Author: Julian Castillo
Angela Davis once said, “I’m no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I’m changing the things I cannot accept.”
And for as long as can be remembered, Black people have had to accept that our industries are not their allies. That is not something that changes overnight. Decades of deafening silence are not made right with corporate statements acknowledging that Black lives do indeed matter. A hashtag does not make an ally. A generous one-time donation does not make an ally. The promise to be an ally does not make an ally.
You have to work for it. To change and correct the things that cannot be accepted, you must face them. You have to interrogate yourself and acknowledge the ways in which you and your organization have wronged Black communities. We’re not just talking about calling the cops on innocent Black people or empowering known racists. We’re talking about the microaggressions well-intentioned people do without thinking. Like recruiters who don’t make it a point to search for Black talent. Or hiring managers who dismiss applicants of color because they don’t “fit the culture.” Or creative directors who only request diverse teams for multicultural brands. The list goes on, and on, and on. This exercise should not be easy. It should make you uncomfortable. And it should hurt to finally realize how you and your business have hurt communities of color.
But you didn’t mean to. But you never thought about it that way. But you weren’t taught any different. That doesn’t make it any better. These actions are born of the same racist system they uphold. The same system that devalues and victimizes Black lives. And it’s not only cisgender white people who are guilty of them. To dismantle that system, every individual and every organization needs to do more.
We need to educate ourselves and read Black literature. Then we need to educate our children and our parents. We need to hold our colleagues accountable. And ourselves. We need to build equality and representation into our day to day systems. And every time an ad needs to be casted or a leadership position needs to be filled, we need to remember that Black lives matter.
We also need to recognize that Black people don’t owe us their trust. This isn’t the first time people have taken to the streets and it isn’t the first time that the Black community has had to listen to “allies” say all the right things. So, forgive the Black voices who question your sincerity and understand that your statements do not make you or your organization an ally. Your actions do. Isn’t that the first rule of advertising, “show, don’t tell?”
Guilt gets us nowhere and words are just words. If you want to be an ally, it’s not enough to not be racist. Support Black people. Listen to Black voices. Promote Black employees. Empower Black leadership. Remember, every single day, that Black Lives Matter.