then your process needs an audit. The questions you should be asking including: what underlying factors may contribute to these differences, are there inconsistencies in the process that lead to different outcomes, what can and should be done to close them.
2. Define the parameters and targets: After auditing your process and outcomes, define and share the parameters for success. If successful loan applicants have 5 references and 20% collateral, put that in writing on all of your applications. You make your job easier sharing what the minimum (parameters) standards for strong applications are (targets).
3. Divest from private prison stocks: Research private prisons and other companies that use prison labor. Don’t reap investment for yourself or clients in these industries. Automated stock trading platforms and indices often allow you to remove specific stocks.
4. Share your knowledge and/or frameworks: Your knowledge of personal or institutional finance is worth sharing. Beyond blogging to your existing network, share your knowledge with your local small businesses especially the minority-owned ones. The goal is to reduce information asymmetry.
If you are a hiring manager within a company / organization, you could:
1. Revisit your process and outcomes: Does your recruiting process suffer from a “pipeline problem,” where you see the same type of candidate failing your filters or moving quickly through the process? You should map your process and see where individuals fall out of the funnel: ask who is falling out the funnel and why.
2. Discuss criminal background checks: Does your company have written a written policy about applicants with prior criminal charges? Based on over-policing and inconsistent standards, some of the qualified candidates may “fail” a background check especially if there is no clear cut line of what types of offenses don’t “pass.” Tell ALL candidates upfront in the early screen to start a conversation.
3. Consistent and drug policies: Some companies require drug-testing for some employees — usually only front-line and hourly employees. Drug-test everyone or no one.
4. Codify, share and require acknowledge of discrimination policies along with offer acceptance: If your company has any HR policies discussing discrimination, they should be part of the conversation about how seriously you and the company value a safe workplace. Make clear that accepting an offer also means accepting and acknowledging the importance of a workplace free from discrimination.
5. Be the leader — call out bad behavior: Managers are supposed to manage and lead. Your black employees should not have to address racist behavior from colleagues, but you as the manager should because it is important to you. Make racism and discrimination your problem to bear.
6. Clarity of job descriptions, referral and pipeline process: Revisit the active job requisitions and ask yourself: what are the real requirements for this role (are you confusing credentials for capabilities), how much are you anchoring on “target” schools or companies as a proxy for future success, and how much do you rely on referrals to source roles? In addition, if you’re the hiring manager have you set your own targets for the recruiter’s outreach: how diverse you want the funnel to be at EVERY stage of the interview process? (Added 10:30pm June 1, 2020)
If you are a member of the media, you could:
1. Use consistent language: In the past few days we’ve seen inconsistent language (active voice vs passive voice) to describe protestor actions compared police officer actions. Call out these instances. Write the local newspaper when you see this.
2. Acknowledge stereotypes and rethink content: Before you play footage of a protest or act of social engagement, ask what narrative you are sharing. If there are protesters of all races, which photos or videos are you showing: are the violent images you are showing only of black protestors?
If you are a strong writer, avid reader or historian, you could:
1. Share supportive quotes: If you have found a quote by a well-known scholar that breaks down the problem at hand, talks about the issues unfolding or a critical analysis, share it. Many people rely on the words and wisdom of past leaders that were respected — e.g. James Baldwin “What is it that you wanted me to reconcile myself to. I was born here more than 60 years ago. I’m not going to live another 60 years. You always told me that it’s going to take time. It’s taken my father’s time, my mother’s time, my uncle’s time, my brothers’ and my sisters’ time, my nieces and my nephew’s time. How much time do you want for your progress? Or Martin Luther King saying “A riot is the language of the unheard.”
2. Offer critical analysis grounded in history: Many of the issues we currently see have been around since the country’s founding. Offer critical analysis of social events based on history. For example, Margaret Atwood’s book “Handmaid’s Tale” is itself a critical analysis of the role of women — and was based on the treatment of enslaved peoples.
3. Write letters to the top institutional shareholders of private prisons: If you are passionate about private prisons (and abolition altogether), write to the top institutional shareholders. (Added 10:30pm June 4, 2020).
If you have discretionary income, you could:
1. Research the orgs and donate: The most critical part of donating is ensuring the outcomes and goals of the organizing you plan to support. If the organization does not have their impact or successes documented, do a quick Twitter search of the founder/leader and the organization. Fake organizations and ones that ineffective are often discussed on Twitter. Avoid giving to organizations just because celebrities are giving — you should do your own research. If it is a 501c, look up their last publicly released data.
2. Public match campaign: If you have money to give, you could offer to match others’ smaller donations up to a set amount. For example, one friend matched up to $1,000 in the name of Breonna Taylor with average donations between $20 and $50. Share the org you support, why it matters, what you’ll match up to AND share frequent updates. The more people see others helping, the more likely they are to pitch in if they have not already.
3. Organize a fund to support local businesses needing to rebuild: An Oakland woman, Elisse Douglass, raised $5,000 within 14 hours, and less than a week later has raised $70K to help rebuild the black business impacted by the protests. (Updated June 4, 2020 4pm)
If you are a student advocate, you could:
1.Use the privilege of elected positions / platforms: Student government and councils at universities and colleges can write letters to their University presidents. The University of Minnesota stopped its law enforcement contract for large events (as of May 2020) based on a letter by Undergraduate Student Body President, Jael Kerandi who wrote: We have lost interest in discussion, community conversations and “donut hour”… the police are murdering black men with no meaningful repercussions. If you are a trustee or board member of a school, you can use your platform as well. (Added 8pm May 31, 2020)
If you have over 10K followers on a social media platform, you could:
1. Use your extensive reach and platform to amplify others: Celebrities (in addition to directly donated), influencers and those with large platforms can use their platform to share lists of organizations they support. Again, please research these organizations and not blindly donate following celebrities. (Added 8pm May 31, 2020)
I have not listed any specific organizations above because so much varies by state and region. Also, doing the research and seeing (i) the lack of options should tell you there’s a gap and your actions can help fill it and (ii) the overwhelming options tell you there’s no expert voice which is just as confusing for everyone else. The solution is to FILL the gaps where you see them and to amplify the reputable organizations and voices. Additional resources to learn can be found here (link).
Here’s what you can do: I will be encouraging all of my friends and network to use these hashtags to share their ideas on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook: #useyourprivilege and #unlearnracism
About the author: Alterrell Mills holds a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) from Harvard Business School (2016) and a Bachelor of Arts from Harvard University (2010). He was the first in his family to complete a 4-year college program and comes from a family focused on serving the community. You can connect with him on LinkedIn or request business consultation.